The reality of losing a loved one can take some time to hit home. Intellectually we know that person is no longer physically present, but we lag behind emotionally.
My husband, Marshall, passed away on March 8th. It’s been a rough month and a half getting used to him being gone. In an effort to comfort me, Jessica, one of our young cousins, pointed out that I now have an amazing angel, Marshall’s spirit, looking over me.
Realistically, humans can never become angels. Angels are unique creations. Once an angel, always an angel. But I certainly understand Jessica’s point.
The image of Marshall with wings in heaven wheeling and dealing on my behalf, made me smile. Marshall enjoyed working his magic to negotiate a good deal. No doubt, if he’s able to influence the Lord in heaven, he’ll continue to do what he can for me and the rest of his large circle of friends and family.
We are biblically encouraged to pray for one another, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
We are members of the Communion of Saints, which we affirm when we pray the Apostles’ Creed. Christ is the head of this communion and we the faithful on earth and saints in heaven contribute to the good of the whole and share in the blessings of Christ. (“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39.)
Through this everlasting membership, we remain connected indefinitely and therefore can pray for one another regardless if any of us is alive or deceased. Evidence of the dead praying for us (Revelation 5:8) and those on earth praying for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:43-45) is noted in Scripture as well as the early Church.
The theologian, Tertullian, who was instrumental in shaping the thoughts of early Christianity, believed praying for the dead was his duty. Saint Augustine prayed for his mother, Monica, after her death, Saint Dominic said, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death.” More importantly, we’ve remembered the dead in our Eucharistic prayers during Mass for more than 2,000 years.
The Vatican II Council document, Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, sates, “Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead, and ‘because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’, also offers suffrages for them (50).”
It continues, “Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity. For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God. It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them and ‘suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour.’ For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ who is the ‘crown of all saints,’ and through Him, in God Who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them.”
(Do you follow my other blog, Midwest Mary?