Four Ways You Can Help the Souls in Purgatory

Author’s Hill, Concord, MA. Photo by M. Spencer. Used with permission.
It was the hottest week of the year in St. Louis, and we were making our summer visit to my parents’ house. We slept in the nice cool air-conditioned basement bedroom that was my bedroom when I lived at home. One night towards the end of the trip I woke up with a chill over my body from a dream. It reminded me of waking from nightmares as a small girl in the same bed, praying for comfort. But my dream had not been a nightmare; it had been a reminder. I don’t remember the bulk of the dream, but at the end I had been outside with various members of my family in a mowed hilly field. A silver four-door sedan pulled across the grass and stopped with the driver’s side next to me. My deceased great-grandmother rolled down the window and asked me with a solemn face, “When are you coming to see me?” She then rolled up the window and drove away.

I awoke, wondering how I was supposed to go back to sleep after that. When was I coming to see her? What did she mean? Was it actually her asking or was it just my imagination at work? I had not really thought about her for a while, so I am not sure why my subconsciousness would bring her to mind. But what I did realize was that we only had one day left in St. Louis, and during that last day, I could go see her. I could go to her grave, and pray for her soul. And in doing so, I could be granted a partial indulgence for her soul.* I do not know if she is still among the souls in purgatory, but I do know that I have a Christian duty to perform the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the dead. As I mulled and prayed about my dream, unwilling to go back to sleep, my alarm went off. We were going to an early daily Mass. After Mass we went to the cemetery and visited the gravesite of my deceased great-grandparents, grandparents, and great-aunt and uncle. My husband, three children, and I prayed for these souls, and I plan on visiting their grave again when we visit St. Louis next.

We are all called to pray for the dead.  With All Souls’ Day coming on Saturday we have an opportunity to earn indulgences for the souls in purgatory in several extra ways, in addition to the prayers we can pray all year round:

From the Manual of Indulgences (Fourth Edition, 1999)

A plenary indulgence (full remission of temporal punishment due to sin), applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who
1. on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed;
2. on All Souls’ Day (or, according to the judgement of the ordinary, on the Sunday preceding or following it, or on the solemnity of All Saints), devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.

A partial indulgence (partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin), applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who
1. devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead,
2. devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Eternal rest.

Requiem aeternam
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. (Order of Christian Funerals)

Please also note (from Fr. Z’s blog):

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)

  • Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
  • Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
  • Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
  • Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
  • For a plenary indulgence be  free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).

You can acquire one plenary indulgence a day.

So, this week of All Souls’, get thee to a cemetery, and say a few extra prayers for the dead at Mass on Sunday. Intercede for them, and they will intercede for you!
*From the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Indulgences:
1478    An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.
1479    Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.”

Originally posted at Truth and Charity…