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A Hail Mary for mercy


The first time it happened, I was disconcerted.

There I was in mid-sentence, answering a question from my beloved as we drove down the road. Suddenly, I could hear him whispering, not listening to me at all. Just as suddenly, he stopped, and I continued my response.

It happened again a day or two later, also as we were driving.

When he stopped whispering, I asked what was going on.

“Oh, each time I pass a cemetery, I pray for the souls of those buried there,” he said. He explained that he’d begun this practice -- reciting a Hail Mary and the Fatima Prayer -- some years before, praying for the souls of the recently departed, and those in Purgatory.

Having the answer to the mystery, I joined him in prayer.

It may seem odd to non-Catholics, and to some Catholics, but the practice of praying for those who’ve passed from this life has a strong biblical foundation.

Jewish general Judas Maccabees and his army prayed for the dead after a battle. Returning to the battlefield, they discovered some soldiers had died wearing pagan amulets they’d taken from enemy soldiers in a previous battle (1 Maccabees 5). According to Jewish practice, these should have been burned. Keeping and wearing the amulets was a grave sin. But the men were otherwise good; they’d died virtuously. Judas Maccabees and his men prayed for the fallen, asking that their sinful deed be blotted out, and made atonement for their misdeed (2 Maccabees 12).

Early Christians gathered in the catacombs beneath Rome to pray for the dead, believing their prayers could assist those who had passed from this life.

Heaven is perfection, and nothing imperfect can enter. The Church teaches that those who die in a state of slight imperfection cannot enter Heaven, but nor are they condemned to eternal separation from God.

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).

God’s mercy does not stop at the time of death. His mercy continues even after we leave this life. A beautiful, blessed assurance!

November is a month dedicated to prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

I joined my fianc in prayer for the souls of the departed while he was with me in this life. And now that my beloved has passed from this life, I pray for his soul and those of many other loved ones who have left this world in faith and friendship with God to be united with our Abba in the life to come.

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.


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