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And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten...And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve [al.two] drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep in godliness, had great grace laid up for them.It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." For Catholics who accept this book as canonical, this passage leaves nothing to be desired.Of few, on the other hand, will they at least who love them admit the despairing thought that they are beyond the pale of grace and mercy, and condemned to eternal separation from God and from all who hope to be with God.On this ground alone it has been truly said that purgatory is a postulate of the Christian reason; and, granting the existence of the purgatorial state, it is equally a postulate of the Christian reason in the communion of saints, or, in other words, be helped by the prayers of their brethren on earth and in heaven.
Precisely the same argument applies to the words of Christ regarding the debtor who is cast into prison, from which he shall not go out till he has paid the last farthing (Luke ).
Catholic teaching regarding prayers for the dead is bound up inseparably with the doctrine of purgatory and the more general doctrine of the communion of the saints, which is an article of the Apostle's Creed. XXV), "that purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar", is merely a restatement in brief of the traditional teaching which had already been embodied in more than one authoritative formula as in the creed prescribed for converted Waldenses by Innocent III in 1210 (Denzinger, Enchiridion, n.
3 73) and more fully in the profession of faith accepted for the Greeks by Michael Palaeologus at the Second Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1439: "[We define] likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice  of the Church" (ibid., n. Hence, under "suffrages" for the dead, which are defined to be legitimate and efficacious, are included not only formal supplications, but every kind of pious work that may be offered for the spiritual benefit of others, and it is in this comprehensive sense that we speak of prayers in the present article.
Both interpretations have been proposed; but the second is far-fetched and decidedly improbable (cf.
Mark ); while the first, though admissible, is less obvious and less natural than that which allows the implied question at least to remain: May sins be forgiven in the world to come?
When Judas and his men came to take away for burial the bodies of their brethren who had fallen in the battle against Gorgias, "they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain.