Why do Catholics pray for the Dead?


Morning Father just a quick one.
What is the essence of praying for the dead?
I really don’t understand. (Shushu, Botswana)


The Catholic Church believes and professes a relationship between the living and the dead.

The Church is therefore categorised into 3:

1. The Church Triumphant: This refers to the Saints. They lived here on earth and lived their lives to please God. Now they are in heaven and are interceding for us here on earth.

2. The Church Suffering – These are the souls in purgatory. They lived here on earth like us but because of some obstacles (sins) in their lives, they are unable to go to heaven directly. They need to be purged of those sins before they can gain entry into heaven since nothing impure can enter heaven. (Rev. 21:27)

These souls cannot pray for themselves anymore in the state in which they find themselves. They therefore rely on our prayers and those of the saints in heaven. Our prayer for them, in a sense, seeks to plead that their time in purgatory may be shortened. We should understand that this cleansing or purging in purgatory entails deep suffering, and that is why we should pray for them always.

The souls in purgatory, however, are assured of heaven after their period of purgation, unlike those in hell who are condemned for their rejection of God while on earth

We should understand that our prayers for them are not useless. It is a plea of mercy for the faithful departed. Who knows, we may need prayers ourselves when we die, unless we are holy already and without any stain of sin.

3. The Church Militant – This refers to the pilgrim Church. Those of us who are living now on earth. While here, we are encouraged to pray for those in purgatory, that their souls may be freed from suffering, so that they can join the Saints above and also pray for us.

While here, we also look up to the example of the saints. We look at the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith! (Hebrews 13:7).

We also ask for their intercession to receive grace to live like them and become saints one day and enjoy the beatific vision (God’s presence)

You will therefore realize that there is a relationship between the living and the dead.
While the Saints intercede and pray for us, we also pray for the faithful departed who are yet to enter heaven.

This is why in the Apostles creed we profess, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen!

(Read also “Is the doctrine of Purgatory Biblical?)

God bless you.

Padre Antonio
(WhatsApp number: +233 541 859198)

(You may whatsapp your questions and contributions for further clarifications)


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