Fonticulus Fides

Friday, October 10, 2003

Having come from the Protestant faith tradition, the whole concept of praying for the dead is really new to me. I suppose between the anniversary of my husband’s grandmother’s death and the coming All Soul’s Day (my first as a Catholic), I’ve been thinking about this more.

As a Protestant, I was taught that a person’s eternal state was determined at the moment of death. If, as that person died, he/she was "right with God," he/she immediately went to Heaven. If he/she was not "right with God," he/she immediately went to hell.

I have grown to find the concept of Purgatory quite comforting, in light of this. I mean, who can count on being "right with God" at the exact moment of death? Right or wrong, I look at Purgatory as a time to finally shed "the old man" that I struggle against –- that all of us bound by the flesh struggle with, I suppose.

Certainly, the concept of Purgatory is a mystery. There are certain questions that can’t be answered -– like what must a person experience in order to get through Purgatory and into Heaven, how long a particular person is there (if linear time even applies at all), etc.

For me, I have been wondering how much prayer to devote to the specific people I know who have already died. I mean, I understand praying for all the poor souls in Purgatory, but when I think of my husband’s grandmother -- who was not Catholic but who was very devoted to Christ, prayer and serving others -- I wonder should I pray for her soul daily? Should I pray for her soul for the rest of my life? Is there any way of being assured that her time in Purgatory is completed? Or will the souls in Purgatory never be released until the final Judgement Day?

And I wonder about my own Catholic grandmother, who died about six-and-a-half years ago. I don’t think anybody has been praying for her soul in all this time -– my mother was her only child, and my mom isn’t Catholic. My grandma outlived all her siblings except one, who was a nun, but Sr. Margaret Mary already suffered from dementia by the time my grandmother died, and I’m not sure what her mental capacities were. Would having a Mass said for Grandma help make up for the neglect? It pains me to think that nobody has been praying for my grandmother’s soul. I want to – I try to, but honestly, it feels really awkward and I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing the boat somehow.

I’m sorry if these are silly questions. We did study a lot about the Catholic faith before and during RCIA, but this just didn’t seem to be a huge issue at the time. As I’ve said before, Catholicism is so very rich, I still have much to learn. And likely always will.

Input welcome, of course.



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