If you’ve attended a Catholic Wake, you'll notice a special time set aside to pray a communal Rosary for the dead.
Why do we pray a Rosary when someone dies? To pray for our friend or family member who has passed.
The Rosary for the Dead
Like any daily Rosary you would pray, a Rosary for the Dead uses the same prayers, meditation, and mysteries.
One key difference is the Rosary for the Dead adds the Eternal Rest Prayer immediately following the Fatima prayer. The prayer is normally led by a priest, who will add some commentary to pray for the deceased.
For a guide to the Rosary, please see our Rosary for the Dead guide below.
The Eternal Rest Prayer
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. Amen.
The Rosary for the dead uses the five Glorious Mysteries:
- Christ’s Resurrection
- Christ’s Ascension into Heaven
- The Pentecost
- The Assumption of Mary
- The Crowning of Mary
Learn more about the Glorious Mysteries.
These are beautiful aspects of our faith to meditate on in the context of a funeral.
The power of the resurrection is real, and our loved one is now in the midst of experiencing it. We pray this Rosary with the intention that Jesus will prepare a special place for this new soul.
That our Lord will help them on their journey to heaven.
You might have heard someone say they are “going to a rosary,” which is a short-hand way to say a Funeral Rosary.
The Wake or Vigil
A wake is an opportunity for friends and family to gather after the loss of a loved one. The word vigil means to ‘watch over’ or ‘protect’. Long ago, Wake was termed when family members would take turns watching over the dead body until burial. Today these gatherings are an opportunity for families to support one another and pray for the deceased friend.
The meaning of the word ‘vigil,’ is still appropriate for what the living practice while praying the Rosary for the Dead. When Catholics pray this Rosary, we are asking Jesus to protect and care for this new soul.
Why do we Pray for the Dead
Praying for the dead is a uniquely Catholic practice. Why do we pray for the dead? As Christians, we don’t view death as an end. We view it as a beginning to eternal life, and our prayers are to help a loved one’s soul return to our lord.
Catholics believe, that even if a person is saved, they might not go straight to heaven. Some of us may not yet be perfectly unified with Christ, and still holding on to some worldly attachments. God is not of this world, and we can’t take those worldly things into heaven. We have the gift of purgatory, a self-purifying step, to help us fully prepare for heaven. It’s a journey through purgatory, to let go of our attachments and be rid of the effects of sin. Our prayers help souls along.
At a wake, we pray for the recently deceased on this journey. Together, Catholics pray that God will welcome this new soul into heaven, forever.
Preparing for a Catholic Wake or Vigil and a Rosary for the Dead
If you are new to a Catholic wake and are attending the Rosary, here are a few tips to help prepare.
Follow a Guide to the Rosary of the Dead
The Rosary can be an intimidating prayer if you aren’t familiar with it. We suggest following along with a guide. There is no shame in printing out a guide and using it to pray. Knowing what is going on is only going to enrich your prayer.
Below is a free Rosary Guide for the Rosary of the Dead. It includes some background on the Rosary, the Rosary Prayers used, and an illustration to follow along.
Meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary
The Rosary is a meditative prayer, not just a prayer of repeated words. The idea of the Rosary is to let the words flow past you, and think about the image of the Mystery of the Rosary. When you are on the decade of the Mystery of Christ’s resurrection, imagine you are there. Imagine your loved one is with you. It’s a powerful way to make present the life of Christ. Here’s a guide to meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary.
Bring a Rosary
The Rosary for the dead is much easier to say when you have something to help you keep track of where you are. We suggest bringing a set of Rosary beads (or a Rosary card) with you to help keep track. If you don’t have time to grab one, just punching 10 small holes in the side of your Rosary guide can help too. Place your thumb over each hole as you pray through the decade.
A Rosary is a powerful prayer, especially at a wake. It’s a special opportunity to pray for our friend or family member and provide extra protection as they begin their heavenly journey. Say the Rosary with care, and trust that Jesus hears it.
New to the Rosary? We are here to help. Learn how to Pray the Rosary.
Where did the Rosary beads come from? There actually used to be 150.
Need to teach someone the Rosary? We have options to sell in bulk.
The Rosary Card - Built For Convenience
As you learn to pray the Rosary, check out our Rosary Cards. They are designed for convenience (same size as a Credit Card) and make it much easier to pray the Rosary often.
See more options here.
Please let me know how your journey with the Rosary is going, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And don't forget about our free Rosary Guide Download. Keep Praying!