Ask Father: When a grandparent/parent dies, are we able to talk to them and ask for their guidance with children?
Dear friend in Christ,
Ready for this? The answer is yes, no, and we really don’t know!
Because this question deals with the ability of the souls in purgatory to pray for us on earth, it falls into what is called speculative theology. This means that the Church has not pronounced a definitive judgement one way or another. Influential saints and theologians have held differing opinions on this topic throughout the centuries.
Here’s what we do know: when our loved one dies in a state of grace and have purified themselves of all selfishness and sinful attachments they will join all the saints and angels in heaven who are with God forever. In this case, yes, they can intercede for us and guide us and intervene in our lives.
If the person died in a state of grace but was not yet free of all selfishness and sinful attachments, they will go purgatory to be purged of these before going to heaven. In this case, the verdict is split on whether or not the souls of purgatory can intercede for us. We really don’t know! Some saints, including Thomas Aquinas, argued that the souls cannot intercede for us. Others, like St. Robert Bellarmine, said that they can.
But what we do know is that we can and must intercede for them. There are likely people who remain in purgatory because you and I are not praying for them. Let’s advance them to heaven by our prayers! (…and don’t you suppose the first thing they will do when they get there is begin interceding for us!) If a soul is in hell, then obviously, no, they cannot intercede for us. God will use the prayers we offer for them for someone else. No prayer is ever wasted.
PS: just a quick note on purgatory. We can either learn to deny ourselves now in this life or we can be purged of that gratification instinct later in purgatory. It will hurt a lot less to learn how to do it here. Consider also that the vast, vast majority of people who go to heaven go to purgatory first. There are very, very few souls who make the effort to purify themselves of all selfishness and sinful attachments in this life.
PPS: the best and safest way to communicate to our deceased loved ones is at the Mass, when all of heaven is present and participating in the Holy Sacrifice.