QUAERITUR: How to pray a loved one into Heaven.

From a reader:

In your opinion, what is the most efficacious means of praying a loved one into Heaven?  The person is yet living, but not a family member, and a non-practicing Catholic.

First, it shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ll repeat it here: prayer for the dead is efficacious.  God hears our prayers and our prayers are never in vain.  We don’t know for sure the eternal destiny of many who die.  Nevertheless, our prayers and good works for our deceased loved one – and enemies – are in some way helpful for someone.

Second, it shouldn’t have to be said, but why wait to pray for people until after they die?

Thirdly, we have to make a distinction and also “pray into heaven” those who have indeed died, but are in the purifying state of Purgatory.

The very best means?  Have Masses said.   Masses can be offered for both the living and the dead.

Some years ago a friend of mine gave me quite a few Mass stipends for Masses for his mother who, though elderly, was still in pretty good health.  I said a lot of Masses for her while still living.  Happily, she made a good death.  He has Masses said for her now as well, good son that he is.

Masses can be said for the intention of both the living and the dead, even for non-Catholics.  Some people don’t like the idea of having Masses said for non-Catholics.  I respond saying that that just makes us small and stingy.  When the Church says to pray for the dead, she doesn’t add, “only if they are enough like us”.  So, have Masses said for the living and for the dead.

Not everyone can find a priest who can take Mass stipends and intentions.  That is a real problem today.  Pray for vocations.  More priests, more daily Masses, more intentions, win win win.  And, might I add, Save The Liturgy, Save The World.  But I digress.

In addition, Holy Church has the authority to grant from the great spiritual treasury of the merits of Our Lord’s Sacrifice and of the lives (and deaths) of the saints, indulgences for the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.  Those who die in God’s friendship, but who have not adequately done penance for the sins they committed and which were forgiven before death, have a period of purification of the last vestiges of attachment to sin and to make up for in a penitential way the injustices they perpetrated to God and neighbor.  Only the pure come into God’s presence in heaven, and so, in His love, we have that intermediate state.  Through indulgences, we can help the souls in purgatory by taking something of their penance on us through some prayers and works and proper disposition of soul.  So, keep track of when the Church grants indulgences.  There are usually special opportunities for certain locales as well.  Get informed.  Also note that, according to the Church’s mind now, we gain indulgences for the dead (which God works out) and for ourselves (in a full or partial way).  But to the point of your question and to be clear: indulgences can only be applied to oneself or to a soul in Purgatory, not to another living person.  So, pray yourself into heaven and the poor souls into heaven.

Finally, in your own devotions pray for people.  You can offer any number of small penances/mortifications and prayers, asking the saints to intercede for anyone.  God knows what graces they need.  Ask the saints and the Holy Angels to help them.  You could add your prayers to what the priest pours into the chalice to be transformed at the consecration. You can add your petitions during your prayers of thanksgiving after a good Holy Communion.  Say the Most Holy Rosary, which puts demons to flight in terror and which gives solace to the Poor Souls and garners help for the living.

Any of these sorts of things you can do for yourself, for other living people and for the poor souls.

And keep your own nose clean.  Your good example in words and actions might be another way of helping them to heaven.

And go to confession.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lepidus says:

    Not everyone can find a priest who can take Mass stipends and intentions. That is a real problem today.

    So, what are the actual rubrics surrounding this topic today. In most parishes it doesn’t seem to be an issue since the priest just has a half-dozen names listed for each Mass. Is this effective for the people being prayed for or is it better to send your stipend elsewhere? Thanks!

    [If you have questions about how the intentions and stipends are handled at that parish, I suggest you ask the pastor or the local diocesan bishop to explain multiple names for one Mass.]

  2. StJude says:

    I have masses said here …


    I get cards in the mail from different places they will offer a mass and I can send a sympathy card with that information on it.
    I give them for birthdays, fathers day/mothers day too.

  3. tonyfernandez says:

    I love this. I’ve been reading The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila, and she mentions this:

    “Some people think it a hardship not to be praying all the time for their own souls. Yet what better prayer could there be than this? You may be worried because you think it will do nothing to lessen your pains in Purgatory, but actually praying in this way will relieve you of some of them and anything else that is left — well, let it remain. After all, what does it matter if I am in Purgatory until the Day of Judgment provided a single soul should be saved through my prayer? And how much less does it matter if many souls profit by it and the Lord is honored!”

