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Helping Our Faithful Departed—A Bonus for November 2020

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 02, 2020 | In The Liturgical Year

November in Virginia is beginning as blustery and cold—the perfect invitation to enter the month dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory.

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I have been away from this space for a few months, for good reasons. Everyone has been experiencing hardships during this year and our family is no exception. We had unexpected diagnoses, surgeries, car accidents, etc. intermingled with death of close family members. On Thanksgiving afternoon my Mother-in-Law died unexpectedly. She lived in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Our family, including my own extended family loved her very much, and her loss is felt deeply. Closing her estate (long distance) has been a slow, tedious process. On April 18 of this year my mother had a car accident (car totaled but only suffered a concussion), and her brother died from pancreatic cancer on the same day.

About My Brother

During this time my youngest brother was rapidly declining from ALS. He had been diagnosed in 2017, and I wrote about trying to grapple with the diagnosis. At the beginning of March he began hospice at home. When quarantine began mid-March 2020, he was very high risk, so trying to visit him in his last days but also preventing him from contracting anything else was a priority. On April 20 he took his last breath surrounded by his family.

Joseph Edward Gregory was only 37. He leaves a wonderful loving and supportive wife and four beautiful children ages from 15 to 5. Since the funeral happened in complete lockdown, only 10 people were allowed for the funeral Mass, including the priest and organist. My parents, Joe’s family, and one of my sisters were the only ones able to attend in person. The remaining five siblings and the rest of our families had to attend virtually.

It was the spring of 2017 that Joe received his ALS diagnosis. He would be the first to say that he at first didn’t accept it with outstretched arms, but was able to embrace the suffering as following Christ completely. Joe would be the first to make sure he wasn’t held up as a plaster saint with a permanent smile and no faults. After his diagnosis he decided to chronicle his daily thoughts and life in a blog. He kept his humor all the way to the end, even when he couldn’t talk, eat or move voluntarily. I encourage you to take some time to read his posts, starting from the beginning: Joe’s ChronicALS. So much of what I write was begun in part because of Joe, so I plan on writing more about him in the future.

Time for Praying for Our Beloved Dead!

Joe has been gone for a little more than 6 months. It is time to break through my emotional writer’s block because it is November, the time of closeness with the whole Communion of Saints—the saints in heaven, the faithful departed, and us on earth. This is the month we particularly pray for the souls in Purgatory, the faithful departed who still need cleansing and purifying before they can enter heaven. The Church recognizes our connection with these suffering brothers and sisters and provides us all sorts of extra ways to help them gain their heavenly thrones more quickly. And besides my own departed family members, there are many others I want to remember in my prayers. I have written before on all the ways to help our faithful departed in November (links to previous articles at the bottom of this post). I often think how the veil between our world and the spiritual world is much thinner during this month, that I can almost feel and hear their souls pleading with me to remember them in my acts and prayers.

A Bonus for 2020 COVID Year

My particular favorite indulgenced act is visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed during November 1 through 8. It has become a favorite tradition of my family and my students. November means a closer awareness of our body’s mortality, but also our immortality—and a closeness to our larger family of the True Vine.

Praying in a cemetery can earn a plenary indulgence applied only to a soul in Purgatory, following the usual conditions. These conditions were loosened in 2000, to make it easier to obtain that indulgence. The time for making a Confession is now expanded 20 days before or after the indulgenced act, and one confession could cover a month of indulgenced acts. The reception of Holy Communion and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father no longer need to be on that day, but 20 days before or after, but one each per indulgenced act.

Yes, there can be good things that come out of this year. The Apostolic Penitentiary has given a greater extension for indulgences for the Poor Souls for this November in the COVID year. We can receive a plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery every day in November, not just November 1-8. The other special indulgence of visiting a church on All Souls’ Day and recite the Our Father and the Creed may be transferred to any other day in November.

And for the faithful who are housebound due to age, sickness or other serious reasons can earn a plenary indulgence for a variety of devotions from the safety of their homes. See the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on Plenary Indulgences for more details. It is only applicable for November 2020.

What Are the Conditions for A Plenary Indulgence?

“After I do this prayer or indulgenced act, what else do I need to do to earn the indulgence?” This is the most often-asked question I receive. I personally have to do a mental checklist to make sure I have everything covered.

A quick summary on the conditions to gain a Plenary Indulgence:

While being detached from sin,

  1. Sacramental Confession—one Confession can cover many indulgences, and can be done 20 days before or after.
  2. Eucharistic Communion—one Communion per indulgenced act, but can be received 20 days before or after.
  3. Prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father—usually an Our Father and a Hail Mary, one set of prayers for each act, can be prayed 20 days before or after.

You may earn one Plenary Indulgence a day.

Let this November be a good reminder to pray for family, friends, and those who have no one to pray for them, so they may be with God in heaven sooner!

See my previous November Posts:

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: nix898049 - Nov. 03, 2020 10:05 PM ET USA

    And your brother liked a good wheat beer! Good man. God rest his soul.

  • Posted by: mary_conces3421 - Nov. 03, 2020 6:14 PM ET USA

    Thank you for the information about indulgences, especially the ones for this month. I'm always vague about timeframes, and this helps. I will pray for your beloved dead, as well as my own. (When one is old, one accumulates quite a list, and mine has been rapidly growing in the past year or so.) At least we know that we are all still connected by the bonds of love, which is stronger than death.