Praying for our deceased family and friends can be seen as a way to express gratitude to them for their life on earth.
When those closest to us die, we may feel saddened by the fact that we can no longer thank them for the blessing they were in our own lives. We may have wanted to thank them one last time, but were unable to do so because of a sudden death.
However, as Catholics, we believe that we can still express our gratitude to them through our prayers.
Pope Benedict XVI explained how our love can reach beyond the grave in his encyclical Spe salvi.
The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?
Our love can reach our beloved deceased family and friends primarily through our prayers for them.
So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too.
It is consoling to know that we can still touch, in a spiritual way, our beloved dead. They can still hear us and receive our gratitude. This reality should give us hope, knowing that even the grave can not separate us from our loved ones.
We may miss those who have died, but through our prayers, we can still be connected to them and help them on their way to Heaven.