Dominican friars around the world celebrated a unique tradition last week: they offered Masses for their deceased parents and for all deceased parents of friars. Feb. 7 is specifically designated in the Dominican order’s liturgical calendar as a day of prayer for the deceased parents of all Dominicans.
The Dominicans regularly dedicate themselves to pray for the repose of souls. Each day the friars pray for the souls of those Dominicans who passed away on that date. And Dominican priests are bound to offer Mass for recently-departed brother priests.
“Most Dominican friars have heard at some point in their life that the Dominican Order is not only a good order to live in, it’s a great order to die in. That’s because from its foundation, the Dominican order has had a strong devotion to praying for the dead,” said Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., academic dean of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., in an interview with CNA.
“Every day, friars gather to pray for the souls of their brothers who have died on that particular day. When a friar dies, his brethren who are priests are bound in obedience to offer a Mass for him, and one rosary each week said by a friar is for the souls of his deceased brethren.”
Petri thinks the custom of praying for deceased parents developed because “unlike other orders in the history of the Church, the Dominican order rejected a sense that that friars are cut off from their family, like men dead who rise again in the service of Christ,”
Despite their total dedication to the order’s mission, the Dominicans respect the fact that without their parents, they would not have been born, and therefore would have never become friars.
“In filial piety, we recognize that we wouldn’t be here without them. Therefore, we constantly pray for the parents of the brethren, and most especially, when the parents of the brethren die. Like our devotion to praying for our deceased brothers, we pray for our deceased parents and celebrate Mass for their repose.”
The Masses celebrated by Dominicans on Feb. 7 had a bit of an adjustment to the normal words of the liturgy. Petri explained that the friars prayed a special prayer that God would have mercy for their parents, and that one day, they themselves will be reunited with them in heaven.
“(...)we pray, in the words of the Collect for the Mass, that God have mercy in his compassion on our parents, forgive them their sins, and bring us to see them one day in the gladness of eternal joy.”