Why we Catholics Pray for the Dead




These are good questions, shared by many others, and they touch upon a long tradition in the Church of not only remembering those who have gone on before us, but also commending them to God’s loving mercy.

There is a mortuary chapel, built in the 1870s, that stands in the center of the cemetery on the grounds of the now-closed Jesuit seminary at Woodstock, Maryland. Inscribed over the chapel door are these words (in Latin): “Here the Society of Jesus cherishes as keepsakes for heaven the ashes of the dear sons she has brought forth.”

The cherished remains are “keepsakes for heaven;” that’s why we visit cemeteries. The prayerful remembrances — Masses, special prayers for the dead, Rosaries, Stations of the Cross, and other devotional remembrances — are, for the most part, petitions to God. They ask that the departed believer may be united in an eternal embrace with the triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — in heaven. For that goal was each of us created, for that purpose did Christ die and rise again, and for that end do we pray when we commend the souls of “the faithful departed” to God.

But, you may be wondering, why are they not united with God immediately upon leaving this world? Well, that question relates to our readiness, our preparedness, our freedom from sin, and our satisfaction of what the Church refers to as “temporal punishment due to sin” in order that the union of a human being — a “mere mortal” — with the sinless God is possible.

What is this temporal punishment? Let me suggest that it is a condition of “unreadiness” for eternal union with the Holy Trinity. In one sense you are ready, because you’ve expressed your sorrow and your sins have been forgiven. But in all probability you’re not quite ready, because your love of God at the moment of death may be less than wholehearted, less than perfect. Spiritually, you are right with God (your sins have been forgiven), but you need a bit of tidying up before being taken fully into God’s loving and eternal embrace.

Purgatory is the cure for your condition of unreadiness. It’s the process of purification.

Hence, we pray for the dead to beg God to move that process along. It all relates to God’s love and grace, that they may enfold the souls of the departed and keep them eternally secure.

The Mass, of course, is the absolute best prayer for the dead. It makes the redemptive sacrifice of Christ present again on the altar and, in God’s gracious providence, allows you to ask that this redemptive power be applied to the one for whom you pray.

You didn’t ask, but let me add to this the truth that those who have died can pray for you. They are with God and can pray to God for you. Similarly, your prayers for anyone who is already fully and eternally united to God in love are not wasted. All prayer is powerful, and in this case, your prayer will return in the form of unknown and unpredictable blessings on you and your world.

See Prayer For the Dead Here





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14 comments

  1. Larry Sta Ana Reply

    if we can pray for the dead repentance is no longer needed we just let our love ones pray for us then…

    1. roberto del rosario Reply

      Repentance of the contrite is forgiven thru the sacrament of confession and so the eternal punishment but the temporal punishment attached to the sin that is pardoned still exists. Either the repentant pays it while still living in this material and temporary world and offer the sufferings to God or thru purification or cleansing of the soul in purgatory ( it may take years or centuries in our world). It is is here that the prayers of the Church Militant as part of the Mystical Body of Christ help to hasten the purification of the blessed soul/s in purgatory. Plenary indulgence ( complete remission of the temporal punishment ) for the soul in purgatory can be attained if we, the living members of the Church thru the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints, offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on their behalf with the following conditions on our part, perform the Sacrament of Confession, received Holy Communion, free from sin, including venial sin, pray for the intention of the Pope and awareness of the intention. November 1- 8 daily are the days to offer plenary indulgence for the souls. Other days, partial indulgence maybe offered to their souls. The problem nowadays, the doctrines of purgatory, sin & repentance are now forgotten even by Catholics to the detriment of the souls in Purgatory. Who knows one of these days you might need our prayers with compliance of the conditions mentioned especially when your living family members might be remiss in offering you plenary indulgence. Hope I answered your comment as a lay Christian who returned to the Catholic Faith wholeheartedly and enlightened.

      1. Lori Reply

        Utter Nonsense. Read your bible from cover to cover and you will not find instruction to pray for the dead. That you are pulling reference from anything other than the Holy Bible is sacrilege. Roberto, beware.

  2. mistyvistaLori Reply

    This is crazy. There is not one single bible reference to back it up.

  3. Monica Reply

    And can you point to me in which verse the purgatory exist in the bible? Catholic, even though based on Christ, created rules that is made by themselves.

  4. Sabrina Reply

    There’s no such thing as purgatory . It appointed once for man to die after death then come the judgement. You much be born again the only way to the father is through his son jesus christ

  5. Wes Reply

    None of this is based in Biblical scripture. This is complete nonsense invented by Catholics.

  6. Rem Reply

    I believe. But just a suggestion of wordings. Purgatory as ‘tidying up of soul’ like God can’t embrace u in dirty clothes is not quite right. I think it’s best seen as a time for self awareness of your dirtiness n your absolutely need for God that would make you yearn for the ‘wedding cothes’ in exchange of you dirty ones in order to enter His presence.

  7. Jason kim Reply

    Nonsense.
    2. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 Don’t sacrifice your sons or daughters in the fires on your altars. Don’t try to learn what will happen in the future by talking to a fortuneteller or by going to a magician, a witch, or a sorcerer. Don’t let anyone try to put magic spells on other people. Don’t let any of your people become a medium or a wizard. And no one should try to talk with someone who has died. The Lord hates anyone who does these things. And because these other nations do these terrible things, the Lord your God will force them out of the land as you enter it. You must be faithful to the Lord your God, never doing anything he considers wrong. “You will force the other nations out of your land. They listen to people who use magic and try to tell the future. But the Lord your God will not let you do these things.

  8. Marmi Reply

    Of course there is no Purgatory for those who do not believe it exist, because those who don’t believe goes straight to Hell!!

    1. Lori Hardin Reply

      Marmi, some of us don’t believe in purgatory because the Bible doesn’t support it. Read your Bible from cover to cover and you will not find purgatory anywhere. It doesn’t exist and was made up by humans. As for you stating as a fact that I am going to hell because I don’t believe in purgatory, shame on you for casting eternal judgment when it certainly isn’t your place to do so. The Bible says very plainly that if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord then you will be saved. I believe it, I confessed it and I will spend eternity with the Lord when my time on earth is over. Why don’t you read your Bible to learn the truth?

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