Why Pray for the Deceased?

By: Bishop Loverde

The Church has designated November as a particular time in the liturgical year to pray for those who have died. Yes, we prayed specifically for All Souls in a special way on Nov. 2, but we are encouraged to include the deceased in our prayers throughout November.

Why does the Church dedicate an entire month to pray for the dead?  On a human level, the impact our loved ones have had on us is very clear. Even years after their death, my parents’ love and support is a very powerful, influential presence in my life. Each of us has experienced the loss of someone dear, resulting in a void that we may feel daily. Many of us commemorate death by a visit to the cemetery or other similar traditions. We remember the dead by keeping framed photographs in our homes. These practices are more than just habits; they accentuate a natural human desire to keep ever before us the memory of those we love.

Yet, as Christians, we recognize that there is also another dimension to death – that of the Resurrection. In the Creed, we affirm that Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross, destroying the permanence of evil, suffering, sin and death, so that we will one day be able to join Him in Heaven.

 

An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory c. 1610, a painting by Lodovico Carracci.

 

We pray that our living family and friends be healthy, that they find fulfilling jobs or that they overcome struggles. How much more, then, should we pray for the souls in Purgatory, our brothers and sisters in Christ, that through God’s grace they might find new life with Him?  Our prayers strengthen our brothers and sisters experiencing the purification of purgatory “to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (read more about purgatory in the Catechism). We know that the souls in Purgatory are destined for Eternal Life, but through our prayers we can hasten their ascent to Heaven.

I encourage you – I challenge you – to reflect on your belief in the Resurrection and to apply that belief to your prayers this month. In praying for the souls of the deceased, we have the privilege to lift up those who so often during their earthly lives did the same for us. This is the meaning of the Communion of Saints; just as saints in heaven can intercede for us on earth, we are called to pray for souls in Purgatory.

This month, I ask that you not only recite this prayer, but also place your trust in God’s mercy, by sincerely praying for His grace to be bestowed upon those who have died.

Eternal rest grant onto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

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