The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: "Our prayer for them [those who have died] is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective" (CCC, 958).
We have experienced this many times since Brett died on October 15, 2015. I ask him to pray for many things but never without praying for him first. This is what Pope Francis refers to as a "communion of intercessory prayer - an exchange of spiritual goods" (see below Amoris Laetitia, 257).
The Church teaches that unless a person has a ST. (as in Saint) in front of their name (i.e. St. Juan Diego, St. Jose Maria Escriva, etc.) we cannot assume that they are already enjoying the Beatific Vision of God in Heaven and because of that we should continue to offer indulgences - prayers and sacrifices (suffrages) - for them to aid them in their journey to full union with God. There can be a very real exchange of spiritual goods between us and them. They cannot help themselves but they can intercede for us and they will if we ask them.
We pray and offer our good works for them and they pray for our needs so our relationship with them continues even now but it is in this new way.
We have experienced many blessings through my son’s intercession and I know that I am helping him too. This is so good for a grieving heart! It gives us something concrete and effective to “do” with our grief. It is also a great incentive to grow in holiness because as we grow in holiness, our prayers and works become more fruitful for our loved ones.
On my part, I offer my whole day, every day for my Brett and all the Holy Souls in Purgatory – every prayer, work, joy, sorrow and suffering; every difficultly – traffic, weather, rudeness from other people, difficult situations at work, headache, etc. I try to bear each one patiently, do my best and offer each one with love to God for them. I always pray for him this way & then, I ask him to pray for specific needs that come up! God answers those prayers so fast when I pray this way. Through these experiences, God has taught me that my relationship with Brett can continue and in this way we are creating new memories. I don't have to cling to the past as my only source of union with him.
The following story, from Nicole & Sam's wedding (and there are many other stories I could share) is a testimony of how God has allowed my son to help us and it was obvious it was his prayers that helped:
On the way to the dress rehearsal on Friday [September 8], Nicole and I said a prayer about the wedding and for God to be with us throughout the weekend and to watch over Sam & Nicole in their marriage. We then prayed for the repose of Brett's soul and asked him to intercede for all of needs of the wedding and for Sam & Nicole. At the end of the prayer, I asked God to somehow let us know that Brett was doing this and was with us. During the reception, Sam's cousin's girlfriend - Taylor Post - was walking down the hall and noticed the soda machine. At that moment she felt a strong desire to purchase a coke (even though we were serving them right inside the main room for no cost). When the coke came out, it had this name on it! I have never seen one with his name on it before. It made us, and so many other people, feel so happy that God was letting us know that Brett was with us!
The fruit of his prayers was truly felt throughout the wedding weekend. Three of the little miracles we experienced were:
The weather was perfect! It is usually super hot in early September in Georgia. That weekend it was sunny and in the mid 70's with virtually no humidity. There was a very slight breeze. This is a blessing in and of itself but when you consider that Hurricane Irma hit the next day, it becomes more obvious that there was Divine intervention.
This might not seem like a big deal but it truly was for Nicole. She is a die-hard Michigan Wolverine fan. This love for Michigan football is something that she shared with Brett. That day they won their football game and Michigan's arch-rival, Ohio State, lost. It was unusual for both of these to happen on the same day. Sam's favorite team, Clemson won too.
There was so much peace in the air. Everyone got along so well, even people that had a history of altercations and had never gotten along.
As I stated before, I never ask him to pray for anything without praying for him first. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #958 says that
“Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”
The closer he comes to God (the higher he goes in heaven) the more his intercessory power increases. This is because we are all members of the Communion of Saints.
It is better to assume that your loved ones need your prayers than to assume that they don't. If they are already in heaven, your prayers will send them to a higher place. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that even if our loved ones are already in heaven and we continue to pray and offer sacrifices for them, especially the Mass, their "accidental glory" (their intimacy with God and their intercessory power) increases because love (charity) is always creative and even in heaven we will be growing for all eternity. Through this union of intercessory prayer with my son (I pray for him and he prays for me and my intentions) we are growing in holiness together. We are advancing together deeper into the heart of God.
Here is Sam & Nicole's wedding video. It captures some of the beauty of this day:
Here is the full quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 958:
Communion with the dead. 'In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them.' Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective."