Skip to comments.Praying for the dead [Purgatory]
Posted on 07/31/2002 12:36:33 PM PDT by JMJ333
One major difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics pray for the dead. As Cardinal Ratzinger said so well, "My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it." Why? "Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread - at all times and in all cultures - as prayer for one's own departed dear ones."
Calvin, the Protestant reformer of Geneva, had a woman whipped because she was discovered praying at the grave of her son and hence was guilty, according to Calvin, of "superstition."
"In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed," Cardinal Ratzinger said in "The Ratzinger Report," a book by Vittorio Messori. "In fact, German Lutherans at least have returned to it in practice and have found considerable theological justification for it. Praying for one's departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed; it is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death. The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love."
Catholics are not the only ones who pray for the dead. The custom is also a Jewish one, and Catholics traditionally drew upon the Hebrew Bible text of 2 Maccabees 12:38-46, in addition to some New Testament passages, to justify their belief.
Besides the Jews, many ancient peoples also prayed for the deceased. Some societies, such as that of ancient Egypt, were actually "funereal" and built around the practice.
Spanish-speaking Catholics today popularly refer to All Souls Day as El Dia de los Muertos, a relic of the past when the pre-Christian Indians had a Day of the Dead; liturgically, the day is referred to as El Dia de las Animas.
The French Jesuit missionaries in New France in the 17th century easily explained All Souls Day by comparing it to the local Indian Day of the Dead.
Ancestor worship was also well known in China and elsewhere in Asia, and missionaries there in times gone by perhaps had it easier explaining All Souls Day to them, and Christianizing the concept, than they would have to us in the Western world as the 20th century draws to a close.
The urge to pray for the dead is deep in the human spirit, which rebels against the concept of annihilation after death. Although there is some evidence for a Christian liturgical feast akin to our All Souls Day as early as the fourth century, the Church was slow to introduce such an observance because of the persistence, in Europe, of more ancient pagan rituals for the dead. In fact, the Protestant reaction to praying for the dead may be based more on these survivals and a deformed piety from pre-Christian times than on the true Catholic doctrine as expressed by either the Western or the Eastern Church. The doctrine of purgatory, rightly understood as praying for the dead, should never give offense to anyone who professes faith in Christ.
When we discuss All Souls Day, we look at a liturgical commemoration which predated doctrinal formulation itself, since the Church often clarifies only that which is being undermined or threatened. The first clear documentation for this celebration comes from Isidore of Seville (d. 636; the last of the great Western Church Fathers), whose monastic rule includes a liturgy for all the dead on the day after Pentecost.
The date of November 2 for the liturgical commemoration of the faithful departed was set by St. Odilo (962-1049), who was the abbot of Cluny in France. Before that, other dates had been observed around the Christian world, and the Armenians still use Easter Monday for this purpose. He issued a decree that all the monasteries of the congregation of Cluny were annually to keep this feast. On November 1, the bell was to be tolled and afterward the Office of the Dead was to be recited in common, and on the next day all the priests would celebrate Mass for the repose of the souls in purgatory.
The observance of the Benedictines of Cluny was soon adopted by other Benedictines and by the Carthusians. Pope Sylvester in 1003 approved and recommended the practice. Eventually, the parish clergy introduced this liturgical observance, and from the 11th to the 14th century, it spread in France, Germany, England and Spain. Finally, in the 14th century, Rome placed the day of the commemoration of all the faithful departed in the official books of the Western or Latin Church. November 2 was chosen in order that the memory of all the holy spirits, both of the saints in heaven and of the souls in purgatory, should be celebrated in two successive days. In this way the Catholic belief in the Communion of Saints would be expressed.
Since for centuries the Feast of All Saints had already been celebrated on November 1, the memory of the departed souls in purgatory was placed on the following day. All Saints Day goes back to the fourth century, but was finally fixed on November 1 by Pope Gregory in 835. The two feasts bind the saints-to-be with the almost-saints and the already-saints before the resurrection from the dead.
