A Spiritual Work of Mercy
Sep 11, 2015
In our Catholic tradition, one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to pray for the dead. This obligation is highlighted in the Apostles’ Creed when it references “the communion of saints.” Namely, that even after the death of the body, there remains a bond between those who still live on earth and those who have returned to the Father. This is our communion with one another. As we ask the sainted ones to “pray for us,” so we also feel obliged to pray for those who have died who may not yet have experienced the total joy of heaven.
One way we fulfill this Spiritual Work of Mercy is by offering Mass for the deceased. Of course, our personal, private prayer is also important. But increasingly some of our neighbors have buried a loved one without the benefit of a Funeral Mass, or even a later-scheduled Memorial Mass.
And as I look at the parish calendar, I note numerous days – even Sundays – when there is no Mass intention for our beloved dead. Not many years ago, one would have had to schedule such a Mass a year or more in advance, there was such a demand for such Mass intentions. Usually, such a Mass is scheduled on the birthday or the anniversary of death of one’s family member.
Perhaps as the older generation passes from history it is appropriate to remind the younger among us of our Christian duty not only to bury the dead (a Corporal Work of Mercy) but also to pray for our beloved dead. When attending a wake, first arrange to have a Mass said for the deceased; then bring a “Mass card” (a so-called “spiritual bouquet” instead of flowers) to give to the grieving family. Such a card may be obtained at any parish; there is a nominal free-will offering, usually $10. And if the deceased is one’s own family member or friend, a weekday or weekend Mass may be arranged during which the Eucharist is offered and prayers are lifted up by the entire community for that loved one.