Praying for the Faithfully Departed this November
It is always a good idea to pray for the souls of those who have died. We cannot presume the state of anyone’s soul. We trust in the mercy of God but do not assume we know the inner workings of someone’s heart and the things that may or may not have been an obstacle for them to enter heaven immediately upon death. The Catholic practice of praying for the dead traces back to the Second Book of the Maccabees and has been done throughout the Church’s history. Another practice throughout the Church’s history has been offering indulgenced prayers and acts of charity for the dead to remit the temporal suffering attached to sin. Indulgences get a bad rap from the centuries during which greedy people attempted to buy and sell them. However, buying and selling indulgences has always been contrary to the purpose of saying an indulgenced prayer: helping the faithfully dpearted enter heaven, which cannot be bought or sold. During the month of November, the Church offers both plenary and partial indulgences for several different prayerful practices for the souls of the faithfully departed. This month is dedicated to the holy souls in Purgatory, who always need our prayers, but this month is set aside for special meditation on the Communion of the Saints, the inevitable end that awaits each of us, and the souls in purgatory who desire to rest in the consolation of Our Lord’s embrace in heaven.
What is an indulgence anyway?
Simply put, an indulgence is the mitigation of temporal suffering for sin, either fully (a plenary indulgence) or partially (a partial indulgence), for the dead. The souls in purgatory are still experiencing temporal suffering for sin as they are purified for the perfection of Heaven.
The idea behind an indulgenced prayer or act of charity is that we here on earth in the Church Militant can, by our prayers and devotions, help the Church Suffering in Purgatory enter into the Church Triumphant in Heaven. The faithfully departed in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves, they can only pray for those of us on earth.
Indulgences began as an act of love by the Church for the faithful, both on earth and in Purgatory. It gives the faithful here on earth an opportunity to grow in devotion and virtue (by meeting all the requirements) and also do something when someone they love has died. When we lose a loved one or even when someone we don’t know has died and we feel helpless in the wake of their absence, indulgenced prayers give us something we can actually do for the one who has died and also for those who have lost a loved one. It also helps build up the Body of Christ by drawing the departed closer to Christ in Heaven, and draws the faithful departed closer to one another by the very requirements.
Conditions for Indulgences
There are conditions that must be met in order for a particular prayer or act of charity to qualify for an indulgence. Conditions are required so that the offering made is as perfect as possible. The conditions are not meant to be an impediment, but rather are designed to bring the faithful ever closer to Our Lord. It is true that Jesus accepts all that we offer him, but isn’t it better to offer the Lord of Lords and King of Kings the best that we possibly can offer him? The least we can do is to be in communion with him by fulfilling these requirements. These are the requirements that the person seeking an indulgence must fulfill in order for the indulgence to be granted:
-State of grace during the indulgenced act
-Confession within twenty days of the act
-Communion within twenty days of the act
-Prayers for the pope within twenty days of the act
-Complete detachment from all sin
Plenary indulgences can only be granted once a day. Partial indulgences can be granted multiple times a day.
Indulgenced Prayers for the Holy Souls during the Month of November
- November 1-8: Visit a cemetery with mental prayer for the holy souls (Plenary Indulgence)
- November 2: Say six Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes in a church or oratory (Plenary Indulgence)
- Visit a Cemetery with mental Prayer for the Holy Souls (Partial)
- Devout Recitation of the Office of the Dead (Partial)
- Devout Recitation of the De Produndis (Partial)
- Devout Recitation of the Requiem in aeternum (Partial)
No matter how you pray for the Holy Souls during this month in particular (or year round!) nothing goes to waste. Our Lord desires both your perfection and the perfection of the holy souls in purgatory because your perfection means that you are drawing as near to him as you possibly can. May that thought guide you as you pray for the faithfully departed.