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November Octave and Novena

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 30, 2016 | In The Liturgical Year

Although it is not quite November, the “triduum” of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day and All Souls Day begins tomorrow. November 1 begins the traditional “All Saints’ Octave” often referred to as the “Poor Souls’ octave” during which a plenary indulgence for the Poor Souls in Purgatory can be gained each day from November 1 through 8.

I always like to issue an annual reminder of the wonderful opportunities we have to earn indulgences for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. There are the special opportunities during the first week of November:

  1. To Visit a Cemetery: One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8 and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.
  2. To Visit a Church or Oratory on November 2: A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

The usual plenary indulgence conditions apply: receiving Communion, going to Confession, and praying for the Holy Father while detached from sin. For more details, please see Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November.

Depending on which day to end the novena, October 30 or 31 also begins an election novena in the United States, counting down the final nine days to the election on November 8. The Knights of Columbus have a beautiful election novena “addressed to the Holy Trinity through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, under her title of the Immaculate Conception.”

The novena and octave almost overlap. Election Day is November 8, unusually late. November 8 is also the last day of the “Poor Souls Octave.” At first glance, praying for our country and praying for the Poor Souls seem unrelated but I do see a connection.

I don’t think anyone would dispute that the people of United States are in election fatigue. This has been a long, drawn-out saga leading to the final days, and the results of the election might lead to more turmoil. We are not in control of this situation, and it can be so frustrating to see how little we matter in all this. Turning to God with prayer and fasting is actually the most powerful action we can do, because God is the one in charge.

As I’ve written before, November gives so many reminders of the Communion of Saints and how closely we are connected with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The action of praying the election novena and invoking our Blessed Mother in the Church Triumphant is the Communion of Saints in action.

But this time of the Liturgical Year, especially the first days of November, particularly reminds us of our bodily mortality and how we should be preparing for eternity. Whatever the outcome of the election, that won’t change the fact that we all will die and will be judged according to our actions here on earth. It can be a sobering thought but also a great reminder on ordering priorities. These days of November, especially while visiting the cemeteries, remind us of our impending death. The Poor Souls were like us on earth. They all went through many elections and political crises in their own lives. They are now making amends through suffering for things like wasted time, lost tempers, unkind words—maybe some of these committed during election time? Praying for the Poor Souls can help us see our own sins and weaknesses. We will have to suffer also for our own failings, unless we make amends here on earth.

While we pray to the Holy Spirit and Our Lady pleading for mercy and protection for our country, we also pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering. We can help them ease their suffering, but they can help us in return by interceding for us and also helping us see what is important in this life (and what’s more important in eternity).

Jennifer Gregory Miller is a wife, mother, homemaker, CGS catechist, and Montessori teacher. Specializing in living the liturgical year, or liturgical living, she is the primary developer of’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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