Remember, O Lord, that they are Thy creatures, not made by strange gods, but by Thee ...
While the Catholic tradition of visiting a cemetery during the first week of November (and especially on November 2) is rooted deep in our cultural history (even the pope goes every year), we might find ourselves at the graveyard and unsure what to say.
We are there principally to pray for the departed, confident in hope that God’s mercy has been extended to them, but aware that few of us leave earth without the effects of sin still staining our souls.
Visits to the cemetery during the first week of November can bring a plenary indulgence.
Benedict XVI’s teaching on purgatory
It’s helpful to take a few minutes to reflect on our own death, the fleeting nature of earthy possessions, of time on earth, and the eternity of eternity.
When we turn our hearts to prayer for the departed, any simple, spontaneous prayer will do. We can also use a treasured prayer such as the Hail Mary or Our Father.
Of course RIP is itself a prayer.
Did you know R.I.P. is a Latin prayer?
And here are a few more.
The Lord bless him/her and keep him/her, the Lord make His Face to shine upon him/her and be gracious to him/her, the Lord lift up His countenance upon him/her and give him/her peace. Amen.
For those who have no one praying for them:
O merciful God, take pity on those souls who have no particular friends and intercessors to recommend them to Thee, who, either through the negligence of those who are alive, or through length of time are forgotten by their friends and by all. Spare them, O Lord, and remember Thine own mercy, when others forget to appeal to it. Let not the souls which Thou hast created be parted from thee, their Creator. Amen.
A Byzantine Prayer for the Deceased
God of the spirits and of all flesh, who have trampled death and annihilated the devil and given life to your world, may you yourself, O Lord, grant to the soul of your deceased servant N. rest in a place of light, a verdant place, a place of freshness, from where suffering, pain and cries are far removed. Do You, O good and compassionate God forgive every fault committed by him in word, work or thought because there is no man who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin and your justice is justice throughout the ages and your word is truth. Since you, O Christ our God, are the resurrection, the life and the repose of your deceased servant N., we give you glory together with your un-begotten Father and your most holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.
This beautiful prayer from John Henry Newman calls on many particular saints:
O GOD of the Spirits of all flesh, O Jesu, Lover of souls, we recommend unto Thee the souls of all those Thy servants, who have departed with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace. We beseech Thee, O Lord and Savior, that, as in Thy mercy to them Thou became man, so now Thou would hasten the time, and admit them to Thy presence above. Remember, O Lord, that they are Thy creatures, not made by strange gods, but by Thee, the only Living and True God; for there is no other God but Thou, and none that can equal Thy works. Let their souls rejoice in Thy light, and impute not to them their former iniquities, which they committed through the violence of passion, or the corrupt habits of their fallen nature. For, although they have sinned, yet they always firmly believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and before they died, they reconciled themselves to Thee by true contrition and the Sacraments of Thy Church. O Gracious Lord, we beseech Thee, remember not against them the sins of their youth and their ignorance; but according to Thy great mercy, be mindful of them in Thy heavenly glory. May the heavens be opened to them, and the Angels rejoice with them. May the Archangel St. Michael conduct them to Thee. May Thy holy Angels come forth to meet them, and carry them to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. May St. Peter, to whom Thou gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, receive them. May St. Paul, the vessel of election, stand by them. May St. John, the beloved disciple, who had the revelation of the secrets of heaven, intercede for them. May all the Holy Apostles, who received from Thee the power of binding and loosing, pray for them. May all the Saints and elect of God, who in this world suffered torments for Thy Name, befriend them; that, being freed from the prison beneath, they may be admitted into the glories of that kingdom, where with the Father and the Holy Ghost Thou lives and reigns one God, world without end. Come to their assistance, all ye Saints of God; gain for them deliverance from their place of punishment; meet them, all ye Angels; receive these holy souls, and present them before the Lord. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine on them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Pray St. Gertrude the Great’s powerful prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory