November is an unique month in the life of the Church. It isn’t uncommon for a month to be dedicated to a particular spiritual pursuit aimed at helping us grow in holiness or devotion. Many months are dedicated to Our Lady: October being the month of the Rosary, September the month of Our Lady’s Sorrows, and May when we remember Fatima and Our Lady’s love for us as her children. June is dedicated to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and December is largely set aside for Advent and then the Christmas Season.
November, however, is a month that is dedicated to the holy, poor souls in Purgatory. During this month the faithful of the church militant on earth may merit extra graces, indulgences, and comforts not for their own benefit but instead for the relief and help of the souls in Purgatory. It is a month set aside where Catholics contemplate not only their own mortality, but the thin veil that separates the Church suffering from the Church militant and the Church triumphant. Let’s look at a few ways that we can increase devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory throughout November and selflessly assist them on their journey to Heaven.
1. Get comfortable with cemeteries
The secular depiction of cemeteries around this time of year tends to include creepy gravestones, zombies, and unkept, overgrown, “forgotten” tombs that are often pictured as “haunted.” The truth is, cemeteries are peaceful places that are to be kept clean, maintained, and beautiful because they are the final resting places of loved ones’ earthly remains. The Church has always been a champion of the dignity of the human body and this dignity does not disappear upon death. Visiting cemeteries is a healthy and holy practice that can help us keep a balanced perspective of death and hope in Eternal Life. Visiting a cemetery to pray for those buried there is an act of charity. If cemeteries “creep you out” or scare you, perhaps this November is the perfect time to face the fear and replace the “creep factor” with one of calm and peace.
2. Seek to obtain a plenary indulgence
Traditionally, the octave of All Saints allows for the faithful to gain a plenary indulgence, not for themselves, but for souls in Purgatory. The Holy Father has, for the second year in a row, extended this indulgence to be available throughout the entire month of November and not just the first eight days! Imagine the hope this must give the souls in Purgatory!
3. Gain a partial indulgence
One of the requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence is the reception of Holy Communion and making a good confession. While one confession can “count” for several indulgences, the same is not true for the reception of Holy Communion. It is necessary to receive a separate Holy Communion for each indulgence you wish to gain for souls. Some days this may not be realistic, but do not fret, because it is still possible to gain partial indulgences for the souls in Purgatory!
In order to gain a partial indulgence, the faithful must: 1) Devoutly visit a cemetery and pray for the dead (either in your head or out loud), and 2) Pray or recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead OR the prayer Requiem Aeternam (Eternal Rest).
4. Memorize indulgenced prayers for the dead
November is the perfect month to memorize special prayers for the dead that can be recited all year long. Why not add the “Eternal rest” prayer to your prayers before or after meals? It can also be added to the Divine Mercy Chaplet or Rosary. Additionally, the prayer of St. Gertrude the Great for the souls in Purgatory is short and can be recited whenever you drive by a cemetery. It is believed that each time this prayer is recited devoutly 1000 souls are released from Purgatory.
Eternal Rest (Requiem Aeternam)
Eternal Rest grant unto them O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. Amen.
Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis),
Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis).
Requiescat (-ant) in pace. Amen.
Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great
Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of
Thy divine son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said
throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in
Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church,
those in my own home, and within my own family. Amen.
5. Make an extra sacrifice for the relief of the poor souls
Just as we can merit indulgences for the souls in Purgatory, we can also gain for them some relief in their suffering. November is a great month to choose a special sacrifice that you will make for the benefit of the poor souls.
6. Send your Angel to comfort a soul in Purgatory
Our Guardian Angels are always ready to assist us and to communicate on our behalf. If you have a loved one you believe is in Purgatory, send your angel to bring them comfort and to tell them you are praying for them. As pure spirit, Angels exist in time differently than we temporal mortals and they can travel between the churches on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven. If your loved one has already entered into Eternal Life, don’t worry, your Angel is smart enough to either find another family member who needs comfort or to find the soul that is most desperate instead – simply give your Angel permission!
7. Consider making a daily “Pilgrimage to Purgatory”
This beautiful devotion consists of short daily meditations and prayers said each day for the souls in Purgatory. It asks you to contemplate the poor souls and their prayers for YOU as you still have time on earth to reduce or even erase the time you would otherwise have to spend being purified before entering Heaven. This devotion allows the faithful to become friends with the suffering souls in Purgatory, to give them comfort, and to ask for their assistance and prayers as well. To learn more about this devotion, CLICK HERE.
This November, while the culture is already celebrating Christmas and marketing for Thanksgiving, turn your attention to the holy souls in Purgatory who rely on the prayers of the faithful here on earth. Once in Purgatory a soul can no longer merit any extra graces for him or herself. They are at the mercy of God and need our assistance! What a beautiful act of charity it is to pray for the souls in Purgatory, both in November and throughout the year!
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