ASK FATHER: Funeral after Vanishing Twin Syndrome

From a reader…


My wife and I have just learned that we are probably losing an unborn child to “Vanishing Twin Syndrome” (where one twin embryo fails to grow on pace with the other and is absorbed back into the mother’s body early on; this occurs in something like 20-30% of pregnancies after a woman’s second pregnancy. Historically most people would never know there was a twin to begin with before recent technological advancements.).

Is it appropriate to ask my pastor to say a funeral Mass for the soul of the twin that didn’t make it? I know there are funeral mass texts that can be used after the death of an unbaptized child in the 2011 Roman Missal with the permission of the local bishop. I’ve heard of these being used after a miscarriage; I assume the same logic would apply in our case since life likely begins at conception, but there seems to be little Catholic info out there on vanishing twin syndrome specifically (since it is medically distinct from miscarriage), nor any pastoral guidance I’ve been able to find.

As we will almost certainly lose this child due to lack of growth and no heartbeat, I feel that the only thing I can do for them as their father is pray, but I don’t know if a request for a funeral mass in this case is a “typical” request, especially as there will be no body.

Firstly, I am impressed with your Catholic sense of the circumstances.

I checked around a little with those whom I trust.   I cannot do better than to share this succinct response from a trustworthy bishop:

The articulation of the situation makes sense to me.  There was a human life there which has now ended.  A Mass would seem appropriate in this case.

You might inform your local priest about this and establish a date when you could have such a Mass.  If permission of your local bishop is required for the use of the texts you mentioned, I am sure that your priest would be able to make the necessary petition.

My prayerful best wishes to you and your wife.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. teachermom24 says:

    God bless you and your dear wife. Your question is a consolation to me. We lost a twin almost 25 years ago under the same circumstances (the surviving twin is now a wonderful thriving 24 year old). I was not Catholic at the time but since converting have thought much more of the one we lost.

  2. momandwife24 says:

    Would it also then be appropriate to request a Mass for an (unbaptized) miscarried child? When we miscarried our son my husband and I conditionally baptized him in case there was still some life left but I think he had already died. I have always wondered if it would be efficacious and appropriate for me to pray for his soul or if my prayers would not have any affect since he would either be in limbo (if that exists) or Heaven (if babies who die before baptism go there as we have been told we can hope!)

  3. grateful says:

    Sounds like the bishop’s advice would be most appropriate here too.

  4. JoanM says:

    Musister Maria who died in 216, her first regnancy she as pregnant with twins . The were born rematurely and lived only one day. I am uite sure they were baptised, and had a funeral. Thank God.

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