Friday, November 07, 2014

Faithful Departed?


HM The Queen lays a wreath on behalf of the Nation at the Annual Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall London 9th Nov 2008.I am preparing my Remembrance Sunday sermon. It is always a bit trickey, there is no option to offer a Requiem Mass for any else but the 'Faithful Departed' in the Missal. So I am manifestly not praying for all those Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics and atheists who died in the great conflicts of the twentieth century.

The rather frightening truth is that we Christians though trusting in the abundant mercy and love of God actually know little about the fate of the unbaptised or those who were not faithful, and it isn't our tradition to pray aimlessly. There is no prayer for all the dead as a lumpen mass in our Tradition, some priests might do a bit of tweaking or intellectual/spiritual gymnastics. We can speculate that after death those of goodwill might embrace faith in Jesus Christ, or we can speculate that a commitment to or belief in 'goodness' might be the equivalent to being one of the faithful departed, or even come out with an an 'anonymous Christian' theory a la Rahner but this isn't what the prayers say, and though it is comforting, it is a bit like Limbo, it is speculation or a clever idea.

To be numbered amongst the 'faithful departed', would seem to suggest not merely being 'departed' but actually having had faith, and having lived or at least having died in it.

15 comments:

Nicolas Bellord said...

Off topic I know but important. I do recommend reading the interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider and listening to the debate in Austria with Cardinal Burke available on Rorate Coeli and Gloria.tv. I would be interesting to have a riposte to both from someone who disagrees with them but a serious riposte dealing with the substance of their arguments and not the ad hominem attacks I have seen on both.

Marie said...

Thank you Father for this post. I didn't realize that the Requiem [or, in the Novus Ordo, "Mass of Christian Burial"] are really just for faithful Christians. Therefore such a Mass may not be offered for Brittany Maynard, who not only killed herself but was an active campaigner for euthanasia.
But prayers for the dead [outside of the Mass], even when they miss the mark, are surely not wasted?

NBW said...

I have a question for you, Father Blake- My Father in law was Protestant, I am not sure what the state of his soul was at the time of death, but when he was alive he wasn't too concerned about heaven. He passed away and I had Masses said for him. I let the priest know he was Protestant, and the rest.... and they said it was ok.
Reading your post today, I am concerned I did something wrong. Please let me know if I did the proper thing. Thank you.

Colin said...

Why not just pray for the holy souls in Purgatory

Pelerin said...

When I was under instruction fifty years ago I remember there was only one question I asked which the Priest instructing me was unable to answer. The question was : Why do we only pray for the 'Faithful' departed - what about the unfaithful? I never did find the answer!

Fr Ray Blake said...

NBW,
I am sure you didn't, I'm just simply saying there are no prayers in the liturgical books for non-Catholics.

There was a kerfuffle when the English bishops allowed Requiem Masses for George VI (or V). There do not appear to have been public Requiems for earlier monarchs.

Thomas said...

I routinely say an "eternal rest ..." for anyone I hear has died, no matter who they are. I leave judgement to God, because only He knows all the circumstances of someone's life and death to the nth degree. I presume too that if the person I am praying for is not able to receive God's final mercy, then He will hear that prayer on behalf of someone who is.

NBW said...

Thank you Father. I am very relieved to hear that.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Is it not a test of the depth of our own Faith to pray for the repose of the soul of someone we didn’t like (or worse), or maybe had very strong, negative feelings about when they were alive ?

Katharine B. said...

I love the story of Fr. Hermann Cohen's mother's deathbed conversion. It has given me great hope that it is possible to accept Christ in the last throes. It is always on my mind when I stroll through public cemeteries and pray for the "faithful" departed.

http://papastronsay.blogspot.com/2011/10/text-of-letter-prophesied-to-father.html?m=1

GOR said...

Right Colin, we should pray for the souls in Purgatory – not just this month, but every day. We may be there ourselves one day!

No prayers are wasted. If the souls we are praying for are already in Heaven - or, God forbid, in Hell – He will direct the merits to those in need of them.

Which is why in the Fatima prayer we pray for those “in most need of’ His mercy.

nickbris said...

Most of us will meet again in Purgatory,hopefully we will get on better.

Matthew Roth said...

On the other hand, one can offer the Mass for anyone, living or dead, and a funeral Mass can be offered for a non-Catholic Christian under certain circumstances.

I think, however, your point, Father, is still to be taken seriously.

Scelata said...

I have often wondered about that... I usually leave out the word "faithful" when prayers in that vein are offered, (but then, I'm a layman.)
Is that wrong of me?

Save the Liturgy, save the World!

Dave said...

The following passages illustrates the definitive teaching of the Church on limbo, thus rendering it a reality rather than a clever idea:

D493a "The Roman Church teaches [...] that the souls of those who depart in mortal sin or with only original sin descend immediately to hell, nevertheless to be punished with different punishments and in disparate locations..."

John XXII, Nequaquam sine dolore (November 21, 1321)

This and more was posted not by me but by another on exlaodecea - see http://exlaodicea.blogspot.co.uk/2007/04/defined-teaching-of-church-on-limbo.html for the rest of the post.