Prayer for the dead
Fr Ksawery Sokolowski
All Souls’ Day is a day of remembrance of our brothers and sisters waiting in the ‘vestibule of heaven’ – Purgatory to enter the house of Heavenly Father. Sometimes they must wait in this ‘vestibule’ longer so that they can see the blissful face of God. Praying for them we can contribute to that they can enter the Father’s house as soon as possible. Apart from personal prayers we have other means to help the dead if they need our help: Masses offered on their behalf, indulgences, mortifications, almsgiving.
We believe that public prayers have special power of intercession with God. The most important prayer is the Eucharist – Holy Mass. Therefore, after someone’s death we order Masses for the dead person and then we try to order Mass at least on the anniversary of his/her death. During these Eucharists we ask Jesus to open the heaven gates in his mercy and merits and make them participate in the glory of his resurrected humanity. One should maintain the wonderful custom of ordering Mass for the dead by the participants of the funeral – relatives, neighbours, colleagues from work, members of some association or organisation to which the deceased belonged. Many a time we can have several Masses, i.e. our prayer for the dead lasts for a long time. There is also the so-called Gregorian Mass – a set of 30-day Masses said every day without any interruption. It is believed that after these Masses Lord God takes the dead person from purgatory to his eternal glory. Besides prayer almsgiving is one of the most effective means we have to help the deceased. As far as we can we support those in need asking them to pray for our departed faithful. In many cemeteries seminarians, preparing for priesthood, collect offerings for their studies. They promised to offer their prayers on behalf of the dead. The custom to give offerings with requests to pray for the departed is also a wonderful tradition. These are prayers said during processions in cemeteries or in services on eight days (the so called octave after All Saints’ Day) or the names of the departed are mentioned even on every Sunday during the year. Our participation in this constant prayer of the parish communities is a meaningful testimony of our remembrance and an expression of our care for salvation of the departed, the best sign of our gratitude and love. We should not forget to apply indulgences we gain on these days or during the whole year to the dead. We can gain a plenary indulgence, a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, by visiting a cemetery on 1-8 November and praying for the dead. We can apply the indulgence to the dead who were close to us, asking God who is full in mercy, to grant them the fruits of the indulgence we have gained. We can gain indulgences practically every day by, for example, saying the Way of the Cross, the Rosary or the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy or doing many other deeds of piety. All Souls’ Day is full of great trust in God’s Mercy and brotherly love. It strengthens our faith in the Communion of Saints, i.e. mutual exchange of merits between us, pilgrims on this earth, and those brothers and sisters who are in heaven. We also believe that those who are in purgatory can ask God for many graces, thanking us for our prayers – they can pray for their advocates. I must say that I often ask the souls in purgatory to pray for my difficult matters and these requests are usually heard by God.