Praying for the Soul of the recently departed

My wife and I disagree on the principle of praying for the dead. “Evangelical Christian” is the best definition of her theology. She says there is no point, you had your chance in this life now you are on your own, to which I disagree.

But recently her uncle died, who was an agnostic. I am unsure of the Churches teaching on the value of praying for the dead who are agnostic, I feel I should pray for the soul, because if I say “Well too bad” I am being hard-line don’t care, not compassionate. What is the Churches teaching on praying for the soul of an agnostic?

Tell your wife that God is outside of time and He is not bound by our limitations within time. Can I pray for someone five hundred years ago? It might seem odd to humans, but yes, I can. :shrug:

Here are some points from the Catechism:

962 “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers”

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that,** thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.**610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

The Church does not address the issue in terms of believers or non-believers, just that we pray for the dead. We pray for the dead because we believe that the prayers help them in the process of purification. Most protestants believe that a soul who dies in God’s grace makes a bee line for heaven. Catholics agree that those who are saved go to heaven, but we have always believed that there is a final purification before entering the beatific vision. This is called purgatory. We pray for souls because we want to help them receive all the graces they need to be fully purified (consider it a dry clean for our white garment given at baptism). However, it is important to note, we believe that the purifying grace of purgatory was won by Jesus Christ on the cross AND that this is only for those who are “saved”. We just believe that God gives us salvific graces through various ways in a life long process and purgatory is the final shot of grace which rids us of any sin we clung to at the time of our death. Some protestants have been very misinformed on what we believe purgatory to be.

In terms of agnostic, atheist, life long Hindu, or whatever, we have no idea what happens in the final moments of their lives. We are not the judge and cannot know for sure who is saved. Some that we might think were saved, were condemned and vice versa. Only God truly knows the heart. This is true of your wife’s uncle and I pray the Lord’s mercy on his soul and that he did come to faith in Jesus in his final moments.

You can certainly pray but that doesn’t mean your prayers will have any effect. While God is outside of time, we, humans, are not. So when my cousin Jack died yesterday morning, the second he died he received his personal judgment and has already been saved or damned. So while I really hope the Lord had mercy on his tormented soul, I know his eternal fate has been sealed. If you have any evidence, writings of saint or of great Protestant thinkers who made a case for the retroactive effect of prayer. Now, being a Catholic, although nominally, I do believe in purgatory and hence, I will pray for Jack who, i hope, is there after a tough life.
BTW it’s a true story, I anglicized his name. I may have seen him once or twice in my entire life, but my heart is full of compassion for the broken-hearted, of which he no doubt was. RIP.

Thank you for sharing your comment, and I sympathize with you. God is merciful, keep this in mind.

That Jack’s fate was sealed at the moment of his death is longstanding Catholic doctrine, yes, and our prayers for the dead generally focus on those who we believe to be saved but possibly undergoing purgatory before heaven.

However, the point being made about God’s omniscience and existence outside of time as we know it is that God isn’t limited to taking your postmortem prayers for Jack into account only after Jack’s death, when as you note they may be of limited efficacy. From all eternity God has been aware of every prayer that will ever be made. Your prayers today may be the reason Jack received certain graces earlier in his life – not because God retroactively intervened to alter reality, but because He was able to take even “future” factors into account in His acts of creation and sanctification.

Hmmm…The obvious question that must be asked is: Since God is outside of time, does God, knowing that someone 500 years in the future will be praying for my soul, apply the efficacy of that prayer that takes place 500 years in the future, and give me grace in my lifetime, to make a choice that moves my heart towards Jesus?

:thumbsup: The Divine Mercy Chaplet is precisely for that very thing.

I think the only way someone can pray for me five hundred years from now is when they jump onto Catholic Answers Forums and cycle back 500 years of postings to this post and they pray for us through our pseudonyms envisaging a group of people with a passion for Jesus Christ.

My sons sons sons are certainly not going to remember or know about this age.

My friend, I agree. For the sake of His sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world. The first time I heard the Divine Mercy Chaplet was while channel surfing as a protestant, and I was listening to protestant preachers yelling at me, so I switched to EWTN as a last resort and heard for the first time the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I was on my knees before I had a chance to say “but …”

Re: people praying for us five hundred years from now –

It’s pretty common for people to pray for all their relatives, or for all their dead relatives. Obviously that encompasses millions or billions of humans, and millions of years of time. But it’s a pretty simple intention that does it. :slight_smile:

Anyway, we pray for the dead at every Mass, and in more than one place in the prayers. Listen up next time, and you’ll know how you get prayed for, five hundred years from now!

I tend to use that moment to pray for specific people personally known to me (though the time permitted never seems long enough).

I believe the Eucharistic prayer generally includes a prayer for “all the faithful departed.”

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