Why We Pray for the Dead

From the Parish PriestFr. Romey Rosco

In my 36 years of priesthood, I have heard countless confessions; many of them were “deathbed confessions” in which repentance was expressed and absolution given (through me) by the Church.  Were they all “sincere” confessions?  I can only hope they were.

But one thing I know for sure: as God’s children, as followers of Jesus Christ Who taught us to pray for one another, to forgive one another, and to love one another, it is our solemn duty to join our prayers for forgiveness to those deathbed confessions of the dearly departed (whether in the presence of a priest or solely in the mind of the dying person).  It is not for us to judge them, but to pray that on the Day of Judgment, our Lord will be merciful to the repentant.

It is clear that only He will judge our worthiness or unworthiness of the Kingdom of Heaven.  But when I hear from Protestants that it is wrong to pray for God’s mercy on the deceased and the forgiveness of their sins, I wonder who put them in God’s shoes?  Why do they want to make a judgment on the worthiness of others, when in fact we cannot be sure they didn’t repent?

God created us out of His great love; He redeemed us, offers us eternal life and guides and comforts us — all because He loves us!  And everything Our Lord taught us reveals the need for us to share His love with one another.

He established His Church, comprised of both the triumphant saints in heaven and the militant believers here on earth, expecting us to pray for one another.  Who are we to determine for ourselves which of the deceased repented before death and which did not?  Surely, their true repentance warrants our own pleading for mercy on their souls, if indeed we are loving followers of Jesus Christ!

Of course, our Lord will be the just judge; Of course, we will be unable to defend ourselves at His fearful Judgment Seat.  But until then, let love rule our relationships with Him and with one another.  Whatever our religion, let it reflect God’s image in us, for “God is love.”

From The Weekly Bulletin, Vol. XXXIX No. 11, 11 March 2012
Sts. Peter & Paul Romanian Orthodox Church, Dearborn Heights MI

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