The Christian act of praying for the dead became a matter of dispute after Protestant Reformers dismissed the idea of purgatory and the need for the relief of souls. The Church of England was quick to adopt the Protestant outlook, which arguably made post-mortem prayers a superfluous practice. Yet in seventeenth-century England some clergymen still encouraged praying for deceased souls, endeavouring to ground this practice in alternative motives. This article focuses on a hitherto overlooked letter (printed here) from the astrologer-physician and country clergyman Richard Napier to William Page of All Souls College in Oxford, arguing that since the “most just” already reside in heaven, anyone praying for their souls must be praying towards their joyful resurrection rather than to relieve them from any torments. Such an argument, I maintain, allowed seventeenth-century English ministers like Page to openly advocate praying for all deceased souls without risking religious nonconformity.
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ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies