Honor the Dead by Praying for their Souls

Last week, I was taking a walk in our local cemetery when I came upon a group of people gathered around a grave. On a nearby bench, they had set up something that looked like a walkie-talkie or transistor radio. It cackled with static as they called out questions in a way that suggested they expected answers from it.

After I passed them, I realized, from the nature of their questions, that they were probably trying to communicate with a dead family member.

The realization made me feel a bit afraid, so immediately I prayed a St. Michael prayer and a Memorare for them and for their deceased relatives.

My fear was not about the dead who were buried in the cemetery. I was afraid because I felt uncomfortable and alarmed with what the strangers were doing. But when the fear turned into prayers, it quickly fled, and my peace in the cemetery returned.

As I’ve written about before, the souls buried here are like old friends to me. I feel at home among the graves I pass several times a week.

There is no need to hook up an electronic system to communicate with the dead (and it is a spiritual danger to try.) God has already given us everything that we need to reach these departed souls through the gift of prayer.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (958) tells us that when we pray for the souls in Purgatory, “our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” They cannot pray for themselves, but when we pray for them, they are better able to pray for us. Those people I passed at the cemetery had great graces available to them if they had only reached out to their relatives with prayers instead of a walkie-talkie.

Do Not Fear the Church Suffering

Some years ago, a woman I know was going through a difficult trial of physical and spiritual suffering. During this time, she was disturbed to see and sense the presence of spirits hovering near her bed. Night after night, she woke from sleep, saw them, and was terrified.

She brought this problem to her confessor.

“Don’t be afraid when you see them,” the priest told her. “They might be souls from Purgatory who need your prayers. The next time they come, try praying for them.”

The woman did this, and immediately the spirits disappeared. They had meant her no harm; they only needed her help.

This is not the first nor the last time that souls from Purgatory have visited earth to seek assistance. Padre Pio said that “more souls of the dead than of the living climb this mountain to attend my masses and to seek my prayers.”

If the Church Suffering appears on earth, we need not fear these holy souls, but instead must pray fervently for them.

Remember the Names of the Dead   

I recently inherited a journal that belonged to my great-grandmother, who was born in the late 1800s. With hopeful anticipation, I opened it, expecting a journal like the one I have kept myself since I was a teenager, filled with thoughts, experiences, and prayers. Instead, I found names and dates.

At first, I felt disappointed that I wouldn’t get to know my great-grandmother better through this journal, because she wrote so little about herself, about her hopes and sorrows and joys and dreams.

But then, I began to see the names and dates in a new light. First, she entered her First Communion date: September 27, 1903. Then, she wrote the names of friends and relatives who died, along with the year and their age at death.

Keenly aware of the fragility of life, my great-grandmother wanted to do something to remember and to honor the people in her life who died. It dawned on me that one way I could honor her intentions was to read through the names on the list and pray for their souls, so I did. May the soul of my great-grandmother, and all of these souls whose names she inscribed on her list, rest in peace.

She probably never imagined that over a century later, her great-granddaughter would see those names she faithfully wrote and would pray for their souls, but maybe that was all part of God’s plan for why she wrote it and why I inherited it.

Despite the sparseness of what my great-grandmother wrote, her journal reached from her world into mine with surprising clarity, giving me more insight into her life than I had initially thought. The two things that seem to have mattered to her the most—receiving Communion, and remembering the dead—are two things that matter deeply to me. In fact, I, too, keep a list of deceased friends and family members so that I can pray for them by name each day.  It would seem that I inherited more than just a journal from this woman whose values echoed in mine.

I hope that every generation will remember, as my great-grandmother did, to honor the names of those who have gone before us. It is a comfort to us on earth to believe our loved ones are already in heaven; but we cannot risk leaving them in Purgatory without our prayers. Let us never forget to pray for their souls!

May we all meet one day in heaven, through the mercy of the loving Savior who has written our names in the pages of His book for all eternity.

image: Nowaczyk / Shutterstock.com


Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of several children's books, including the award-winning The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus; and St. Conrad and the Wildfire. Her newest picture books are Saved by the Lamb: Moses and Jesus and Where is Jesus Hidden? Her articles have appeared in various magazinesYou can contact her at [email protected].

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