Praying for the Dead
Praying For the Dead
“Therefore He made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.”
2 Maccabees 12:45
Do Catholics maintain a connection with the dead?
Well, yes. But not by conjuring up spirits or attending séances or consulting mediums. All of these are forbidden as rebellious attempts to seize power that belong to God alone.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that catholic see themselves in communion with the dead – that is, with those who have died with Christ. We communicate not by trying to send messages but by offering spiritual goods – prayers – almsgiving – and works of penance to help those who are undergoing final purification process we call purgatory.
Just as families help each other out in times of difficulty, members of the body of Christ share what they have with each other. It is a bit like the early Christian community, which held everything in common and distributed goods its goods so that no one would suffer need. (see Acts 4:32,34-35). In the larger Body of Christ, we experience this exchange with our fellow pilgrims on earth, and also with the souls in the purgatory and the saints in heaven. The family ties established through Baptism are stronger than death!
The earliest Scriptural reference to praying for the dead is in 2 Maccabees 12.43-46,
which is often read at funeral masses.
From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead offered prayers for them. Brief versions of these appear on Christian tombs dating back to the first century. They ask God to bless the dead with eternal life, rest, peace, and light. Every November 2, on the Feast of All Souls, we too request the blessings for those who have fallen asleep in Christ.
All year round, praying for the dead is an important service to the Body of Christ. And so as Saint John Chrysostom urges us, “Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and offer our prayers for them.”
God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.
In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.
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