The practice of praying at Mass for loved ones who have died is as old as Christianity itself. Inscriptions found in Roman catacombs attest to the practice of praying for the dead when we gather for the Eucharist. At Mass, we remember those who have died, those who belong to the communion of saints as well as the living who are in need of God’s help.
The medieval Church believed that, at Mass, around the altar the whole church is gathered. In Christ, we the living are united with those who have died. As the saints adore the Lord in heaven, at Mass we join in that prayer with them here on earth.
In the Mass, we pray in the most special way for those who have died, that God will be merciful in judging our deceased brothers and sisters. Through our prayer, we express our hope that God will bring them safely to His heavenly home.
The practice of praying for individuals as a specific “intention” at Mass is part of this belief. It is, at its heart, the promise made by the priest who offers that Mass to remember that person in his prayers. Then, as the people gather with the priest, the whole community joins together in prayer for that deceased loved one. Praying for them by name makes our prayer a more personal act. It allows our remembrance of them to remain alive in our prayers even after they have passed from this life to the next.
We encourage every family to be part of this wonderful spiritual practice and request a Mass for your deceased family members and friends.
Pope Paul VI called the Mass “The most perfect form of prayer.” Offering Mass for our loved ones is an honored way to unite ourselves in prayer with those we have loved.