Archbishop's Message

PRAYING FOR THE DEAD IN OUR FAMILY PRAYERS

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

The month of November brings with it the privileged responsibility and opportunity to pray for the departed members of our families and friends. I would like to indicate a few points for our continued reflection on the relation between this traditional aspect of our faith with our reflections on ‘Family Prayer’.

The tradition of praying for the dead is a concrete expression of our conviction that those who have passed his earthly life are separated from us physically though spiritually they remain connected to us. It is an affirmation of the fact that death does not break the bond of our communion. Nicholas T Wright, a Pauline theologian and former Anglican bishop wrote in his book, ‘Surprised by Hope’, “Love passes into prayer; we still love them; why not hold them, in that love, before God?”

Our faith inspires us to profess that our bond with the deceased continues through the communion of saints and that we form a single reality between the living and deceased. As St Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers in the body of Christ which is the Church, all members suffer with that member.” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

We remember the deceased in our family prayers just as we pray for those who are living because we are still bonded as members of Christ’s church beyond the barrier of death. We speak of Church Militant to refer to us, who are still fighting the good fight of faith and Church Triumphant to refer to those who have concluded their earthly fight and still continue to fight traces of sin in purgatory. Yes, they are not physically with us now; however, we together form the body of Christ.

The Church teaches us that by virtue of the communion that we have relished with the departed ones during their earthly pilgrimage, it is possible for us to assist them by way of prayer and works of charity. Through an indulgence for the deceased, we continue to offer good works on behalf of the souls of the deceased to contribute to the atonement.

When St Monica was dying, she told her son St Augustine, “Lay this body anywhere and do not let the care of it be a trouble to you… only this I ask: that you remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you are”. This request of his mother inspired St Augustine to include a prayer for his deceased mother at the end of the ninth book, numbers8-13 of his classical work, ‘Confessions’ with an open request to all of us to do the same:

“And inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Your servants my brethren, Your sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid, by whose flesh You introduced me into this life, in what manner I know not. That so my mother’s last entreaty to me may, through my confessions more than through my prayers, be more abundantly fulfilled to her through the prayers of many.” (Confessions IX, 13)

In remembering to pray for the deceased during our family prayers, we continue our communion with them; we affirm that they are still part of our families; and more importantly that death is conquered by the power of love and prayer.

I invite you to remember also the deceased bishops, priests and religious of our Archdiocese along the departed souls of your families during your family prayers. May our Blessed Mother of Sorrows, who continued in prayer at the foot of the cross, strengthen our hope in praying for our departed dear ones.

With prayerful wishes,

 

Most Rev. George Antonysamy

Archbishop of Madras - Mylapore