In Catholicism, when offering condolences, it's appropriate to send cards, flowers, sympathy gifts, or baskets. It's also appropriate to make donations after hearing about the loss.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Catholic Condolence Etiquette
- What to Say to a Catholic Friend Who Lost a Family Member
- What to Say to a Catholic Friend Who Lost a Friend
- What to Say to a Catholic Friend Who Lost a Spouse or Partner
- Catholic Condolences Messages for the Loss of a Father
- Catholic Condolences Messages for the Loss of a Mother
- Short Catholic Condolences Messages for a Card or Flowers
- Catholic Condolence Prayers for Grieving Families
How you offer these condolences should also be reflective of your relationship with the decedent or their family. If you were in close contact with that person, it should be reflected not only in the condolence card but also in its wording. Read on for considerations regarding anything additional that you'd like to write in your letter or card.
Catholic Condolence Etiquette
Once you’ve decided what to send in addition to your sympathy note, you’ll want to take time to contemplate those measurable moments you once shared with the deceased.
Some thoughts to consider may include:
- Think about how you were connected. What was your relationship?
- Reflect on how long you knew the deceased.
- What impact did they have on your life?
- Do you recall any notable interactions or conversations?
- Are there any lighthearted moments you’d like to share?
- Is Catholicism also your religion? If so, then share your feelings about the next journey.
- Will you be attending a funeral service or visiting them in their home?
After you’ve mused for a while, you’re ready to start composing. If you’re unsure of your free-flowing thoughts, use a scratch piece of paper to write them down before you commit to a card or letter. If you’re stuck on some ideas, take a look at what we’ve compiled for you.
Please feel free to adjust the words as needed to suit your relationship and situation.
What to Say to a Catholic Friend Who Lost a Family Member
Loss is a shared grief no matter your level of devotion or relationship with the decedent. As such, the messages below convey both spirit and sorrow from parishioners and nieces or nephews alike.
1. “Our prayers and thoughts are with you at this time of great loss. Please let us know how we can be of service to your family.”
For those who didn’t know the decedent well, one might choose a message that’s short but kind. For instance, fellow parishioners may choose this option as it signifies a community coming together at a time of grief.
2. “Your grandfather was a man of faith and God has called his child home.”
For those who have consecrated religious members in their families, the wording you’re most familiar with is very formal. As such, it’s not unusual to speak more of the decedent’s place in heaven versus their impact on those left behind.
3. “He rests with his family again in God in Heaven.”
Offering condolences that bring comfort at this time is the motivation behind the sympathy card. Depending on your convention of devotion, you may choose to recognize the afterlife as a place of great privilege and honor.
4. “Uncle Gene was the kindest man, always with a ready smile and forever in good spirits. We are so sorry for your loss.”
Not all offers of sympathy need to formally mention a person’s faith. In fact, it’s entirely acceptable to write about how you’ll remember them and what things stood out about their personality throughout the years.
5. “When I was younger, your mom was my speech therapist. We drove two hours every Saturday to work on my speaking. Were it not for her, I would not have become the person that I am today.”
When you contribute personal impact statements to the family, you’re allowing them to see parents from outside perspectives. This often brings joy and warmth to those in grief.
What to Say to a Catholic Friend Who Lost a Friend
In seeking ways to give comfort to a friend who has lost a good friend, you may want to consider accompanying them to the funeral service to be more supportive. Friends, especially ones that we’ve known for years, can help us with the heartache of loss as much as siblings do.
6. “My dearest Barb. When I heard about the loss of your best friend, Sue, my heart broke for you. You’ve known each other since you were five and now the whole family grieves with you.”
Sisters and brothers are aware of their sibling’s lifelong friends. Sometimes they are even permanent fixtures in the family. As such, the impact of their loss can be just as devastating as
losing a family member.
7. “Instead of flowers, our family has made a donation of $100 in Rafaela’s name to her favorite charity.”
When attending a funeral mass for the decedent, it’s traditional to bring a sympathy card. If you’ve never been to a Catholic funeral before, you’ll also discover ritual rites that were canonized in the mid-sixteenth century during the ecumenical gathering of The Council of Trent.
8. “I know that the relationship the two of you have had over the years has taken many turns. But weathering the storm to come out on top is an indication of your love for each other.”
Parents sometimes see more than they let on. Now is a good time to let your child know that you saw their struggles and admire both of them for finding what mattered in life most.
9. “Dad, I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Dennis. You began as neighbors, but over the years and since your retirement, you had become such good friends.”
It’s a thoughtful and touching gesture when children take opportunities to send words of compassion to their parents.
10. “One hundred trees were planted in Emily’s name in the Garhwal Himalayas in honor of great women like her who have stood up for what they believe in.”
If you’re attending the service with your friend, you may see a guest book and either a box or basket for your card. You’ll want to sign your name in the funeral guest book so that the family can remember to send a thank you card for your presence. Signing the guestbook is part of funeral etiquette.
