Today, upon learning of a friend of our friars who was now in hospice care, we offered a “Mass for a Happy Death” for her.
It sounds a bit macabre, does it not, a “happy” death? What’s so “happy” about it?
Part of it comes from the vagaries and history of the English language, the word “happy” being synonymous with “blessed”. Indeed, when the Founding Fathers of the United States speak of “the pursuit of happiness,” they are not speaking of a hedonistic pursuit of emotional satisfaction, but of a search for excellence and blessedness.
As a matter of fact, we just celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph, who is also the Patron Saint of Happy Deaths. This is because, while Scripture is silent on the details of his death, we imagine him surrounded lovingly by Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin on his deathbed. One of our side altars depicts this very scene.
What we pray for in a happy death is that, knowing death will come for each and every one of us, without exception, it is also part of our journey back to the loving Creator who made us in His love, to His Son, who in His love redeemed us by His blood, and to the Holy Spirit, who sanctified us in His love. We pray that the one who is dying may likewise make full peace with God and all loved ones before that dread hour comes. We know too many who have died suddenly and unprepared, never able to make peace.
So it is indeed a good and holy thing to pray for a “happy death” for someone who is approaching that hour. It is a great grace and blessing, so why not pray for that as well?