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November: Praying for the Faithful Departed

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 31, 2023 | In The Liturgical Year

One of my favorite traditions during the Liturgical Year is remembering and praying for the faithful departed during November, particularly through November 1-8. While we can pray every day for those who have died, the Church gives us a special gift that can really unite us with our departed brothers and sisters and feel like we are tangibly helping them. This October 31 marks the one year anniversary of my father’s funeral, with in-laws also bearing the loss of other parents. And lately our news feeds are filled with the loss of many lives, due to wars, terrorism and violent acts. We can’t all go and physically help and comfort these people, but again, the Church illustrates how connected we in the Mystical Body, and we can help spiritually at all times.

A Special Time Highlighting the Communion of Saints

Beginning with Halloween, there is a kind of unofficial triduum which highlights the close connection and co-operation of the Communion of Saints. Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve features the living on earth. We are the Church Militant working towards heaven still fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Solemnity of All Saints focuses on all the souls in heaven, the Church Triumphant, whether officially canonized and proclaimed as saints by the Church, or all the other souls whose names we do not know. And finally All Souls’ Day focuses on the Church Suffering; those souls who were not ready to enter heaven, so are suffering in Purgatory until they are cleansed.

The Communion of Saints is not just a three-tiered separation of souls. There is a special interconnectedness where all the souls throughout all time are linked together. There is communication, whether direct or indirect, within the Mystical Body. The Church Triumphant prays to God for the Militant and Suffering. The Church Militant prays for each other and for the Church Suffering, and ask for the Church Triumphant’s intercession. The Church Suffering are the most helpless and while they can pray for the Church Militant and ask for help from the Church Triumphant, it is not until they reach their heavenly goal that their prayers can be most effective.

There are times we forget this special connection, since our eyes cannot see this spiritual reality. But it is real, even more so than this physical world. God sends us constant reminders of this reality, the most difficult one being death of loved ones. I have many friends who are dealing with tragedy and a deep sense of loss especially this year. This is so hard to bear, but the connection of the Communion of saints is meant to be comforting. We aren’t helpless; all our prayers and good works aid our faithful departed.

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins (2 Maccabees. 12:46).

Praying for the Faithful Departed

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 in the Communion of Saints. See my posts November: A Month of Poor Souls and Cemeteries and Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November for more details.

The Enchiridion or Manual of Indulgences, completely revised in 1968 and 4th edition in 1999, states:

FOR THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED

§1 A plenary indulgence, 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 judgment 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.

§2 A partial indulgence, 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)

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 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.

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?”

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, applicable only to another soul.

The month of November is dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. While we should pray always for those who have died, this is a special time of comfort and prayer for those that we lost. It is a further consoling thought knowing we are united with the entire Church Militant to pray for all the faithful departed. 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!

Eternal Rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

See my previous November Posts:

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 CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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