On November 2 the Church celebrated the Feast of All Souls, when we remember all who have died. During the month of November, Catholics continue to pray for the deceased, trusting them to God’s loving mercy.
For most Catholics, the idea of praying for the deceased is really second nature. We have blessing prayers for the body of someone who’s just died, we have wake services, funeral masses, graveside services, and often memorial masses on the anniversary of someone’s death.
To some people, this doesn’t appear to make much sense. Once someone has passed on, they’re in God’s hands, so what’s the point in all that prayer? They’re facing God’s judgment, so what can our prayers accomplish anyway? Well, we believe they can accomplish a lot.
First of all, Catholics believe in purgatory. Without going in to too much detail, this means that some of us aren’t ready for heaven when we die, and aren’t evil enough to face eternal damnation. So, some period of purification is necessary before we’re ready to face God’s glory. In part, our prayers for the deceased ask God to show mercy to those souls.
But our prayers for the deceased are not only prayers of supplication. They are also prayers of praise, which remind us of God’s goodness and mercy. If you listen closely to the prayers at a Catholic funeral, you’ll hear a clear expression of our hope in the resurrection. As Christ rose from the dead, so will we rise with him at the end of time.