These prayers for the deceased include those for our departed parents and the clergy. The first of our selections, while more general, is perhaps the best known:
Eternal rest grant
unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Here’s a slightly different version:
Eternal rest grant
unto them , O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them .
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
(You can substitute “him” or “her”, or “he” or “she” for a specific person, where appropriate, of course.)
As we read in the famous quote from the book of Maccabees in the Old Testament it is “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:46). This line from scripture is often used in support of our Catholic faith’s doctrine of Purgatory and praying for souls there.
Purgatory is the temporary abode of those souls who have died who don’t merit hell but aren’t quite ready for heaven. Their sins have been forgiven by God, but atonement for them still must be made, and these souls must be purged of any remaining attachments to sin or other such imperfections before entering paradise.
Even if we hope and pray that the deceased we knew are not among those in Purgatory, and have gone straight to heaven, it never hurts to pray for them in any case!
We start off here with prayers for deceased parents. In each case, these can be adjusted for individual intentions, as in praying for the soul of one parent who has passed away.
O God, Who hast commanded us to honor our father and mother, look in the tenderness of Thy mercy upon the souls of my father and mother and forgive them their sins, and grant unto me the joy of seeing them again in the glorious light of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This next one is a variant of the first:
O God, who hast commanded us to honor our father and our mother; in Thy mercy have pity on the souls of my father and mother and forgive them their trespasses; and make me see them again in the joy of everlasting brightness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The use of the word “trespasses” above brings to mind the Lord’s Prayer. Also, the joy of “everlasting life” in the first prayer becomes “everlasting brightness” in the second. This image is suggestive of our Lord, much like the “glorious light” in the first prayer.
Scripture has a few references to Christ as our light. For example, Jesus refers to Himself as “the light of the world” in John’s Gospel (John 8:12). When He appeared in radiant glory to Peter, James, and John in the Transfiguration, we read that “His face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as the light” (Matt 17:2).
The use of the word “joy” in these two prayers is also enlightening. As Timothy Cardinal Dolan once said, concerning the essential difference between joy and pleasure, “Pleasure is fleeting but joy is everlasting.”
Christ Himself told the Apostles in His Last Supper farewell discourse “I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one shall take from you” (John 16:22). These prayers bring to mind the wonderful hope we all have of seeing our departed loved ones again in the eternal joy of Heaven.
Our prayers for the deceased also include these ones below for God’s special sacred servants: his priests! We should pray especially for them, as they have been entrusted with so much responsibility to guide us along the path to salvation. As we read in Luke’s Gospel “to whom much is given much will be required” (Lk. 12:48).
The following prayers are for a deceased Pope, Bishop and Priest respectively. We pray for their souls here, that each of them may have their own special place in the Church Triumphant, among the saints in Heaven!
O God, who by Thine unspeakable providence was please to number Thy servant Pope (Name here) among the Sovereign Pontiffs, grant, we beseech Thee, that he who reigned as the vicar of Thy Son on earth, may be joined in fellowship with Thy holy Pontiffs forevermore. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the soul of Thy servant Bishop (Name here), which Thou hast taken from the toilsome conflict of this world, may have fellowship among Thy saints. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
O Lord, we pray Thee that the soul of Thy priest, Thy servant (Name here), which, while he abode in this world, Thou didst adorn with sacred gifts, may ever rejoice in a glorious place in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And finally, we have these three more general prayers for the deceased:
O God, the bestower of forgiveness and the lover of human salvation, we beseech Thee, of Thy tender love, to grant that the brethren of our congregation, with their relatives and benefactors, who have passed out of this life, may, by the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, and all thy saints, come to the fellowship of eternal bliss. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that the souls of Thy servants and handmaidens, the memory of whom we keep with special reverence, and for whom we are bidden and are bound to pray, and the souls of all our benefactors, relatives and connections, and all the faithful, may rest in the bosom of Thy saints; and hereafter, in the resurrection from the dead, may please Thee in the land of the living. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Incline Thine ear, O Lord, unto our prayers, wherein we humbly pray Thee to show Thy mercy upon the soul of Thy servant N., whom Thou hast commanded to pass out of this world, that Thou wouldst place him in the region of peace and light, and bid him be a partaker with Thy Saints. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Remember that these prayers for the deceased can always bear good fruit. If those for whom we pray have not reached heaven just yet, these prayers can help shorten their time in Purgatory. And they will be more than happy to pray for us as well. In that sense, we are truly all in this together!