Offering Masses for the Dead

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Offering Masses for the Dead. November is the month when the Church traditionally emphasizes praying for the faithful departed. The offering of Masses for the dead is an important expression of our belief in the communion of saints and the efficacy of our prayers for the faithful departed. (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1031-1032) It is rooted in the offering of prayers and sacrifices by Judas Maccabeus for the Jewish soldiers who died wearing amulets sacred to pagan gods. (2 Maccabees 12:46) The testimony of the Church Fathers also supports the antiquity of the practice in Christianity. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), in one of his catechetical discourses, explained how at Mass both the living and the dead are remembered, and how the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Our Lord is of benefit to sinners, living and dead. St. Ambrose (d. 397) preached, “We have loved them during life; let us not abandon them in death, until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord.” St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) stated, “Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [cf. Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”