February 01, 2020 4 min read

There is quite possibly nothing as consoling as the cadence of a Rosary prayed for a soul who has recently died. Catholics commonly offer a Rosary for the newly deceased, usually at the funeral visitation or shortly before or after the funeral Mass. We know that earthly death is merely a transition, not a finality.

When we die, our soul – the eternal reflection of the Triune God – never dies. Because we hope that the faithful who have died will enter the state of Purgatory and eventually Heaven, we pray for their souls. Imagine how many souls have left this earth with few people to remember them in prayer.

WHY PRAY FOR THE DEAD?

The souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves. Therefore, they rely upon those of us still on earth to remember them in prayer on a regular basis. If we do this, we can expedite their arrival into heaven. Our prayers alleviate their sufferings, grant them renewed hope for their eventual eternal reward, and are a duty for faithful Catholics.

Purgatory is a place of purification, or purgation. Most of us will enter this state, or condition (not a place) after we die, because we will have to atone for every sin we committed on earth, even venial ones. Purgatory is a combination of God’s justice and mercy, both of which are perfectly intertwined and fulfilled there.

The fires of Purgatory, according to some saints who have experienced visions of it, is similar to the fires of Hell – only it’s temporary, not everlasting. That is the hope the souls in Purgatory share: that the crucible of their atonement will eventually lead them to eternal glory in Heaven. But we must help them.

Our prayers, as the Church Militant, continue the chain of works of mercy. We bury the dead and pray for both the living and the dead. It’s easy to neglect prayer for the forgotten souls in Purgatory, but the Church Suffering desperately needs us. While we don’t know exactly whose soul is in Purgatory, we can rely on God’s infinite mercy and have confidence that most of the faithful are waiting for our prayers there.

WHAT IS THE ROSARY FOR THE DEAD?

Similar to a typical Rosary, the Rosary for the Dead is specific to remembering the souls of the faithful departed. Normally a full set of Glorious Mysteries are prayed during the Vigil, while a Chaplet for the Dead is offered after the wake ends; the chaplet is comprised of only four of the five Glorious Mysteries but follows the same formula as listed below. It’s entirely up to the family as to which is prayed, and when.

Here is a simple example of how one would pray this particular Rosary for souls:

1 . Begin with the Sign of the Cross and opening prayers of Apostle’s Creed, one Our Father, three Hail Marys, and one Glory Be;


2 . Offer the first four (chaplet – after the wake) or five (full Rosary – during the wake) Glorious Mysteries. Why these and not the others? Because, as Christians, we are a Resurrection people. And the Glorious Mysteries remind us of life after death, of the promise of heaven if we are faithful to God;

3 . After each decade, you will add the prayer for departed souls: “Eternal rest, grant unto him/her, O Lord, and let Your perpetual light shine upon him/her. May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through Your mercy, rest in peace. Amen;”

4 . Once you have completed the concluding prayers, add the recitation of Psalm 130 (prayer for pardon and mercy) subsequent to the Hail, Holy Queen.

NINE DAY ROSARY NOVENA FOR THE DEAD

If the Rosary is a powerful spiritual tool, then combining it with a novena is most certainly even more efficacious. Catholics in the Philippines traditionally pray a nine-day series of Rosaries for their deceased loved ones, which includes the following components:

>> The leader (preferably a priest or deacon) offers an opening prayer;

>> Together, everyone prays the Sorrowful Mysteries;

>> Each of the nine days then has a specific novena prayer;

>> All recite the Litany for the Faithful Departed, including the specific names of those who have died, if applicable;

>>The leader closes the Rosary novena with a concluding prayer, ending with the “Eternal Rest” prayer.

Regardless of how or when you choose to pray for those who have died – whether in your family or those anonymous souls whose gravestones you pass while driving – it’s important to remember the value of your prayers to those who have no one to pray for them. Perhaps you or your family may decide to pray a Rosary for the Dead during the visitation or Mass, but other ideas could include their birthday, anniversary of their death, and throughout the month of November, which is dedicated to all souls of the faithful departed.

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