What to Say to a Catholic Friend Who Lost a Spouse or Partner
Whether expected or sudden, the loss of a partner is devastating. In these messages, you’ll want to consider the new circumstance, their impact on others, and even how you will be able to help your friend.
11. “We were all better people for knowing your husband, Kier. He led by example and taught us all to be more compassionate people.”
Did the brightest light in any room pass away? If so, then the grieving widow/widower would appreciate all the positive words you can send their way. Those words can act as that one final smile from him.
12. “We understand that Kyiia’s loss is so sudden and unexpected. May God bless you and the boys. If it’s okay, we’d like to stop over in a few days to visit.”
Do you know someone who has experienced the accidental or unexpected loss of a spouse or partner? While Catholics may not sit Shiva like Jewish people, it’s appropriate not only to send condolences but to offer to pay a visit to see how you can help in their time of grief.
13. “I’ll always be grateful to Sam for being such an outstanding male figure in my children’s lives. After the divorce, both you and Sam really made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It’s now my opportunity to return to the favor.”
Was your friendship like a sibling relationship? Do you have stories about all the things for which you’re grateful? If so, give them a voice. Your friend will appreciate it.
14. “I am so sorry that my card finds you late. I only just heard about your loss. Please accept my sincerest condolences and know that my heart is with you and your family. Yuriko was an incredible person, and I know how much you both loved each other.”
Receiving the news of a friend’s sorrow, even if it’s late, still requires some etiquette when responding. This message emphasizes the widower and not your tardy reply.
15. “I wanted to respond sooner, but I was having trouble finding the right words. Over the many years I knew your husband as a state park ranger, he was always an impressive spirit. No one who encountered him had an ill word to say. And I am sure there wasn’t a person he met that he couldn’t find some good in.”
Sometimes a tardy condolence message has a good reason that you’ll want to share. If you have one of those, then take the time to elaborate. Spouses and partners need those stories to help them through the quiet nights and lonely days.
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Catholic Condolences Messages for the Loss of a Father
Here are a few Catholic condolence messages written from varying perspectives, including that of a fellow parishioner, a neighbor, a longtime family friend, and even your childhood friend.
16. “We know your loss isn't just significant; it's immeasurable. I can’t begin to express my sympathy for your family and what you must all be going through at this time. A kind, Christian man like your dad is a great loss to his family and community. I pray that he has found his place in Heaven and that your family discovers peace knowing he is now with God.”
Use this message if you are familiar enough with the family as a fellow parishioner. You’ve been privy to watching families grow up, whether at Sunday Mass or general community events.
17. "Our families have known each other for many years. Yours was the first family to say hello, making us feel completely welcome when we first moved to this neighborhood. Since then, we've [watched our children grow up together] - even celebrated [many summers and holidays] like family. Now we mourn together. Our family prays that God takes [Name] into His care and shows him everlasting love."
As neighbors, especially ones with children who attend the same school, you spend a lot of time together, often becoming like a second family. Use this condolence as your starting point. Then, incorporate the most meaningful events or memories you feel are appropriate to include.
18. "My deepest condolences to your family and the loss of such a decent human being. Your father was priceless—a one-of-a-kind soul with so much strength and faith, so I can only imagine what he meant to your family. Throughout our friendship, there were times when I lost my way. But your dad was patient, kind, and giving throughout all of my trials.
“He taught me many things – he helped me be a better friend, a better husband, and a better father. But most importantly, your dad taught me how to be a better Christian. "
Add or subtract from this condolence message as you see fit, using specifics where necessary while keeping it vague as needed.
19. "Your father was one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. I grieve his loss with all of you."
This one is for those that need a short message to go along with an extended conversation about how your best friend’s dad was like a father to you.
Catholic Condolences Messages for the Loss of a Mother
Consider the following examples of Catholic condolence messages. They’ve been written from the perspective of a sister, a cousin, a best friend, and a neighbor. You can use them as a guide to writing one appropriate for you.
20. "The loss of your mother, my sister, will forever change our lives. She was the matriarch, the steadfast friend whose life was lived in service of others and to God. But [Name] is not gone. She is still here with us all. Your mother's devotion is alive in every one of us, especially her children and grandchildren. We were blessed to know her, love her. And now, you are the legacy of that love and selflessness."
Use this message if your sister was a force of greatness who lifted others while serving her faith well.
21. "Our families lived very close when your mother and I were young, so we were more like sisters than cousins. Your mom was a beautiful person inside and out, even from a very young age. She had this innate curiosity, making her want to experience the world through a novice's lens, always trying to make up her mind about people and life versus letting others color her impressions. That view of life and people made everyone around her feel welcome and loved.
“We send our deepest sympathy from our family to yours. Your mother, my sister, will be missed but forever treasured."
When cousins grow up like sisters, there's a unique bond. If you can, recall a few particular moments that will give her children some joy in knowing her through your eyes.
22. "It may not seem like it today, but it’s a gift to walk inside this grief. Without it, you’d never have known this one unique soul – a soul with more joy and love to give and unlike any other. You were lucky to call her mother, while I was lucky to call her my friend. You have my heartfelt sympathy for your loss.”
As a friend, you may want to leave the grieving family with some hope. After all, your friend would have done that for you.
23. “[Name] was more than a neighbor. She was my friend, bridge partner, and Bible study companion. Though our community is at a significant loss without her, we can take great solace knowing she is seated with our Lord and Savior in Heaven.”
Because you’ll likely leave the family something warm for their belly, brief messages of consolation are befitting of relationships such as neighbors, fellow community members, and even fellow parishioners.
Short Catholic Condolences Messages for a Card or Flowers
It’s appropriate to send condolences soon after someone dies, but did you know that you can send them for as long as the grief lasts? Below are some examples of “near and far” condolence messages.
24. “Your loss isn’t just significant; it’s immeasurable.”
When your friend or coworker is coming up on the anniversary of their loved one’s death, let them know you still care.
25. “I am still here for you.”
Send your sister a card or some flowers on the anniversary of their spouse’s death to let them know you value them as well as their grief process.
26. “Blessed be [Name’s] salvation with the Lord.”
In Catholicism, the Lord brings salvation everlasting to those who believe in Him.
27. “We pray that God quickly brings [Name] into the kingdom of Heaven.”
Here is an appropriate message for very devout Catholics as the religion defines a life after death with God in Heaven.
28. “Absence of time and space does not take [Name] away from you. It’s only strengthening your bond until you see one another again.”
Some call it a Memory Day – the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Write it down so you can remember to send love to a dear friend who is missing their child, brother, partner, or parent.
29. “We pray every night that you can travel through your grief with God by your side.”
This message works for condolences because people often face the most silence and, therefore, the most intense feelings of loss when the world is asleep and they’re alone with grief.
30. “God’s love will help you through this.”
Some religions believe that, if you leave yourself to God, He will help you recover from the darkest moments.
31. “Love of life makes grieving more difficult, but that grief makes life worth loving.”
In paraphrasing the thoughts and ideas of Stephen Jenkinson, there’s the idea that grief is a kind of learned skill, but one that requires you to love life greatly to know grief so profoundly.
32. “Call me anytime you need to talk – or cry.”
Here’s one way to create an opportunity to let a friend know you care, especially on the anniversary of the day they lost the love of their life.
33. “[He] was the brightest candle in the room, and now [he’s] the brightest star in the heavens.”
If needed, adjust this condolence message to suit the circumstance and give it more personal meaning. You can use flames, lights, candles, and beacons of hope, intrinsic to the Catholic lexicon.
Catholic Condolence Prayers for Grieving Families
Catholics use both prayers and verses from Biblical Scripture for condolence messages. Choose one that’s most suitable to the recipient and the circumstance or timing of their loved one’s death.
34. A Prayer for a Deceased Man
Incline, O Lord, Thine ear to our prayers, in which we humbly beseech Thy mercy, that Thou wouldst place the soul of Thy servant, which Thou hast caused to depart from this world, into the region of peace and light; and unite in the fellowship of Thy Saints. Through Christ our Lord,
The poem could work for any adult, but given the word “servant,” it would be inappropriate for any child or even a baby.
35. A Prayer for a Lately Deceased Person
Absolve, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
the soul of Thy servant [Name],
from every bond of sin,
that being raised in the glory of the resurrection,
He may be refreshed among the Saints and Elect.
Through Christ our Lord.
Here's another poem designed more for an adult than a teenager or child. The wording suggests the person was, at the very least, a servant of the faith.
36. Psalms 62:1 – My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
If you plan on joining a friend or loved one in prayer, seek out Psalm 62:1 to find peace before an inevitable loss.
37. John 16:22 – So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
If your friend is experiencing some family strife after losing their spouse, send them this condolence.
38. Psalms 109:21-22 – But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name's sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Psalms 109:21–22 works for anyone experiencing grief and in need of consoling.
39. John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Choose John 14:27 for an elder member of the community. It’s suitable for those who are witnessing the decline of a loved one or if they only recently lost a spouse of many years.
40. Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Anyone who has lost a child would benefit by receiving this verse from the book of Isaiah.
41. Psalms 126:5–6 – Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Given the gender qualification in Psalms 126:5–6, quote it for a gentleman of any age.
42. Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Use this verse from Deuteronomy for any loved one who was a parent or fellow adult parishioner.
43. Ecclesiastes 3:1–4 – There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Quote this Bible verse if your lost loved one was older, perhaps a grandparent.
44. Matthew 19:14 – Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:14 works as a condolence prayer for small children.
Sympathy Etiquette in Catholicism
In this article, we’ve listed several ways to address loss and grief. But only you know the best message for your friends and loved ones when they’re faced with grief. Depending on your context and relationship, hopefully, you’ve found ways to start expressing your condolences with impact and love.