260. In accordance with time, place and tradition, popular devotions to the dead take on a multitude of forms:
• the novena for the dead in preparation for the 2 November, and the octave prolonging it, should be celebrated in accordance with liturgical norms;
More often I see a month observing prayers for the dead. Any readers with experiences of the novena preceding?
• visits to the cemetery; in some places this is done in a community manner on 2 November, at the end of the parochial mission, when the parish priest takes possession of the parish; visiting the cemetery can also be done privately, when the faithful go to the graves of their own families to maintain them or decorate them with flowers and lamps. Such visits should be seen as deriving from the bonds existing between the living and the dead and not from any form of obligation, non-fulfilment of which involves a superstitious fear;
I remember a cemetery visit at a monastery where I happened to be on retreat one November. It was a very moving experience, seeing the religious community praying with devotion as well as affection for their deceased brothers.
• membership of a confraternity or other pious association whose objects include “burial of the dead” in a the light of the Christian vision of death, praying for the dead, and providing support for the relatives of the dead;
• suffrage for the dead through alms deeds, works of mercy, fasting, applying indulgences, and especially prayers, such as the De profundis, and the formula Requiem aeternam, which often accompanies the recitation of the Angelus, the rosary, and at prayers before and after meals.
As for these last two, I have no experience of them growing up, not being in a Catholic family. You readers, any experiences to share?
The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.