The liturgical presidential prayers for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) speak powerfully of the Church’s intercession for the dead. One option for the Prayer over the Offerings petitions God to “wash away, in the Blood of Christ, the sins of your departed servants, for you purify unceasingly by your merciful forgiveness those you once cleansed in the waters of Baptism.” The liturgy foreshadows the entire sacramental economy in its supplications for the deceased, entrusting them to the mercy of Almighty God.
All Souls Day, and every Mass of Christian Burial, orients the assembly to petitioning God, not lauding man. Canonization ceremonies aside, one would be hard pressed to find rites in the Catholic tradition eulogizing the dead or exalting their status in Heaven as a given fact. Replacing the intercessory prayers of the Church with personal adulations alone forgets that all the deceased rely on the infinite merits of the Mass to aide them on their journey into eternal life. One should not fear the prayers which speak about cleansing from sin. They inflict no damage on anyone; rather, they point to a merciful God. Presumption (i.e., expecting pardon without repentance or glory without merit) is a sin against hope. Everyone needs the assistance of the Holy Spirit at the hour of death. Thanks be to God, the merits of Christ’s singular sacrifice have opened the gates to eternal life. There, the Church earnestly prays, the Lord’s departed servants will enter the fullness of everlasting joy. This should give every person great hope.