Six Ways to Help the Souls in Purgatory this November

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November in the Church is a month of prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This means that we should take time to pray, not only for our loved ones who have passed on but also for all souls who have died in a state of grace but have not yet entered heaven.

What is Purgatory?

Purgatory is a doctrine of the Catholic Church that teaches that anyone who dies in a state of grace (no unconfessed mortal sins) but still has some venial sins must first be cleansed before they can come before God in heaven. By praying for the souls who are currently in Purgatory — and therefore no longer able to pray for themselves — and we can help them get to heaven faster. 

“… From the beginning, the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead…”

Catechism of the Catholic Church

All Souls Day Indulgence

Every year, from November 1st through the 8th, the Church offers a plenary indulgence for the souls in purgatory. The catch? Souls in Purgatory cannot obtain this (or any other) indulgence themselves — they need you to act on their behalf.

What is a plenary indulgence?

A plenary indulgence is the complete remission of one’s sins. Most plenary indulgences can be obtained for oneself or for a soul in Purgatory. The indulgence offered the first week of November can be obtained for a soul in Purgatory only.  

How does it work?

The indulgence offered the first week of November requires that you visit a cemetery and pray for the departed, and pray the Our Father and Creed at a church on All Souls Day or the Sunday preceding it. You can obtain 1 indulgence per day, for a total of 8 souls.

In order to obtain an indulgence for All Souls Day, you also have to fulfill several other requirements that are universal for all plenary indulgences. To start, you must be in a state of grace and have complete detachment from all sins. You must also go to Confession within 20 days of your indulgence, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the pope. 

Other plenary indulgences

There are a lot of different ways to obtain plenary indulgences. Some prayers — the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, or Stations of the Cross, to name a few — when combined with the universal requirements listed above, can gain you or a deceased loved one a plenary indulgence. These indulgences can be obtained once per day.

Offering a Mass

Offering a Mass for someone who has passed away is as simple as approaching your parish priest and letting them know your request. A small offering (usually around $10) is customary, but not mandatory. 

St. Gertrude’s prayer

According to tradition, Jesus appeared to Saint Gertrude and gave her this prayer to offer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 

Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious blood of your divine son Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

Offer sacrifices and sufferings

An easy way to pray for the souls in Purgatory is by offering small sacrifices for them throughout your day. The sacrifices you offer don’t have to be extraordinary: something as simple as eating a meal you don’t like without complaining or choosing to do a chore that’s not your favorite works. Alternatively, you can offer any suffering you experience throughout your day for the souls in Purgatory. Even the pain of stubbing your toe or the annoyance of an itchy sweater can be offered as a prayer and joined with the suffering of Christ!

Remember them and pray often

Putting together a small display in an area you pass by daily can help you remember to pray for loved ones who have passed away. Your home altar, if you have one, is the perfect place to set this up, though a shelf or tabletop will also work. Not sure where to start? A picture of each person you would like to pray for (or just their name if you don’t have a photo) is all you really need. Holy water, a candle, printed prayers, and a vase with flowers are also good items to add to your display. Try leaving it up for the entire month of November and saying a few prayers each day.

Featured image: michal dziekonski on Unsplash

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