In this lesson we study Catholic Devotions for the Dead, the Doctrine of Purgatory, the History of the Feast of All Souls, and take part in centuries-old devotions for the souls in purgatory.
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Requiescat in Pace (RIP)
Unfortunately, the sacred in many ways has become too common and ordinary so that we fail - when encountering holy things - to stand in the awe appropriate for the situation. In much the same manner, we have become accustomed to the three letters R.I.P on the headstones of those who have died; yet, few of us adequately understand the liturgical connection of these three simple letters to the Mass said for the repose of their souls.
The expression R.I.P, despite modern understandings, does not stand for "rest in peace" but instead represents the Latin phrase "requiescat in pace", who English equivalent is coincidentally "rest in peace". These three holy letters were not formerly placed on the tombstones of all of the departed or even all "Christians" but only on the tombstones of Catholics who have departed. The phrase "requiescat in pace" is taken from the final prayers of the priest at the place of burial: Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace whose English equivalent is May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God's mercy rest in peace.
The letters RIP first appeared in the 8th century although it did not become common on the tombstones of Catholics until the 18th century. The Roman catacombs bear witness to prayers for the dead since many prayers for the dead are preserved on the tombs of the departed (e.g. Mayst thou live among the saints, 3rd century). The phrase refers not to our wish for their bodies to live peacefully in the ground but our prayer that their souls may be forgiven by Christ the Judge and found worthy - after the necessary purification - to enter into Heavenly beatitude. Namely, we pray that the souls of the departed shall one day be worthy for beatitude - to behold the face of God in Heaven.
Consequently, it should be viewed as a pious and humble practice to frequently visit the cemeteries and pray for the dead. And surely, when you see the letters R.I.P you should pray for the salvation of the departed. Recall that our prayers are outside of time so do not fail in praying for the dead because you assume that you are "too late". Rather, your prayers offered in a humble and contrite spirit pay the price of the departed's sins and free their souls from purgatory (c.f. Mt. 5:48, Mt. 5:26, Mt. 12:32, 1 Cor. 15:29, 1 Tim. 1:16). It is in this instance that your prayers have truly saved a soul.
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All Souls Day is part of the following course(s):