Prayer and Masses for the Dead.
All over the world our churches and monasteries are available for many hours each day as refuges from the busy world and to foster the spirit of prayer. Quarr Abbey is a just such place of prayer. The primary task of monks is to pray, both in public and in private, for the needs of the world, and especially for peace. Prayer, the greatest resource of humanity, is always focussed on God, the Author of Life. In prayer we seek to align our will with the will of God, who is always more ready to bestow his gifts than we can be to ask for them. We do not only pray for ourselves, but for one another, commending to God those whom God loves and cares for infinitely more than we can. Our prayer for one another is the greatest of gifts, a true act of friendship.
For the living and the dead
Just as our love is not limited to the living, but extends to those who have died, so we are not limited to praying only for the living, we can pray also that the souls of the faithful departed may rest in peace. In the words of the Catechism: "In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honoured with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins'. She offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective." (CC 958)
The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.
Need for purification
Prayer for the dead is an expression of our faith in the resurrection of Christ, who calls his disciples, all the baptised, to eternal life with himself. Our personal sins are the barrier to our entering that life, so we have to attain to complete purification from sin before we can rejoice in the vision of God, which is eternal life. The Church teaches that all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. Since it is a stage on our journey to God those who attain it are indeed Holy Souls, assured of their salvation in Christ. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned (CC 1030-1031). Texts from the New Testament 1 Cor 3:15 and 1 Pet 1:7 speak of purification 'as by fire'.
Quarr Abbey has long been associated with Montligeon in Normandy, where this prayer for the dead is joined with devotion to Our Lady as Consoler of the Afflicted. It is the centre of the Fraternity of Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory, where a welcome is offered to all who are afflicted and especially to the bereaved. The founder, Father Buguet, formed a community to offer the support of an attentive ear and the consolation of hope in the resurrection, so that the bereaved and all pilgrims may be encouraged to ever deeper confidence in the merciful love of God.
Passion of Christ, the source of purification
All purification comes to us through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died for our sins and rose for our justification. He loved us and gave himself for us. Sunday by Sunday the Christian community gathers to celebrate the wonder of our salvation in the Mass. Here the Risen Lord is present: he is the Bread of Life who gives life to his disciples. In Holy Communion, the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ, we receive a pledge of eternal life.
It has long been the tradition of the Church to pray for the dead especially at Mass. There is a well-known passage in the Confessions of St Augustine of Hippo in which his mother, at the end of her life, exhorts her son to remember her when he celebrates the Eucharist. Similarly, St Bede, on his deathbed, sends for the priests of his monastery of Jarrow and asks them to celebrate Masses for him. These records from the fourth and the eighth centuries are not simply concerned with prayer for the dead, but with offering Masses for the souls of the faithful departed. Even now, when priests are ordained, they are given power to offer Masses for the living and the dead.
For many centuries it has been normal for the faithful request a priest to offer Mass for their intention, be it for themselves or for another, living or dead. The offering, made according to the means of donors, shows they share in the concern of the Church for the support of the clergy. Blessed Paul VI also adds this thought: By making a Mass offering the faithful unite themselves more closely with Christ offering himself as victim, thus deriving more abundant fruit from the sacrifice.
Canon Law provides strict safeguards for this hallowed practice.
For further information, see the Montligeon website: www.montligeon.org/ and for a much fuller statement of Catholic doctrine see the Catechism of the Catholic Church: www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM
God bless you.