Today, the Catholic Churches all over the world observe All Souls’ Day. The practicing Catholics go to mass and visit the cemetery to offer prayers in remembrance of their dead loved ones. Many offered flowers and lighted candles on the graves. Some call it as the Day of the Dead. This solemn celebration occurs every year.
This celebration is not exclusive to dead relatives only. Christian communities pray for both the living and the dead, as part of their spiritual brotherhood and oneness with each other. Many cultures celebrate differently in substance, but the essence remains the same, that the dearly departed needs prayers.
Father Alex Ramos, a pastoral priest in Southern California explained the true meaning of the celebration.
“ Today we honor and pray for the dead because they need us,” said Ramos.
Ramos stated that some people died unprepared for the afterlife.
Prayers become an important part of their cleansing and purgation.
Purgation is the act of purification of sin or guilt; a moral or spiritual cleansing; or purification through repentance.
“The dead can no longer pray for themselves; therefore we the living, pray for them,
“Prayers reward the souls and hopefully bring them to heaven,” said Ramos.
Wherever there is a belief in the continued existence of human personality through and after death, religion naturally concerns itself with the relations between the living and the dead. Prayers are often offered on behalf of the dead to God.
Ramos added that the celebration of All Souls’ Day is not only for the dead; it is also a moment for the living to renew their faith and begin preparing for their afterlife, and to focus their prayers to that destination.
“It is a Catholic belief that life here on earth is just a preparation for the eternal life after death…we will all eventually die and we must all prepare before that moment comes,” said Ramos.
Ramos stated that preparation includes praying, doing good things, and avoiding sin.
Prayer for the dead is not exclusive to Catholicism. Judaism and other Christian communities also offer prayers for the dead