Prayer for the Deceased is an Ancient Devotion
We read in the Old Testament that Judas Machabeus told his soldiers to take a collection of silver to the Holy City of Jerusalem. This gift was so their fallen comrades would be freed from their sins through remembrance in the prayers and sacrifices in the temple.
“And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead) and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”
– II Machabees 12:43-46
Prayer for the Deceased has been offered from the early days of the Church in the catacombs and continues up to our present day as we will see below.
Why is Prayer for the Deceased Necessary?
Those who die in the state of grace are friends of God but if they are guilty of venial sin or are still attached to bad habits or owe a debt of punishment cannot enter heaven immediately. These obstacles must be purged from their souls so they will be able to live forever as pure and holy saints with the Blessed Trinity.
Purgatory is the place where this expiation is accomplished. The poor souls in Purgatory suffer in two ways. Firstly, they experience the temporary pain of loss from not seeing God yet and secondly they undergo the pain of sense from the punishments which burn away the last vestiges of sin in them. They remain there until they are perfect and ready to enter eternal happiness. We can assist the poor souls in Purgatory by our prayers, sufferings, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer for the Deceased in Church
Prayer for the deceased was made from the earliest days of the Church especially during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the most efficacious prayer for the deceased and it contains the following words called the Memento: “Be mindful, O Lord, of thy servants and handmaids (Names given) who have gone before us, with the sign of faith, and sleep in the sleep of peace”. The Memento comes soon after the Consecration and in the early Church the Mass would be interrupted so that the deacon could read the names of the deceased and place them on the altar.
Prayer for the Deceased Today
November 2nd is called All Souls Day. All the Masses offered that day are for the relief and release of the Poor Souls in Purgatory. The names of our beloved dead are placed on the altar for that day and throughout the month of November so that they are remembered at all the Masses offered.
You can participate in this prayer for the deceased by sending us the names of the faithful departed whom you want remembered at our Masses on All Souls day and throughout November.