life of..." How can I help people to see the importance of praying for the dead without seeming offensive?
In any gathering, if you asked people to raise their hands if they are a saint, you will probably not get any takers (except perhaps a joker or two). We are all aware of our own faults and if we believe the Catholic teaching about the merciful doctrine of purgatory, we know that even though we are sinners God will allow us to be purified from our venial sins, even after we have died and are no longer able to do penance.
In an even greater demonstration of his mercy and love, our Heavenly Father allows that the prayers of those on earth can help the Holy Souls. To pray for the dead is a great act of charity and something that forms an important part of our Catholic practice, especially during the month of November. I am sure that November must be a time of great rejoicing in purgatory as the Holy Souls are helped by our Masses and prayers. When a good parishioner has died, I remind people that they regularly arranged Masses to be said for others. Many such devout people also remember the dead meticulously in their daily rosary; it would be a shame if we were not to return the favour for them. If they no longer need our prayers, there will be many neglected souls who will reap the benefit of those prayers.
Sadly, as you say, many funerals nowadays focus exclusively on celebrating the life of someone who has died. While everyone is sharing a joke about how the deceased liked a pint of beer or a bet on the horses, they may actually be longing for us to help them with our intercession.
Our Catholic prayers for the dead take the focus away from assuaging our own grief and instead focus on our real communion with those who have died, and the help that we can bring to them by praying for them.
What's your view? And do you have a dilemma of your own? Write to us at the address on this page or e-mail [email protected] catholicherald.co.uk