Rev. William Saunders: Mass for the Dead

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The Holy Souls in purgatory, Angels, and saints all adoring Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Acknowledgement: Rev. William Saunders, “Mass for the Dead.” Arlington Catholic Herald, Catholic Education Resource Center

My elderly mother always has Masses offered for deceased relatives on the anniversary of their deaths. Where did this practice come from and is it important?

The offering of Mass” for the repose of the soul of the faithful departed is linked with our belief in Purgatory. We believe that if a person has died fundamentally believing in God but with venial sins and the hurt caused by sin, then God in His divine love and mercy will first purify the soul After this purification has been completed, the soul will have the holiness and purity needed to share in the beatific vision in heaven.

While each individual stands judgment before the Lord and must render an account of his life, the communion of the Church shared on this earth continues, except for those souls dammed to hell. The Vatican Council II affirmed, “This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of heaven or who are yet being purified after their death…” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, No. 51). Therefore, just as we pray for each other and share each other’s burdens now, the faithful on earth can offer prayers and sacrifices to help the departed souls undergoing purification, and no better prayer could be offered than that of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  …