Serving the Miami Valley Catholic Community Since 1872

Why Catholics Pray for the Dead

A frequently asked question. Here’s an interesting explanation by Father David Dwyer of Busted Halo Ministeries:

The practice of praying for the dead is rooted first in Christian belief in the
everlasting life promised in Jesus’ teachings and foreshadowed by his disciple’s
experience that God had raised him from the dead. After death, even though
separated from our earthly body, we yet continue a personal existence. It is as
living persons that God invites us into a relationship whose life transcends
death.

Praying for the dead has further origins in our belief in the communion of
saints. Members of this community who are living often assist each other in
faith by prayers and other forms of spiritual support. Christians who have died
continue to be members of the communion of saints. We believe that we can assist
them by our prayers, and they can assist us by theirs.

Our prayers for the dead begin at the moment of death. Often family members will
gather in prayer around the bedside of the person who has died. The Order of
Christian Funerals includes a Vigil Service for the deceased, which can be held
in the home, in the church, or in a funeral home chapel, the funeral Mass and
the Rite of Committal (which generally takes place at the burial site). The
prayers express hope that God will free the person who has died from any burden
of sin and prepare a place for him or her in heaven. Death remains a mystery for
us–a great unknown. Yet Christian language evokes a hopeful imagination in the
presence of death, an assurance that our love, linked to Christ’s love, can help
bridge whatever barriers might keep those whom we love from fully enjoying the
presence of a loving and life-giving God.

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