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Steve Murr wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Why do Catholics pray for the Dead?
  • If someone has fully accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, don't they go straight to Heaven?


  { Why do Catholics pray for the Dead and why don't those who have accepted Jesus go to Heaven? }

Mike replied:

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the question.

Your questions appear to assume that men don't have free will to make holy choices or unholy choices. A holy, sincere choice one day, can easily be undone the next day.

A lot of these type of questions are answer in our Purgatory section here.

Here is an answer that covers many of the arguments related to Purgatory.

The short answer to:

  • Why do Catholics pray for the Dead?

Surprise! We don't!

Praying for the dead, is a common phrase used among Catholics in the Church but it is really a misleading term. From our Earthly view, they are dead, in the sense they are no longer pilgrimaging here with us on Earth.

In reality, they are more alive than ever. For that reason, a much better term would be to refer to them as the Faithful Departed. Those in Purgatory are part of the saved Church. Out of Christian charity we pray for the Faithful Departed who died in a state of grace but with remaining self-love on their souls.

In addition, practicing Jews of Jesus' days thought it was a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the [dead|faithful departed]. Though Protestant Bibles don't have this book, but should, no Protestant can deny the historicity of the Second book of Maccabees or the reality of this event below.

38 Then Judas assembled his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was coming on, they purified themselves according to the custom, and they kept the sabbath there. 39 On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. 40 Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. 41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.

43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

(2 Maccabees 12:38-45)

You said:

  • If someone has fully accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, don't they go straight to Heaven?

Yes, if they died in a state of grace, meaning made holy choices on their deathbed. Purgatory has nothing to do with ones salvation or justification. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved.

Purgatory has to do with ones personal holiness and the burning away of remaining self-love because . . . nothing unpure enters Heaven. (Revelation 21:27) Think of Purgatory as the Holy Hospital of Heaven.

Hope this helps,

[Related posting]

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