The custom making a novena comes to us from the Acts of the Apostles (1:12-2:5). The Apostles and the Blessed Virgin stayed together in prayer for nine days from Christ’s Ascension until the Day of Pentecost. This nine-day period of prayer established a precedent for Christians to set aside a similar “season of prayer” for particular concerns.
Since death has no ultimate power over us as Christians, we are free to pray for each other, even if divided temporarily by death. This is a part of what it means to share in the Communion of Saints, a central article of the catholic faith. Early Christians likened death to falling asleep in Christ—alluding to its impermanence—and thus one of the ancient Christian ways to speak of is to “repose” in the Lord: thus, the title of these prayers.
This set of prayers, derived from the Book of Common Prayer’s burial liturgies, is intended for those who mourn. You may desire to offer these prayers beginning the day after a death, or in the period following a burial. These prayers are suitable for use during periods of mourning or at the anniversary of a death. They may be said as part of one’s daily prayers, a rosary, at the Eucharist, or as a separate devotion.
O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that your servant N., being raised with him, may know the strength of his presence, and rejoice in his eternal glory; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of your servant N., and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
[For an adult]
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you our brother (sister) N. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[For a child]
O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them: Give us grace to entrust N. to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with NN. in our grief. Surround us with your love, that we may not be overwhelmed by our loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to you our brother (sister) N., who was reborn by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. Grant that his death may recall to us your victory over death, and be an occasion for us to renew our trust in your Father’s love. Give us, we pray, the faith to follow where you have led the way; and where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.
Father of all, we pray to you for N., and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life: Raise us, we humbly pray, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; that when we depart this life we may rest in him, and at the resurrection receive that blessing which your well-beloved Son shall then pronounce: “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Grant this, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.
O God, the King of saints, we praise and glorify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear: for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all your other righteous servants, known to us (especially your servant N.) and unknown; and we pray that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.