In this excerpt from "The Mountain of Silence," an Orthodox priest answers the question "Do the dead benefit from the prayers of the living?" with a story:

"...There was a priest who had a problem with alcohol. He would often go to church drunk, scandalizing the faithful. The parishioners sent a delegation to the local bishop, imploring him to intervene and do something about it. The bishop accepted their requests and reprimanded the alcholoic priest.

"Unfortunately, the poor old fellow had no control over his addiction. So the bishop finally told him, `Look, Father, since you are unable to quit drinking, then you must quit being a priest. From this moment on you are no longer authorized to administer the sacraments.' The bishop defrocked the alcoholic priest. Feeling guilty, the priest accepted the verdict and humbly walked out.

"During the night, while the bishop was alone in his room in prayer, he had an extraordinary vision. He saw thousands of people in an open field threatening to harm him. When he returned to his normal state he was shocked and wondered what the significance of such a vision could be. Was it perhaps some kind of fantasy, a hallucination? He calmed down and then went back to his prayer. But he reexperienced the same vision. In it he saw people screaming and demanding that he bring back the priest.

"The following day the bishop summoned the defrocked priest to his office. He asked him `What's going on with you? What did you do?' `What did I do, my bishop?' the poor man muttered with confusion. `We just talked about it yesterday.' `But you must have done something else,' the bishop insisted and asked him to report in minute detail how he spent his days as a priest. `You know, your Eminence,' he said, `because of this problem with alcohol I felt great remorse and guilt. So, in order to compensate for my problem I made it a habit of going to the cemetery every single day to conduct memorial services for the dead. I prayed for their souls since I could do nothing for mine. That's all I did.'

"The bishop realized that the people in his vision were the souls of the departed who demanded the return of that priest so that he might continue his prayers for them. That Russian priest knew none of the people buried there."

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