Praying for the Dead

One Catholic belief that can be contentious is the idea of praying for the dead.  It’s tied pretty heavily to the idea of Purgatory so people who disagree with that will contest praying for the dead as well.  This isn’t super common in video games, but since it’s something I personally care about and features prominently in the new Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I figured I’d discuss two places it shows up in games as well as its role in Catholicism (spoiler warning for the games in question).

In general, praying for the dead doesn’t feature prominently in games.  When characters die, everyone moves on relatively quickly without dwelling on the death (past the initial cutscene).  You might get a quick scene of someone praying in front of a grave (especially in a setting featuring eastern religions like Yakuza), an increase in determination to complete their goal and an occasional flashback, but that’s it.  There are only two games I can think of that feature this idea prominently.  The first is Xenoblade Chronicles 3.  In that game, there is a role in both the Keves and Agnus militaries called “Off-seer.” 

The off-seer’s role is to play a flute song for everyone who has died in a battle, causing their corpses to glow and blue or yellow motes to kind of drift off them.  During the game the reason given for off-seeing is helping the living grieve for their friends and move on.  As I was playing through the game, I kept wondering what the deeper cause was behind this off-seeing, but the only definite one given is that it is a kinder alternative to executing people when they get too old for the organization running the world.  There are some subtle hints that off-seeing may also tie in to how reincarnation works in that game, but no concrete information is given.  The other prominent example is the classic Final Fantasy 10.  In this game, when people die, a ritual called the Sending must be performed on them by a summoner or else they will turn into monsters instead of going to the afterlife.  There’s a pretty famous cutscene of Yuna performing this after a town is devastated by an attack you can check out here:

Since Yuna is the focal character of this game, this sending actually features a lot more prominently than it might in a game where it just happens in the story’s background lore.  Other than these two games, I can’t think of any major examples of praying for the dead in games.  I suspect the fact games are fictional and interactive lead most to simply move on since reflecting on those that died doesn’t have any real gameplay involved (see the infamous “Press F to pay respects” scene).  In addition, game writers can simply create a world with a physical afterlife and have characters help the dead that way in place of praying for them.  Regardless, now that we have discussed praying for the dead in games, how does it work in real life?

Praying for the dead has been done in Catholicism going all the way back to the early days and is one of the spiritual works of mercy.  It’s tied pretty heavily to the idea of Purgatory as I mentioned in the intro.  The idea is that while prayers can’t help people in Hell and aren’t needed by people in Heaven, they can help people in Purgatory get to Heaven faster (hence it being a spiritual work of mercy).  This prayer can take all kinds of forms.  Probably the most well known is the funeral Mass.  Since the Mass is the main prayer of the church, the funeral Mass is a version of it with prayers specifically for someone who died.  You also commonly see people praying the rosary for people who have died, although any type of prayer is helpful.  Praying for the dead is most prominently featured on November 2nd, All Soul’s Day, where the souls in Purgatory are the focus (grouped with November 1st, All Saint’s Day focused on Heaven and October 31st, All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween as a reminder of the existence of Hell).  In fact, there is an indulgence you can get each day November 1 through 9 by praying for the dead in a graveyard.  Since indulgences offered up for those in Purgatory are especially helpful, this is a particularly great and easy way for people to pray for the dead.

So that’s a brief overview of praying for the dead in games and in real life.  This is a topic that I focus on a lot more than the average person.  As someone particularly introverted, a lot of the works of mercy are difficult for me (since they involve directly interacting with other people right now), so I’ve kind of adopted praying for the dead as something I can do.  I hope people reading this will seriously consider picking up the practice for themselves.

Song of the Post-

Hymn of the Fayth

Final Fantasy 10