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
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.
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.