Prayers for the Dead

November is the month when Catholics pray especially for those who have died. Many people, including many public figures, speak of death as the end, but Christians believe that when we die, we begin a journey towards God our Judge and loving Father, which Jesus, risen from the dead, has made ahead of us. With prayer, the living can help the dead on this journey. We often use this psalm with its message of hope:

Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord!
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
And for this we revere You.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits for Him,
In His word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
More than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
And with Him is plenteous redemption:
He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

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,

Saint John Henry Newman, in his poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, imagined a person who died and heard these comforting words as he began his journey to God:

Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,
shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.

At Mass for the Dead, this prayer is said, which we can make our own:

O God, Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful,
grant to your departed servants the remission of all their sins,
that through our devoted supplications
they may obtain the pardon they have always desired,
through Christ our Lord.

The death of one whom we have loved reminds us that we too must die. This prayer helps us to prepare for that:

Grant, O God that while we lament the departure of Your servants,
we may always remember that we are most certainly to follow them.
Give us the grace to prepare for that last hour by a good life,
that we may not be surprised by a sudden and unprepared-for death,
but be always watching, that when You call,
we may enter into eternal glory,
through Christ, Our Lord.

The Holy Rosary, especially its Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries, is a helpful prayer in times of mourning. Our Lady’s presence comforts us in grief. We may wish to say this traditional prayer:

May Mary, the most merciful Virgin Mother of God,
kindest comforter of those who mourn,
commend to her Son the souls of His servants who have died,
that through her motherly prayers,
they may pass through the gates of death
and, with her as guide,
joyfully reach their longed for home in the heavenly fatherland,
through Christ our Lord.