Sunday, March 24, 2013
Remembering to Pray for the Dead
This is odd, for I know that if I die in a state of grace and friendship with God, it will most certainly, in my case, be my destination. And I know that, for myself, I would dearly wish for those still alive to pray for my soul if I was there.
But perhaps this is all based on a kind of medieval fear that is rooted in imagery rather than reality. St. Catherine of Genoa, the famed mystic, tells us that "No tongue can express, no mind can understand, how dreadful purgatory is. Its pain is like that of hell..."1. And yet, she also adds that "any soul with the least stain of imperfection accept[s] it as a mercy, not thinking it of any moment when compared with being kept from its Love"2.
Regardless, St. John Chrysostom urges us to "help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them"3. And if God has ordained it so that our prayers are an act of mercy and compassion for the souls in purgatory, then we should engage in such prayers, for "suffering has ended for the blessed, but not love"4. This same love, Love itself, is what purifies those same souls; that is, "the purgatory of God's burning love"5.
Now, I of course do not know of the effects of the prayers for the dead in my own life, but rather only by reading of it in the Scriptures and the accounts of the saints. What I do know is this - that if our prayers aid them in their sufferings and console those of the Church Suffering, then there is no reason why we should not daily pray for them. Which one of us would refuse the prayers of the Church Militant for our own souls if we are the ones languishing there instead? I would think none.
1 - Treatise on Purgatory, ch. 9
2 - ibid.
3 - Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 41:5
4 - St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue, 82
5 - St. Catherine of Genoa, Treatise on Purgatory, ch. 1