“…pray, fast and offer good works for deceased grandparents and other family members, who likewise are praying for you.”
When someone you love dies, you can feel very sad about the loss of his or her physical presence – his words, his smile, the little things he used to do to make you happy, etc. But you should not grieve like those who have no hope (cf. 1 Thess 4:13) for, as we hear at the funeral Mass, “life is changed, not ended.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1012) This is because we believe every person is created with an immortal soul that lives on into Eternity even when the body dies. At the end of the world, the resurrected body will be reunited with the soul for eternal life (or eternal punishment). (CCC, 1038)
God loves us so much that He wants us all to be with Him in Eternity (cf. John 3:16). Even when we have lived imperfectly, if we die in a state of grace, then we are assured of Heaven after some time of purification in Purgatory. Souls in Purgatory can pray for others, but not themselves. However, we can and should pray for them—to hasten their release from Purgatory. Because their joy at reaching Heaven and seeing God face to face will be so immense, their gratitude for the Masses, Rosaries, prayers and sacrifices we undertake for this purpose is also very great.
It is fairly easy to see the interconnectedness of the generations in our lives on earth: just as grandparents were once like their grandchildren and now recall the memories of their youth, these grandchildren will one day have the wisdom and experience of age to be passed on to the next generation—just like their grandparents did for them. We all depend on each other for love and support in different ways at different stages of life. And so, like a candle whose light can be shared without diminishing it, grace and virtue in our lives can be shared with others, both older and younger than we are. The way in which we do that will change over time: perhaps it is by visiting the homebound when we are young and more able-bodied, and it is by entering into deeper prayer and offering our sufferings when we are older with more time and/or physical challenges.
In a similar way, those bonds and responsibilities continue even after death in the “Communion of Saints” which actively unites the blessed in Heaven, the souls in Purgatory, and the faithful on earth (also known as the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant). With Jesus Christ as their Head, they are all members of the Mystical Body, sharing their spiritual goods with each other. We on earth can do this by honoring those in Heaven; praying, fasting and doing other good works to relieve the sufferings of the souls in Purgatory; and by performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy for those on earth. (For more, see CCC 946-962, 988-1060 or St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Lessons 13-14)
In this section, we invite you to remember those who have gone before us, but most especially, to pray, fast and offer good works for deceased grandparents and other family members, who likewise are praying for you.
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” –Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030