By FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Q. I lost a close friend of mine in an accident. He was an Anglican; I don't know his views about the Catholic teaching on purgatory, but I've been praying for him. I want to offer a Mass for him, just in case he is not yet in heaven. Will he benefit from that? (Uganda, Africa)
A. Yes, he will certainly benefit -- and if he's already in heaven, the limitless fruits of the Mass will be applied to someone else who needs it. So you are right -- and generous -- to request a Mass for his intentions.
The church's Code of Canon Law says that "a priest is free to apply the Mass for anyone, living or dead" (Canon 901). That means a Mass can be requested for a person of any religion or none at all. (And my own experience has been that people of many faiths are grateful when a Mass is celebrated for a deceased member of their family.)
Anglicans -- along with most Protestants -- generally do not believe in purgatory as a place of waiting and punishment for our sins. They feel this would mean that the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient and inadequate for salvation. But many Anglicans do believe in a continuing process of growth and development after death.
The Episcopal Church's 1979 Book of Common Prayer includes prayer for the dead, and the prayers during the Sunday eucharistic liturgy include intercessions for the repose of the faithful departed. (The Episcopal Church, based in the United States, is a branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.)
The catechism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer states: "We pray for (the dead) because we still hold them in our love, and because we trust that in God's presence those who have chosen to serve him will grow in his love, until they see him as he is."
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.