Prayer for the Dead History
For Catholics praying for the dead is part of their tradition. The practice which is rooted in Old Testament readings is supported by both the Catechism and the Church’s funeral liturgy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the ‘Prayer for the Dead’ is, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death, they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
In a 2015 All Saints’ Day reflection, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois said that “Our faith teaches us to pray for the dead.” He stressed the importance of praying for the dead in the hope that those who die are with God, the angels, and the saints because it is not necessarily a guarantee. This is because although the scripture teaches us that the dead shall be raised on the day of reckoning, however, only the just are destined for the kingdom of God.
Prayer for the Dead
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.
In the Second Book of Maccabees, there is a very clear and astute reference made about praying for the dead. There is a story where soldiers were preparing the bodies of their slain comrades for burial they discovered they were wearing amulets taken from a pagan temple which violated the law of Deuteronomy so they prayed that God would forgive the sin these men had committed.
Often times when the family members have gathered around the bedside of the person who has passed, they’ll start praying the instant that they have died. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prayers that are a part of the funeral liturgy are the central liturgical celebration of the Christian community for the deceased. Not only are they an expression of grief but also an act of worship.
When the family and loved ones of a deceased person pray for their soul in a Church, they do so to give praise and thank God for Christ’s victory over sin and death, to seek strength in the proclamation of the Paschal Mystery, and to commend the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion.
We pray for the deceased because we want them to ascend to heaven with ease. When we die we don’t go straight to Heaven. We go to purgatory to fully prepare us for Heaven. Being in Purgatory gives us the time we need to purify and cleanse from our earthly attachments. Many believe that there is suffering in purgatory.
It isn’t as joyful as Heaven because we are separated from God. By praying for the dead, we shorten their stay in purgatory. This Catholic prayer for the dead helps the family grieve the death of their loved one and pray to God that they are all reunited in heaven.
Read more: The Apostles’ Creed