Friday, September 4, 2015

Masses Celebrated for Our Loved Ones

  There is a time-honored tradition of having Masses offered for our beloved dead, for our special intentions, and for the needs of the living.  Over the past few years, I have noticed that fewer people are asking for Masses to be celebrated for the deceased on the occasion of a funeral.  When you go to a wake, I encourage you to go with a Mass card indicating your desire to be spiritually with the family at this moment of separation in their lives.
     This practice is not new. The Catechism asserts, "From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God" (No. 1032). Actually! "This "beginning" has toots even in the Old Testament. Judas Maccabees offered prayers and sacrifices for the Jewish soldiers who had died wearing pagan amulets, which were forbidden by the Law; II Maccabees reads, "Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out" (12:43) and "Thus, [Judas Maccabees] made atonement for the deed mat they might be freed from sin" (12:46).
     In the early history of the Church, we also see evidence of prayers for the dead. Inscriptions uncovered on tombs in the Roman catacombs of the second century evidence this practice. For example. the epitaph on the tomb of Abercius (d. 180) Bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia begs for prayers for the repose of his soul' Tertullian in 211 attested to observing the anniversary of death with prayers. Moreover, the Canons of Hippolytus (c. 235) explicitly mention the offering of prayers for the dead during the Mass.
the testimony of the Church Fathers beautifully support this belief: St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), in one of his many catechetical discourses, explained how at Mass both the living and dead are remembered, and how the Eucharistic Sacrifice of our Lord is of benefit to sinners, living and dead. St. Ambrose (d. 397) preached, "We have loved them during life; let us not abandon them in death, until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord." St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) stated, "Let us help end commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their {ether's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have disc and to offer our prayers for them." Finally, Pope St. Gregory (d. 604) said, "Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers. for them. "
One may wonder, " What if the person's soul has already been purified and gone to heaven?"' We on earth know neither the judgment of God nor the divine time frame; so, there is always goodness in remembering our departed and commending them to God through prayer and sacrifice. However, if indeed the departed soul has been purified and now rests in God's presence in heaven/ then those prayers and sacrifices offered benefit the other souls in purgatory through the love and mercy of God.
Therefore, we find not only the origins of this practice dating to the early Church but we also clearly recognize its importance. When we face the death of someone, even " person who is not Catholic. to have a Mass offered for the repose of his soul and to offer our prayers are more beneficial and comforting than any other sympathy card or bouquet of flowers. Most importantly, we should always remember our own dearly departed loved ones in the Holy Mass and through our own prayers and sacrifices to help in their gaining eternal rest.

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