Why should we pray for the dead? And how?

There are many good reasons given in this week’s Catholic Spirit:

Father John Gallas, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in Loretto and St. Thomas the Apostle in Corcoran, said it’s common for people to believe that when people die, most go straight to heaven. But “people are obviously in different places when they leave this world,” so Catholics pray for all the dead at every Mass, he said.

“And this includes people like Pope John Paul II. After his death, many people presumed he was already a saint. Nevertheless, we said a Mass for him,” he said.

“Never presume a person is in heaven, unless [that person is] a baptized infant,” he continued. “We have no assurance for the unbaptized, but we can pray for them. And we can pray for the notorious. At their last moment, they might have turned to God.”

Father Gallas highlighted that praying for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy, “especially if we want to be active in social justice. The social sphere is not limited to the physical world,” he said.

A few highlights:

[Erin] Flood [interviewee], said that as a child, she viewed the annual “Uncle Dan’s Mass” on Jan. 31 as a remembrance. She recalls her mom explaining how people can’t assume that they know the state of someone’s soul when they die, and because the deceased’s soul might be in purgatory and can’t receive Communion, loved ones do that for them.

At most funerals I attend, people say with some assurance, “he’s in a better place now” or “she’s in heaven,” as if their loved one’s immediate arrival in heaven were a foregone conclusion.

In our grief we want to believe our loved ones go right to heaven but the truth is, we don’t exactly know where they go.

The Church teaches that believers remain connected—whether they’re in heaven, on earth or in purgatory, and that it is beneficial to pray for those who have died but are not canonized saints.

During November please consider reserving some special time to pray for the dead.

[T]he premier prayer to offer for their intention is the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our Christian life.  The Church also recommends almsgiving, indulgences, and other works of penance for the deceased (Catechism, No. 1032).

There are many ways to help your deceased loved ones. One way is by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them.

During November, which is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, there are more opportunities to help them by earning indulgences that are only applicable to them.

Visit a Cemetery: obtain a partial indulgence by praying at a cemetery during November or a plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery each day between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8.

Visit a Church or Public Oratory on Nov. 2: obtain a plenary indulgence after devoutly reciting the Our Father and the Creed on All Souls Day.

Pray the Eternal Rest:  Obtain a partial indulgence year round when reciting:   Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen

And finally, remember:

Even if our loved ones are already in heaven, it’s still beneficial to pray because another soul might need the help. Someday we ourselves may need the prayers of the living.

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One Comment on “Why should we pray for the dead? And how?”

  1. Sheila Matteson Says:

    Thank you for all your information. It is a great help when I talk with the parents.


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