One of the primary ways the Body of Christ overpowers death is through prayer, individually and communally. Praying for the dead--or more aptly, praying that the faithful departed may enjoy the fullness of Life--has been a vital component of the Catholic tradition since the early days of Christianity.
The Church identifies praying for the dead as one of the seven spiritual works of mercy. It is one way in which the compassionate stranger's touch and voice overpower death and unite all members of the Body of Christ--in this life and the life to come. The dead need and depend on our prayers just as the living do. St. Thomas Aquinas said that praying for the dead is the greatest act of charity one can perform on behalf of anyone--living or dead. Just as we pray that our loved ones may enjoy good health in this life, we must--to an even greater degree--pray that the faithful departed enjoy the fullness of eternal life.
This solidarity in Christ beyond death is the unity of the Church, which prays through the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Father on behalf of the entire world. Our prayers assist the departed on their heavenly journey precisely because they are the same prayer Christ offers for us. Our voices in him and his voice in us is what touches, heals, and overpowers death to give eternal life.
-- Br. Francis Wagner, O.S.B.
from "Praying for the Dead"
Catholic Perspectives CareNotes
Friday, November 2, 2012
All Souls Day
Posted by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner at 9:58 AM