Why We Pray For The Dead

Manila, Philippines: People gather near the graves of their relatives in a cemetery during the commemoration of All Saints Day. 
More photos from around the world from here.
In this fine article Fr Ron Rolheiser addresses the question Why Do We Pray For the Dead and in it I maybe have found at last a version of purgatory that I can live or die (!) with.

Full article from here

and this is an extract below : 

"We pray for the dead because we believe in the communion of saints, an essential Christian doctrine that asks us to believe that a vital flow of life continues to exist between ourselves and our loved ones, even beyond death. Love, presence, and communication reach through death.

We pray for the dead to remain in communication with them. Just as we can hold someone's hand as he or she is dying, and this can be an immense comfort to both of us, so too we can hold another's hand beyond death.

Indeed, since death washes many things clean, in our prayers for our loved ones who have died, often more so than our conversations with them when they were alive, the connection is purer, the forgiveness is deeper, the perspective is wider, and the distance between us is less. Communication with our loved ones after death is privileged, undercutting much of what kept us apart in this life.

Praying for the dead, our faith assures us, not only consoles us, but also offers real strength and encouragement to the loved one who has died. How? In the same way as loving presence to each other offers strength and consolation here in his life. Picture, for example, a young child learning to swim. 

The child's mother cannot learn for the child, but if she is present and offering encouragement from the edge of the pool, the child's struggle and learning become easier. Things are more easily borne, if they can be shared. This is true even for a person's adjustment to the life of heaven.

By praying for the dead, we share with them the pain of adjusting to a new life. Part of that pain of adjustment (which classically Roman Catholics have called "purgatory") is the pain of letting go of this life. In our prayers for the dead, we offer them our presence and love, as a mother on the edge of the pool, as they adjust to a new life.

Purgatory is not a geography, a place distinct from heaven, but the pain that comes from being in heaven, without having fully let go of earth.
Love, even as we know it in this life, already teaches us that.

From my own experience of having loved ones die, as well as from what others have shared with me, I have found that usually, after a time, we sense that our deceased loved ones no longer need us to pray for them. 

Now they just want us to connect with them. Prayer for the dead does that and even though our prayers might still to be formulated as if we are praying for them we are now simply connecting with them and what was formerly a cold, cutting absence now becomes a warm, comforting presence. "

Painting Notre Dame Benvi Angel Helping Souls in Purgatory

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