Prayers for the dead

I was listening to Hank Hanagraff (sp?) today (6/10) and a child called in and asked about the validity of Catholics praying for the dead, if praying for a dead person can assist their soul in getting into heaven.
Of course, he replied that we are “saved through faith in Jesus Christ alone” and that nothing we can do will get ourselves or anyone else into heaven.
My question is not on “Sola Fide,” but on praying for the dead. Where is this scripturally addressed?

Personally, I’ve always understood that we are explicity asking in our prayers that God’s grace, through Jesus, be upon the departed soul. Most, if not all, the time it is directed toward time in purgatory. Have I misunderstood?

I really never thought about the heaven part. I suppose I could pray for a deceased person who, as I far as I know, never believed in Jesus, but I’m uncertain what good it would do, as that person obviously wasn’t a Christian. But ultimately, it’s up to God, I just hope my prayers help. But is that scriptural? Hank would say no.

(Note: Hank seemed to contradict himself a bit when answering a question later about the suffering on the cross and the benefit of our suffering.)

Thanks, Jim

The Bible has the following references.

Purification necessary for heaven Heb 12:14; Rev 21:27
An intermediate state of purification Mt 5:26; Lk 12:58-59
Degrees of expiation of sins Lk 12:47-48
Can be aided by prayer 2Mac 12:45
Salvation; but only as through fire 1Cor 3:15
Temporary agony 1 Cor 3:15; Mt 5:25-26
Christ preached to spiritual beings 1 Pet 3:19
Nothing unclean shall enter heaven Rev 21:27
Sacrifice for the dead 2 Mac 12:43-46
A reality beyond the two realms of Heaven and Earth a place between or near 2 Cor 5:10; Rev; 5: 2;3 Rev; 5:23; Phil 2:10; Matt 18: 23-25 Luke 23:42
No forgiveness in this age nor in the age to come. Mt 12:32
"Extra" suffering. Col 1:24; 2 Sam 12:14

Catechism of the Catholic Church: “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.”

In Purgatory all remaining love of self is transformed into love of God. As Rev. 21-27 states, nothing defiled can enter heaven. Prayers from those still living on earth can help free those who are in Purgatory who are unable to pray for themselves.

Great scripture reference list Marie!

I want to comment on one scripture you sighted, II Maccabees 12:46: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from their sin.”

Protestants do not have Maccabees in their Bible because it is one of the books they excluded. But even without including it in their Bible, they should be able to recognize that it records the practice of atoning for the dead by Jewish people near the time of Christ. (II Maccabees was written about 124 B.C.) Praying for the dead was a common practice in the time of Jesus. Jesus remarked on many Jewish practices, but He never condemned the practice of atoning for the sins of the dead.

LtTony, you seem to have a good grasp on the value of praying for the dead. (Much better than the “Bible Answer Man”'s understanding.) We trust in the mercy of God to apply our prayers to the souls in Purgatory. If the person we are praying for won’t benefit from our prayers, I read one book that said God will apply those prayers to other souls who will. Unlike the Protestant understanding that God just covers our souls with His righteousness, I believe He truly makes us righteous, pure and holy through the merits of Jesus on the cross. Purgatory is the final stages of that purification because nothing unpure can enter heaven.

[quote=gardenswithkids]Great scripture reference list Marie!

I want to comment on one scripture you sighted, II Maccabees 12:46: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from their sin.”

Protestants do not have Maccabees in their Bible because it is one of the books they excluded. But even without including it in their Bible, they should be able to recognize that it records the practice of atoning for the dead by Jewish people near the time of Christ. (II Maccabees was written about 124 B.C.) Praying for the dead was a common practice in the time of Jesus. Jesus made many comments on many Jewish practices, but He never condemned the practice of atoning for the sins of the dead.
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Correct! It always amazes me somewhat that the reformation eventually removed seven books of the OT and Maccabees was one of those. 1500 + years after Christ, the Protestants decided to use the codified Jewish canons. The problem there is, those canon’s were not set until after Christ’s life, death and resurrection (around 100 AD.) In doing so, they chose to nullify much of the Early Church teachings which they so protest today.

For example:

The Early Church Fathers on Purgatory and praying for the dead.

Clement of Alexandria

The believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one, “yet” etc. (Patres Groeci. IX, col. 332 [A.D. 150-215]).

Origen

If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works. (Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448 [A.D. 185-232]).

Abercius

The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius (Epitaph of Abercius [A.D. 190]).

Tertullian

That allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25-26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the judge . . . and lest this judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation? (The Soul 35 [A.D. 210]).

The faithful widow prays for the soul of her husband, and begs for him in the interim repose, and participation in the first resurrection, and offers prayers on the anniversary of his death (Monogamy 10 [A.D. 213]).

Cyprian

It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the Day of Judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord (Letters 51[55]:20 [A.D. 253]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition, next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep. For we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out (Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]).

John Chrysostom

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job l:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 (A.D. 392)).

Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. When the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned .is worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf (Homilies on Philippians 3:9-10 [A.D. 402]).

Ambrose of Milan

Give perfect rest to thy servant Theodosius, that rest which thou hast prepared for thy saints… I have loved him, and therefore will I follow him into the land of the living; nor will I leave him until by tears and prayers I shall lead him wither his merits summon him, unto the holy mountain of the Lord (Funeral Sermon of Theodosius 36-37 [A.D. 395]).

Augustine

There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. It is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).

Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).

That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity l8:69 [A.D. 421]).

Marie, I am thoroughly impressed! While I struggle through to edit and add a paragraph on my earlier post, you complete three more posts with extension documentation from the early Church fathers!

[quote=gardenswithkids]Marie, I am thoroughly impressed! While I struggle through to edit and add a paragraph on my earlier post, you complete three more posts with extension documentation from the early Church fathers!
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Don’t be too impressed… :slight_smile: I have a very large hard drive and lot’s of reference files saved to disc. :wink: Makes typing much quicker.

Just took a preliminary look at the replies. Thanks. I will study the scriptures. I want to have a good answer if I am ever asked about this.
Initial observations: I like Hank H. because most of the time he is reasonable in his differences, inclu. this one. I don’t think he is AC.
If Jesus promised to answer our prayers, I don’t see why asking for mercy on a non-believer or sinner would be any different.
Re-stating the question (more precisely and before checking referenced scriptures): can prayer save the soul of a dead person?

Jim

[quote=LtTony]I like Hank H. because most of the time he is reasonable in his differences, inclu. this one. I don’t think he is AC.
[/quote]

I like Hank H.'s show too, but I definately have heard him make anti-Catholic statements. Except for his complete block against the Catholic Church’s teachings that disagree with his beliefs, I find him very informative. I clearly hear his love for scripture. I have wondered though, if he really believes in scripture alone, then why does he think people need him to answer their Bible questions?

[quote=LtTony]If Jesus promised to answer our prayers, I don’t see why asking for mercy on a non-believer or sinner would be any different.
Re-stating the question (more precisely and before checking referenced scriptures): can prayer save the soul of a dead person?
[/quote]

Once a person dies, God judges if the person will go to Heaven or Hell. (If they are bound for Heaven, they may have a temporary stay in purgatory for a final cleansing before entering Heaven, but a person in purgatory will eventually get to Heaven.)

If God sends the person to Hell, no amount of praying will save her/him. That said, our prayers might be able to transend time and help obtain mercy from God so He decides not to send the person to Hell, as God is not limited by time and knows our prayers before we even pray them. (Peter Kreeft wrote some good stuff on prayers possible transending time in one of his books, but I don’t recall which one.) Perhaps the prayers we say for our friends or loved ones after their death may help the person to obtain grace in the final moments of their life. But again, if someone is in Hell, they can not get out of hell by our prayers.

There are a couple of books that I found very helpful in explaining Catholic teachings on purgatory that you might like. One is called: Inside Purgatory by Thomas Petrisko and the other is: Charity for the Suffering Souls by Rev. John Nageleisen.

[quote=LtTony]Just took a preliminary look at the replies. Thanks. I will study the scriptures. I want to have a good answer if I am ever asked about this.
Initial observations: I like Hank H. because most of the time he is reasonable in his differences, inclu. this one. I don’t think he is AC.
If Jesus promised to answer our prayers, I don’t see why asking for mercy on a non-believer or sinner would be any different.
Re-stating the question (more precisely and before checking referenced scriptures): can prayer save the soul of a dead person?

Jim
[/quote]

Nope! Not if they have condemed themselves to Eternal Punishment when they died because of their sin’s and continued refusal of God’s Mercy. Prayer can do nothing for them.

However… “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.”

[quote=gardenswithkids]I like Hank H.'s show too, but I definately have heard him make anti-Catholic statements. Except for his complete block against the Catholic Church’s teachings that disagree with his beliefs, I find him very informative. I clearly hear his love for scripture. I have wondered though, if he really believes in scripture alone, then why does he think people need him to answer their Bible questions?
[/quote]

As informative as he is on other subjects, Hank clearly has a blind spot when it comes to Catholicism. If you listen to his show for any amount of time, when it comes to Catholicism, he mostly seems to take calls about Purgatory and prayers to the saints, both of which he always uses the same pat answers (the only other question I hear him address about Catholicism is “Are Catholics Christians” or “Are Catholics saved?” His answer on this is always a pat one too: “Of course it’s possible for Catholics to be saved believers, but if they are, why would they want to stay Catholics?”) :rolleyes:

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