    So please, pray for yourself, pray for your loved ones, pray for our leaders (religious or otherwise), pray for everyone. Many out there deny God, and even deny hell, yet it is there where they will be. Pray that they may escape such a horrible fate.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    I discussed this with my most regular pastor in England and he said he could only take one stipend per Mass, as in money, but he could add names for free, as it were. I wanted a Mass said for an atheist and had no money for a Mass, but the priest told me someone else had given him a double stipend for a present, as it were, and he used part of that for “my Mass”. And, Fr Z., one can do plenary indulgences for the dead, or even what is called the Heroic Offering. I had a holy card with this on it given to me by an exorcist of a diocese in which I was living. It goes something like this below.

    (I promised the Souls in Purgatory this years ago and I am sure I shall not be outdone in generosity, considering the puniness of my merits.)

    O my God, in union with the merits of Jesus and Mary, I offer Thee for the Souls in Purgatory, all my Satisfactory Works, as well as those which may be applied to me by others during my life and after my death. And so as to be more agreeable to the Divine Heart of Jesus and more helpful to the departed I place them all in the hands of the merciful Virgin Mary.


    But, Fr. Z., you are so right-Masses are best, if one can afford them. Sadly, dioceses set a standard rate in GB, which is quite high, but sometimes priests will take less. Some dioceses are 15 pound sterling and some ten. In GB, and I think this istrue in all dioceses, the stipend is for the priest himself, which is nice, and does not go into a diocesan fund.

  5. ckdexterhaven says:

    Father Z, thank you for writing this. I think this is my favorite post ever on your blog!

  6. lucy says:

    Ugh! I was told that I couldn’t have a Mass said for a non-Catholic. This is news to me! Thank you for mentioning it!

  7. APX says:

    Lucy, I thought the same thing too until my nephew was born three weeks ago and all signs pointed to no baptism. I was going to see if there was a technicality in the intention that I could have Mass offered for that intention. Turned out that Mass could be offered directly for him and that intention, and that it’s something family members should do (as opposed to secret baptisms).

  8. momoften says:

    Do you still accept stipends for Masses offered? I know I would love for you to offer a Mass
    for family.

  9. jhayes says:

    as opposed to secret baptisms

    The Code of Canon Law says that an infant can’t be baptized lawfully unless at least one parent or a guardian consents. There is an exception if the infant is in danger of death, but my understanding is that the exception is not intended to advocate that that be done.

    Can. 868 §1 For an infant to be baptised lawfully it is required:

    1° that the parents, or at least one of them, or the person who lawfully holds their place, give their consent;

    2° that there be a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this.

    §2 An infant of catholic parents, indeed even of non-catholic parents, may in danger of death be baptised even if the parents are opposed to it.

  10. jhayes says:

    So, what are the actual rubrics surrounding this topic today. In most parishes it doesn’t seem to be an issue since the priest just has a half-dozen names listed for each Mass. Is this effective for the people being prayed for or is it better to send your stipend elsewhere?

    I ran into his last month when I went to a rectory to arrange a Mass for a relatve who had died. There were two possibilities: 1) one Mass specifically for that person, or 2) a collective Mass on the First Friday of each month of the coming year. The offering set by the Archdiocese for either option was he same ($15).

    Canon law requires that a separate Mass be said for each intention for which a priest accepts an offering:

    “Can. 948 Separate Masses are to be applied for the intentions of those for whom a single offering, although small, has been given and accepted.”


    “There is, however, another document regulating this theme, the 1991 decree Mos Iugiter (AAS 83 [1991] 436-446). This decree modified the strict rule of Canon 948 and allowed some use of so-called cumulative intentions under certain strict conditions:

    — The donors must be informed of and consent to the combining of their offerings before the Mass for the collective intention is celebrated.

    — The place and time of each Mass must be announced with no more than two such collective Masses per week.

    — The celebrant may only keep for himself one stipend and must send any excess intentions to the purposes assigned by the ordinary in accordance with Canon 951.”


    Skip he discussion of “Gregorian Masses” at the beginning.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    Hungry Souls, by Gerard J M Van Den Aardweg.

