The practice of offering the holy Mass for the repose of the soul of the deceased originates in the early church. The catechism teaches, “From the beginning the church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God” (No. 1032).

Praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased is rooted in the Old Testament. Judas Maccabees offered prayers and sacrifices for the Jewish soldiers who had died wearing pagan amulets, which were forbidden by the Torah. II Maccabees reads, “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out” (12:43). Continuing, “(Judas Maccabees) took up a collection among all his soldiers, … which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, in as much as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus, he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin” (12:46).