A WORD FROM THE PASTOR
Why do we Pray for the Dead?
The answer is found in the Creed, wherein we say, “I believe in the communion of saints.”
There are three groups or states of these members of the Church. The first group is we, the living disciples of Jesus as pilgrims on earth, working toward our eternal reward. The second group is made up of those who have died and are being purified to meet God face-to-face (they are at the mercy and justice of God; we have no idea how long this will take). This state of purification is called Purgatory. We on earth pray and offer sacrifices for these souls to be released from this temporary bondage as soon as possible.
The third group is those who have achieved the state of heavenly glory; some are officially declared saints by the Church and some are not, though they all are in the full light of God. It is the belief of the Church that all of these souls are members of the Church to varying degrees, and are safely in the hands of God in heaven.
Since all the faithful, living and dead, form one Body, the welfare of each is communicated to the others, and there exists a living communion of spiritual goods among them. In this way, it becomes the privilege and obligation of those who are pilgrims on the earth to pray for the dead and to beg the intercession of the saints to pray for those who are in Purgatory, and for us.
We Catholics offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass for the dead. Why? The Mass originally was known as Eucharist (eucharista) means thanksgiving. In the Mass we commemorate and give thanks to the supreme sacrifice of the Son to the Father; this is the sacrifice which served as ransom for our sins. It has the efficacy of sanctifying grace to purify our venial sins and make us worthy of the eternal reward (mortal sins must, of course, be confessed before going to Communion). Hence, the Church believes that offering Masses for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed is the greatest thing we can do for them.
However, this is not our own invention. Immortality of the soul and prayers for the dead are teachings of the Church based on the ancient beliefs of the early Church fathers and documented in Scripture…Petitions are also found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs requesting prayers for the dead. (From the book, Pulpit to Pews # 128).