As Catholics it is a good time to reflect on two basic facts.
1. The faithfully departed are NOT "dead." Many times fundamentalist Protestants will accuse us of praying to "dead people." They, of course, are committing the very same error that Christ rebukes the Sadducees,
Which is why Christ can truthfully promise that,But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine. (Matt 21:31-33)
"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. (John 11:25-26)Practically, this means we can pray to them asking them to join us in praying to the Father through Christ. We are united in One Body, the Church, passing from this life to the next cannot separate us one from another.
2. The faithfully departed NEED our prayers. Many, if not most, of us will die with attachment to sin, venial sins, and temporal punishment due to sin on our souls. As nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27), we need be purified before entering Paradise proper. Thus, the great mercy and grace of Purgatory, without which most souls could never enter Heaven. Is praying for the dead scriptural? As long as you don't start editing Scripture to fit your warped theology in the manner of Thomas Jefferson or Martin Luther,
Therefore, celebrate Memorial Day. Grill out. Have a BBQ. Enjoy a hard earned day off of work. But don't forget the men who died defending this country. More importantly, don't forget to pray for them.So Judas having gathered together his army, came into the city Odollam: and when the seventh day came, they purified themselves according to the custom, and kept the sabbath in the place.And the day following Judas came with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchres of their fathers.And 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.Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden.And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain.And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand 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 with 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. (2 Macc 12:38-46)
Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis:
Requiescant in pace.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon them:
Rest in peace.