Here’s a quick trivia question: What percentage of the Irish population identifies as Catholic? Answer: 3.7 million people, or about 79 percent of the Irish population. This means that if you attend an Irish funeral, it’s likely to a Catholic funeral service.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Irish Funeral Prayers
- Prayer During a Vigil or Wake
- Irish Funeral Toasts and Blessings
- The Power of Prayer
A major part of a Catholic Mass involves prayer, asking for mercy and acceptance of a soul into heaven. You also won’t miss out on prayers for comfort and strength to those in mourning.
If you're planning an Irish funeral, our post-loss checklist may be able to help with that process and other post-death details.
COVID-19 tip: If you chose to use a virtual Irish funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still recite prayers with your online guests. Speak with your planning team, ensure you have the right mics and speakers, and make sure to rehearse the ceremony.
Irish Funeral Prayers
We’ve collected some Irish prayers that you may hear during most or all the main elements of a funeral, Irish wake, or vigil.
Reciting the rosary or a set of prayers is traditional in a wake or vigil. The rosary can be a set of repeated prayers organized in five sets or decades. Catholics can pray the rosary alone, but at funerals, you might join together in a group prayer. A priest, layperson, or those present at the vigil can conduct the prayers.
The Sign of the Cross
This blessing is the tracing of a cross across the body with the right hand. You say or think these words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
We’ve selected and provided 15+ funeral prayers and blessings you may encounter with Irish Catholic traditions.
Simple Litany to the Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary is an important figure in the Catholic faith. This prayer praises her and asks her to intercede for sinners. Groups say it in sets of five or ten at an Irish funeral.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The Apostles' Creed
This prayer affirms each element of the Christian faith. It is a well-known group prayer at most Irish funerals.
“I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried…”
The Lord’s Prayer
This prayer came from Jesus himself when his disciples asked him how to pray. It’s designed to give you comfort and strength.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven...”
Glory Be to the Father
This short prayer is in response to other prayers and praises God and reaffirm faith.
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
The Fatima Prayer
The Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. She gave this prayer to three shepherd children:
"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of your mercy."
Hail, Holy Queen
This traditional prayer praises and exalts the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here Mary is to be a merciful advocate.
“Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! Our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears…”
Prayer During a Vigil or Wake
This is an excerpt from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This well-known passage says that everything on earth has its own purpose, place and time. It is effective at secular funerals, which are becoming more popular in Ireland if you remove the reference to God.
“To everything, there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die; A time to plant….”
Prayers for the end of a Wake
Before a loved one’s body leaves the home or funeral parlor, a solemn prayer may be necessary. These two prayers ask God for help facing future fears and accepting death.
“Lord, we are grieving now for someone we loved and cherished. The experience of death and bereavement can stir up in us feelings of fear for the future and lack of confidence. Renew our confidence…”
Death of a child
This prayer asks the Lord Jesus to take a child into his arms. It leaves a space for the name of the child who has passed away and is from the Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer.
“O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst take little children into thine arms and bless them; open thou our eyes, we beseech thee, that we may perceive that thou hast taken this child [name] into the arms of thy love, and blessed [name] with the blessings of thy gracious favor; who livest and reignest with the father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.”
Prayer after a sudden death
Violent or sudden death is shocking. This prayer asks for comfort for the deceased and those coming to terms with the tragedy.
“Lord, you are the one who was sent to heal the brokenhearted and comfort those that mourn and are heavy laden. You are the one who promised that your grace is sufficient for every eventuality — even for those having to face the sudden and violent death of someone close to them...”
Prayer for Eternal Rest
All Soul’s Day is on November 2. This is a special remembrance day for the dead and is an official holiday in the Catholic calendar. Prayers on this day ask for the mercy of God and eternal rest for all those departed from this life.
“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.”
These prayers ask for strength and courage and entrust a loved one to God where they may rest in peace.
“In your hands, O Lord, we humbly entrust (place name of loved one here) Lord God, you are attentive to the voice of our pleading. Let us find in your Son comfort in our sadness, certainty in our doubt and courage to live through this hour...”
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.”
Irish Funeral Toasts and Blessings
The Irish are famous for their wit, poetry, and blessings. The origins of most blessings are unknown. However, blessing and toasts are rarely used in modern Ireland. Find out about other Irish funeral traditions in use in Irish funerals and Irish funeral songs.
Here is a blessing remembering God’s greatness:
May The Road Rise Up To Meet You
“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face…”
May Joy and Peace Surround You
“May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door. And happiness be with you now and bless you evermore.”
The Bannisters of Life
“As you slide down the banisters of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.”
The Irish have a wicked sense of fun and this one pokes fun at blessings. It hopes that there are never have hardships in life.
Blessings of Saint Patrick
“May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.”
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. Again, nature is a large feature in Irish blessings.
The Power of Prayer
This comes from a headstone in Ireland and explains that the belief that those we love are never gone from us:
“Those we love don’t go away, They walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard, but always near, Still loved, still missed and very dear.”
At the time of a funeral, prayers ask for healing, remembrance, and strength. Prayers honor the deceased and help those present. Saying prayers in unison includes all those wishing to pay their respects. They are a powerful tradition and a meaningful medium for believers.