On All Souls Day, can we pray for those in limbo? The notion of limbo is not ancient in the Church, and was a theological extrapolation to provide explanation for cases not included in the heaven-purgatory-hell triad. Limbo does not appear as a thesis to be taught in the new Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In fact, Cardinal Ratzinger was in favor of the notion of limbo being set aside. In "The Ratzinger Report," he said, "Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally - and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation - I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for faith, namely, the importance of baptism. To put it in the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God' (John 3:5). One should not hesitate to give up the idea of limbo, if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed 'limbo' also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be."
The doctrine of purgatory, upon which the liturgy of All Souls rests. is formulated in canons promulgated by the Councils of Florence (1439) and Trent (1545-1563). The truth of the doctrine existed before its clarification, of course, and only historical necessities motivated both councils to pronounce when they did. Acceptance of this doctrine still remains a required belief of Catholic faith.
What about indulgences? Indulgences from the treasury of grace in the Church are applied to the departed on All Souls Day, as well as on other days, according to the norms of ecclesiastical law. The faithful make use of their intercessory role in prayer to ask the Lord's mercy upon those who have died. Essentially, the practice urges the faithful to take responsibility. This is the opinion of Michael Morrissey in the Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality: "Since the Church has taught that death is not the end of life, then neither is it the end of our relationship with loved ones who have died, who along with the saints make up the Body of Christ in the 'Church Triumphant."' This assumes, of course, that they died in a state of grace and are finished with purification via purgatory.
Morrissey adds that "the diminishing theological interest in indulgences, today is due to an increased emphasis on the sacraments, the prayer life of Catholics and an active engagement in the world as constitutive of the spiritual life. More soberly, perhaps, it is due to an individualistic attitude endemic in modern culture that makes it harder to feel responsibility for, let alone solidarity with, dead relatives and friends."
As with everything Christian, then, All Souls Day has to do with the mystery of charity, that divine love overcomes everything, even death. Bonds of love uniting us creatures, living and dead, and the Lord Who is resurrected, are celebrated both on All Saints Day and on All Souls Day each year.
All who have been baptized into Christ and have chosen Him will continue to live in Him. The grave does not impede progress toward a closer union with Him. It is only this degree of closeness to Him which we consider when we celebrate All Saints one day, and All Souls the next.
Purgatory is a great blessing because it shows those who love God how they failed in love, and heals their ensuing shame. Most of us have neither fulfilled the commandments nor failed to fulfill them. Our very mediocrity shames us. Purgatory fills in the void. We learn finally what to fulfill all of them means. Most of us neither hate nor fail completely in love. Purgatory teaches us what radical love means, when God remakes our failure to love in this world into the perfection of love in the next.
As the sacraments on earth provide us with a process of transformation into Christ, so purgatory continues that process until the likeness to Him is completed. It is all grace. Actively praying for the dead is that holy mitzvah or act of charity on our part which hastens that process. The Church encourages it and does it with special consciousness and in unison on All Souls Day, even though it is always and everywhere salutary to pray for the dead.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:
13 Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. (D/R)
I found a prayer and explanation in a book by Joan Carroll Cruz about it. It is an act of charity of unselfish offering to God all the satisfactory value of one's prayers and good works--plus the value of any that may be offered for you after one's death--for the benefit of the souls in purgatory.
[The explanation says]The "satisfactory value" of a good work is its value with regard for making up for our sins and reducing our stay in purgatory. However the "meritorius value" of our good works is inalienable, i.e. our merits, which give us a right to an increase of glory in heaven, cannot be applied to anyone else. Moreover, a person who has made the act may still pray for himself, friends and other intentions.
Its revocable at will and is not a vow. By making this act with purity of intention, one is relying on the mercy of God and the prayers of the communion of saints to assist his soul after death.
The heroic act was approved and encouraged by Pope Benedict XIII (1724-1730)
And the prayer goes as such:
Oh God, for your greater glory, and to imitate as closely as possible the generous heart of Jesus, my redeeemer, and also to testify my devotion to the blessed virgin Mary, who is also the mother of the souls in purgatory. I place in your hands all my satisfactory works, as well as the fruit of all those which may be offered for my intention after my death, that you may apply them to the souls in purgatory according to your wisdom and good pleasure. Amen.
Thought that was interesting. =)
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
V. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
R. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.
IOW, the work that the bible tells us was completed and finished on the cross wasn't really completed and finished.