Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult. In times of grief, words often fail us. As Christians, prayer is a source of comfort and peace. Through prayer, we can find the words to express our sorrows, hopes, and faith that our loved ones are at rest with the Lord.
In the Catholic tradition, we have a treasury of beautiful prayers for the faithful departed. These prayers allow us to accompany our dear ones as they complete their earthly journey. In praying for their souls, we also pray that God may grant us the virtues of faith, hope, and love to accept His holy will.
Catholic prayers for the dead
There are many well-known Catholic prayers for the dead. Here are 10 of the most common and meaningful to pray for our beloved deceased:
Eternal Rest Prayer
The classic prayer entrusts our loved one’s soul to the Lord and asks for eternal rest:
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
This prayer reminds us that God’s light forever shines on those who have faithfully run their race here on earth. We can have hope that our loved ones now dwell in the heavenly kingdom in the presence of Christ.
The Hail Mary is one of the most beloved Marian prayers in the Catholic tradition:
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Because Jesus honored His mother, Mary, greatly during His life, we too turn to her for her loving intercession. This prayer asks the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray both for us and for the soul of the deceased as eternal life begins.
Glory Be (Doxology)
The Glory Be, also known as the Doxology, offers praise and glory to the Holy Trinity – God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
This brief but powerful prayer recognizes the divine life and love that goes on for eternity within the Godhead. As we pray this for our deceased loved one, we’re reminded that they now take part in the worship of heaven.
Requiem Aeternam (Eternal Rest)
Latin for “eternal rest,” this prayer directly asks God to bestow eternal life for the departed:
“Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.”
Which means: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.”
As the soul leaves earthly life, we pray God will welcome it into heavenly peace and unending light.
De Profundis (Psalm 130)
This penitential Psalm expresses sorrow for sins and trusts in God’s mighty compassion:
“Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, so that you may be revered. I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word. [God’s] mercy is from age to age for those who fear him.”
Praying this Psalm reminds us that even though we all fall short at times, God’s forgiveness has no bounds. We have faith that this loving mercy awaits the deceased as well.
Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
This prayer asks that the purifying fire of God’s love cleanse departed souls of all imperfections so they can enter the fullness of heaven:
“Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”
Even devout souls may need final purification before seeing God face-to-face. In charity, we offer our prayers and sacrifices to hasten this process.
Come to His/Her Assistance
This brief invocation asks the saints already in heaven to intercede for the deceased person on judgment day:
“Saints of God, come to his/her assistance. Come to meet him/her, angels of the Lord. Receive his/her soul and present him/her to God the Most High.”
Just as we ask family and friends here on earth to pray for us, we ask the heavenly saints to support our loved one through friendly intercession at the throne of God. This prayer thus commends the deceased into the mercy of Christ through those already dwelling in Paradise.
Prayer for the Dead Short Form
This prayer comes from the Order of Christian Funerals and can be used in planning funeral liturgies. It commends the deceased into God’s hands and affirms an enduring bond of love:
“God our Father, Your power brings us to birth, Your providence guides our lives, and by Your command we return to dust.
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence, their lives change but do not end. I pray in hope for my family, relatives and friends, and for all the dead known to You alone.
In company with Christ, Who died and now lives, may they rejoice in Your kingdom, where all our tears are wiped away. Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever. Amen.”
Through professing our enduring spiritual bonds and the promise of resurrection, we pray for the peaceful repose of the dead.
Rosary for the Dead
Praying the Rosary, which meditates on events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, can be very appropriate and helpful for the deceased. Offering it for them aids in their purification and preparation to enter heaven.
Typically in a Rosary for the dead, the Sorrowful Mysteries of Christ’s Passion are replaced with the Glorious Mysteries of His Resurrection. The Glorious mysteries’ themes of restoration, triumph, and heavenly glory bring hope. Many Catholics thus pray the Rosary for deceased loved ones, especially during difficult times of grief and transition.
“(Presider) May he/she rest in peace. (All) Amen. , our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor ban- ished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.”
Divine Mercy Chaplet
As well as being a powerful prayer for the living, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy can assist souls in purgatory. It invokes God’s unlimited grace upon people in their moments of suffering and death:
“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy—to Your compassion, O God; and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out. Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, goodness beyond our understanding, who are acquainted with our misery through and through and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You: anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our lives and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, so that we may, with confidence, as Your children, await Your [Son’s] final coming—that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised to us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our hope; through His merciful heart, as through an open gate, we pass through to heaven (Diary, 1570).”
Praying it for deceased loved ones thus both invokes God’s mercy upon them and deepens our own confidence in the divine love awaiting all the faithful beyond this life.
Which Prayers Give the Most Comfort?
In times of sorrow, the loving intercession of saints and the enduring bonds of spiritual family provide solace. We have faith that the glory given by Christ to all the elect awaits our loved ones beyond this world after passing through death.
Praying in both formal and informal ways for deceased friends and family unites us as part of the mystical Body of Christ. Through prayer, not even death can separate us. I invite you, dear reader, to feel free to use these Catholic prayers as helpful starting points to grow closer to God and honor your departed loved ones. Please know that we continue to offer you spiritual support and remembrance at this difficult time.
In this life, in death, and forevermore, let Nothing Disturb You: The Wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila
Korean Community Church Of New Jersey