Every November, Catholics make a concerted effort to pray for the dead. At Christ the King, we began the month of November by celebrating our annual Mass of Remembrance on All Souls’ Day. This Mass was offered for all of our parishioners who have died over the past year. We also have our Book of Remembrance in the church by the Mary statue, in which parishioners have entered the names of deceased loved ones. We pray for all of these folks throughout the month of November.
Praying for the dead is an important part of our Catholic tradition. In particular, we pray that if a loved one is in purgatory, they may be cleansed of their sins so they might live forever in heaven. (Today’s Catholic recently had an interesting article explaining the practice of gaining indulgences for the dead: https://todayscatholic.org/praying-for-the-dead-in-november-how-to-gain-a-plenary-indulgence/?utm_source=Connection&utm_campaign=098e87ea0f-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_02_26_03_58_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d89e2c3abb-098e87ea0f-408599789)
There’s a great explanation of this given in the Old Testament. In the Second Book of Maccabees (12:38-46), the hero of the story (Judas Maccabeus) finds that some of his soldiers have died in a state of sin. “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out… In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.”
That’s exactly why we pray for the dead: because we believe in heaven. Yes, we know there is judgement, and that there are consequences for our sins, but we also believe that we are still connected to our deceased brothers and sisters in the same Mystical Body, and that our prayers for them can do real good for them (just as the prayers of our deceased brothers and sisters in heaven do real good for us.) So I encourage you to remember deceased loved ones in prayer this month, whether by offering a Mass for them, inscribing their name in our Book of Remembrance, or saying a rosary for them. To do so is a great act of love for them, as well as an act of hope in the mercy and power of God.