Prayers for the Dead
". . . As a person of faith, of resurrection faith, I see death as a friend, not a foe;
and the experience of death is, I am convinced, a transition from life to life, from grace to glory."
II Maccabees 12:43-46: "And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. "
Those who've died in a state of grace are not truly "dead"; they are our beloved in Heaven or in Purgatory (on their way to Heaven) and will forever be, world without end, part of the Communion of Saints -- the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven, whether or not they are beatified or canonized), the Church Suffering (those in Purgatory), and the Church Militant (those on earth).
Because we can't know, aside from those the Church has beatified or canonized, who is already in Heaven, who is in Purgatory for a time, or who is damned, we pray for the dead for the rest of our lives -- assuming they are in Purgatory, while hoping they are in Heaven and not damned.
We also ask those who've died to pray for us. While those whom the Church has deemed to be of the Church Triumphant (the canonized Saints) are in Heaven for certain and are, therefore, in no need of our prayers for them, we've always asked for them to pray for us. As to the Church Suffering in Purgatory, Aquinas teaches that they are not able to know, by themselves, our prayers; however, it is piously believed, and taught by St. Alphonsus Liguori, that God makes our prayers known to them -- not directly, as they are deprived of the Beatific Vision until they enter Heaven, but by infusing this knowledge into their souls. St. Bellarmine teaches that because the Church Suffering is so close to God -- much closer than we are and having the great consolation of knowing they are saved -- their prayers for us are very effective. So, as you pray for your dead loved ones, ask them to pray for you, too!
As to the damned, there is no hope; no prayer can help them and we can't pray formally for those in Hell. The problem, of course, is that we can't know who is damned, and so we pray generally for “all the faithful departed.”
Catholic Prayers for the Dead
Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
O Lord, who art ever merciful and bounteous with Thy gifts, look down upon the suffering souls in purgatory. Remember not their offenses and negligences, but be mindful of Thy loving mercy, which is from all eternity. Cleanse them of their sins and fulfill their ardent desires that they may be made worthy to behold Thee face to face in Thy glory. May they soon be united with Thee and hear those blessed words which will call them to their heavenly home: "Come, blessed of My Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
A Prayer for the Dying and a Special Soul
O most merciful Jesus, Lover of souls, I beseech Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thine Immaculate Mother, wash clean in Thy Blood the sinners of the whole world who are to die this day.
Remember most especially the soul I spiritually adopt with the intention of entrusting him or her to Thy Shepherd's care: I beseech Thee for the grace to move this sinner, who is in danger of going to Hell, to repent. I ask this because of my trust in Thy great mercy.
If it should please Thy Majesty to send me a suffering this day in exchange for the grace I ask for this soul, then, it, too, shall please me very much, and I thank Thee, Most Sweet Jesus, Shepherd and Lover of Souls; I thank Thee for this opportunity to give mercy in thanksgiving for all the mercies Thou hast shown me. Amen.
Heart of Jesus, once in agony, have mercy on the dying.
Prayer to St. Benedict for a Happy Death
O Holy Father, St. Benedict, blessed by God both in grace and in name, who whilst rapt in prayer, with thy hands raised to heaven, didst most happily yield thy angelic spirit into the hands of thy Creator, and hast promised zealously to defend against all the snares of the enemy in the last struggle of death those who shall daily remind thee of thy glorious departure and thy heavenly joys; protect me, I beseech thee, O glorious father, this day and every day, by thy holy blessing that I may never be separated from our dear Lord, from the society of thyself and of all the blessed. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for the Dead
Almighty, Everlasting God, who hast dominion over the living and the dead, and showest mercy unto all whom Thou knowest will be Thine by faith and works: we humbly beseech Thee that they for whom we have resolved to pour forth our prayers, whether this present world still detain them in the flesh, or the world to come hath already received them stripped of their bodies, may, by the grace of Thy fatherly love, and through the intercession of all the Saints, obtain the remission of all their sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto Thee.
May the Almighty and merciful Lord graciously hear us.
And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Rosary for the Dead
This rosary consists of 40 beads in memory of the 40 hours which Our Lord is thought to have spent in Limbo.
There are also the 5 introductory beads as on the Dominican Rosary. One begins and ends this chaplet with the De profundis or an Our Father and Hail Mary.
On the large beads is made acts of faith, hope, and charity.
On each small bead is said: "Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation."
Each decade is concluded with: "Eternal rest grant unto them, etc."
The final prayer is as follows:
V. Eternal rest grant unto him/her, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon him/her.
V. May he/she rest in peace.
V. May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
V. May the love of God and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ bless us and console us and gently wipe every tear from our eyes:
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
When a Parent Dies
God of our ancestors in faith, by the covenant made on Mount Sinai You taught Your people to strengthen the bonds of family through faith, honor, and love. Look kindly upon (Name), a father/mother who sought to bind his/her children to You. Bring him/her to Your heavenly home where the saints dwell in blessedness and peace. Amen.
When a Spouse Dies
Eternal God, You made the union of man and woman a sign of the bond between Christ and the Church. Grant mercy and peace to (Name), who was united in love with me. May the care and devotion of his/her life on earth find a lasting reward in heaven. Look compassionately on his/her children and me, as now we turn to Your mercy and love. Strengthen our faith and lighten our loss. Amen.
Prayer for a Deceased Pope
In Your wise providence, O God, You wished Your servant (Name) to be counted one of the Popes. Please number him also among the company of Your saintly Pontiffs, we beg You, since he ruled as Vicar on earth of Your only Son. This we ask through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for a Deceased Bishop
It was You, O God, Who made Your servant (NAME) a successor of the apostles by raising him to the episcopal order. May he also be associated with them forever. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.
Prayer for a Deceased Priest
Among Your apostolic priests, O God, You honored Your servant (Name) with the priestly dignity. Grant too, to number him always in their company. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.