Week 40 | On the Road to Emmaus w/ Bishop Boyea | Pray for Others

Friday, March 15, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
When we pray, we pray for others. The great 4th century Bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose, put it so well: “If you pray only for yourself, you pray for yourself alone. If each one prays for himself, he receives less from God’s goodness than the one who prays on behalf of others. But as it is, because each prays for all, all are in fact praying for each one (Treatise on Cain and Abel, Book 1).
A part of the Eucharistic Prayer at Holy Mass is always dedicated to praying for others.  This usually includes a prayer for the Church, of which we are all a part. In particular, we usually pray for those present who are partaking in this sacrificial offering of the Mass.  As the priest says these words, it might be good to think of the person sitting next to you or the family in front of or behind your pew. This is not so much to minimalize our prayer but to make it more concrete.  These are brothers and sisters in the faith who, with me, are offering this sacred action.  
The priest also prays specifically for the Holy Father and the local Bishop in addition to all the clergy. This is a reminded to us of what it means to be Catholic. This Eucharist we celebrate is the same as throughout the world.  It is through our bishop that we are in communion with all the other bishops and with the Holy Father in Rome. The priests often tell me that they pray for me every day. I laughingly respond that, yes, they have to!  It is part of the Mass!
There is always a prayer as well for the dead. This is very Catholic. There would be no need to pray for the dead if there were no purpose in it. We pray for the dead, those in Purgatory, that they may gain entrance into Heaven. We believe that most of us will need some time of being “purified up” so that we are ready to see the Face of God.
Purgatory has always made sense to me. Even if I have just gone to Confession and thus been forgiven, I know that the effects of my many sins over all these years still remain, just like the ripples in a pond after a stone has been dropped in. I have tried to repair some of those effects by living a life of virtue, by love of neighbor, and by continuing reform of my own life.  But these acts, enabled by grace, are always a work in progress. I know that I want people to pray for me after my death and I very happily pray for those who are dead that they may enter the presence of God and share the lot of Mary, the Mother of God as well as of all the saints.
St. Augustine recorded the death of his mother, Monica. When his brother urged their mom to delay her death until they got home to North Africa, she responded that she should be buried there at Ostia, Italy, saying: “Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be” (Confessions, book 9).
And that is my challenge to you this week: Ask your local priest to offer Holy Mass for somebody who has died. It may be a family member or a deceased friend or, even, somebody you didn’t know but worry that nobody else is praying for their soul. Remember, the Holy Souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves. They are relying our prayers…and there is no more powerful prayer than the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 
So how, practically, do you request a Mass for the dead? It’s actually pretty straight forward. Just contact your local parish office, give them the name of the deceased, and ask that Holy Mass be offered for them. It’s that easy. It is also customary to give a very small monetary gift when you request a Mass for any special intention. It’s not mandatory – you are not “buying a Mass” – but it’s a nice custom to observe as that money will help support the continued good works of the local priest and his parish. 
Until we meet again On the Road to Emmaus, God bless you all. 

+ Earl Boyea

Bishop of Lansing