  12. jhayes says:

    Here is an English-language version of Mos Iugiter, which authorized collective Mass intentions.


  13. lana says:

    According to Fr Faber in All for Jesus, there is nothing you can do that gives God more glory than to obtain a plenary indulgence for a soul in Purgatory. Getting a plenary indulgence is easy. There is only that small matter of having no attachment to sin to worry about…. but I am sure if you try often to get plenary indulgences, God will give you an extra hand in helping you get rid of those attachments. ;)

  14. ” Some people don’t like the idea of having Masses said for non-Catholics. I respond saying that that just makes us small and stingy.” Can we imagine if Jesus said I will die on the cross for everyone but you?

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  16. aquinas138 says:

    Let’s not forget the Office of the Dead, in either the Liturgy of the Hours or the Breviarium Romanum. It seems to be somewhat neglected in practice; nevertheless, the traditional Office in particular is a very sobering reflection on our common end.

  17. PA mom says:

    Several years ago I found a prayer of St Gertrude for the release of 1000 souls from purgatory. “O my God, I offer you, the most precious blood of Thy divine Son Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory…” It reminds me of the Divine Mercy prayer. I have been trying to say it daily since, and have taught it to my oldest children.
    There are several people closely around me who I hope to pray into Heaven. Maybe now is the right time to add a Mass.

  18. Mercyknight says:

    St. John Vianney said, “Oh! If all of us but knew how great is the power of the good souls in purgatory with the heart of God, and if we knew all the graces we can attain through their intercession, they would not be so much forgotten! We must pray much for them, so that they may pray much for us.”

    In the Church Militant Field Manual, part three is entitled, Search and Rescue, and it outlines a very easy to follow system our Church has provided for offering “an indulgence a day” (plenary) for a designated soul in Purgatory. It is a really great system Holy Mother Church uses to give us an opportunity to help someone in Purgatory as she teaches us how to live a devout life.

    Here’s an excerpt from the Church Militant Field Manual: “While Holy Mother Church unlocks her spiritual treasury she, like any good mother, utilizes these prescribed acts of obedience as an occasion to teach her children (“spurs us to works of devotion, penance, and charity” CCC 1478). In other words, when we look at each of the indulgenced good works and prayers granted to us, as well as the conditions necessary for obtaining them, we see that these acts and conditions are the favored ways in which God desires us to grow in holiness, confront evil, and rescue souls.”

  19. Kathleen10 says:

    “…solace for the poor souls…” What a poignant phrase! What a happy thought, to give comfort and solace to the poor souls. I certainly want to do that.
    The Plenary Indulgence does good things for the deceased, but also good for the survivor who fulfills it. As my mother aged I fretted more and more at times about her salvation. I prayed years in advance of her passing, and it just was something I thought about. I wouldn’t have had her receive a splinter, never mind the critical importance of the destiny of her eternal soul. So when I made a small pilgrimage on Divine Mercy Sunday the year before last, fulfilled the Plenary Indulgence requirements on her behalf, I sincerely felt interior peace about it from that day on. So it does wonders for the living too. She would have been 97 years old today. Such a wonderful mother it was still too soon.

  20. HeatherPA says:

    The Pious Union of St. Joseph does individual Mass intentions for the living and the dead as well as Gregorian Masses! for the dead, for a reasonable stipend.
    This has been our place to have Masses said as our parish office has been less than friendly about the “large amount” of Masses we want said for special intentions and the dead.
    Every month we pay for a set of Gregorian masses for one of our deceased. We get a nice Mass card for it and feel a lot more peace.

  21. Hidden One says:

    Both the UK and the US websites of Aid to the Church in Need (but not the Canadian one) accept donations for Mass stipends. The UK site requests a minimum 5 pound sterling stipend and the US site requests $10 US.

  22. THREEHEARTS says:

    Prayer before a crucifix worked for me, with my mother and father. I took more for my mother and only a few for my father. I learnt of their elevation in a very positive manner. Evertday except some I offer as sst Faustina seems to suggest eveyt drop of Precious Blood poured into all the Chalices of the Church today each drop as a ransom for one poor soul. I then offer each drop of healing water poured into the same chalices for a release of a poor soul in this world held in bondage to sin, especially first those close to me with addictions and habits of grave sins.

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