Have you ever had a non-Catholic ask why Catholics pray for the dead? Do you know how to answer that question? Many non-Catholics will take the stance that if you die believing in Jesus Christ you will automatically go to heaven. They might say that praying for the dead is not in the bible. All of their misunderstandings bank on two things: 1) the scripture referring to praying for the dead is in 2 Maccabees and is not contained in the Protestant bible unless it is part of their added books in the back which they do not consider inspired writing;
II Maccabees 12:43-46: "And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."
2) they do not accept the doctrine of purgatory which 2 Maccabees also supports, as well as Mt 12:32 Christ refers to the sinner who "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come", 1 Cor 3:10-15 where Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. What happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? "He will
suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire", 1 Peter 3:19 speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison.
Purgatory is one of the three Churches: Church Militant (faithful on earth), Church Suffering (faithful in purgatory), Church Triumphant (faithful in heaven). It is the great gift that God gives us allowing us to be completely purified in order to be in His presence in heaven. Rev.21:27 tells us that nothing unclean will enter heaven. God WANTS us to be with Him in eternity!
The month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls. Praying for the souls of our loved ones is therefore a holy and wholesome thought. During the rest of the year Mondays are days devoted to the Holy Souls in purgatory so there is ample opportunity to be united with all three LIVING churches in prayer.
You are encouraged to look up this doctrine in the Catechism, and in (believe it or not) Catholicism for Dummies. Understanding why we believe what we do will strengthen your faith, deepen your worship, and allow you to have the necessary conversations that will help people understand who we are. As an aside the words trinity, incarnation, and rapture are not in scripture either but your non-Catholic associates will have no difficulty with those!
- Tiffany J Gallozzi