ACTION ITEM! All Souls’ Day Indulgences. Wherein Fr. Z rants for a while.

From the Handbook of Indulgences

Visiting a Church or an Oratory on All Souls Day

A plenary (“full”) indulgence, which is applicable only to the souls in Purgatory is granted to the Christian faithful who devoutly visit a church or an oratory on (November 2nd,) All Souls Day.

Will you not, for love, try to gain these indulgences?  Make a plan.

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)

  • Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
  • Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
  • Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
  • Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
  • For a plenary indulgence be  free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).

You can acquire one plenary indulgence a day.

A partial indulgence can be obtained by visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed.  You can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between 1 November and 8 November. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

A plenary indulgence, applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when you visit a church or a public oratory on 2 November. While visiting the church or oratory say one Our Father and the Apostles Creed.

A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained when saying the “Eternal rest … Requiem aeternam…” prayer.

Do you know this prayer?

Requiem aeternam dona ei [pl.eis], Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei [eis]. Requiescat [-ant] in pace Amen.Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

It is customary to add the second half of the “Eternal Rest” prayer after the prayer recited at the conclusion of a meal.

Gratias agimus tibi, omnipotens Deus, pro universis beneficiis tuis, qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.

Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

We give Thee thanks, almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who livest and reignest, world without end.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

My friend Fr. Finigan has a good explanation of being detached from sin and the disposition you need to gain indulgences.  HERE

Keep in mind that having high standards is a good thing.

Shouldn’t we be free from attachment to sin?  To what degree is being attached to sin okay?

In the final analysis, perhaps we have to admit that gaining plenary indulgences is rarer than we would like.

That said, it is not impossible to gain them.

I don’t think we have to be a hermit living on top of a tree beating his head with a rock to be free of attachment to sin so as to gain this plenary or “full” indulgence.

Also, we do not know the degree to which a “partial” indulgence is “partial”.  It could be a lot.  That in itself is something which should spur us on!

Generally, if someone is motivated to obtain an indulgence, he does so from true piety, desire to please God and to help oneself and others.

When it comes to complete detachment from sin, even venial, few of us live in that state all the time.

Nevertheless, there are times when we have been moved to sorrow for sin after examination of conscience, perhaps after an encounter with God as mystery in liturgical worship or in the presence of human suffering, that we come to a present horror and shame of sin that moves us to reject sin entirely.  That doesn’t mean that we, in some Pelagian sense, have chosen to remain perfect from that point on or that by force of will we can chosen never to sin again.  God is helping us with graces at that point, of course.  But we do remain frail and weak.

But God reads our hearts.

Holy Church offers us many opportunities for indulgences.  The presupposition is that Holy Church knows we can actually attain them.

They can be partial (and we don’t know to what extent that is) and full or plenary.  But they can be obtained by the faithful.

Holy Church is a good mother.  She wouldn’t dangle before our eyes something that is impossible for us to attain.

That doesn’t mean that a full indulgence is an easy thing.  It does mean that we can do it.  In fact, beatifications and canonizations have been more common in the last few decades and in previous centuries.  The Church is showing us that it is possible for ordinary people to live a life of heroic virtue.

Therefore, keep your eyes fixed on the prize of indulgences.   Never think that it is useless to try to get any indulgence, partial or full, just because

Perhaps you are not sure you can attain complete detachment from all sin, even venial.  Before you perform the indulgenced work, ask God explicitly to take away any affection for sin you might be treasuring.  Do this often and, over your lifetime, and you may find it easier and easier. Support your good project with good confessions and good communions.  You need those graces.

A person does not become expert in worldly pursuits overnight or without effort.  Why would not the same apply to spiritual pursuits? It takes time and practice to develop skills and virtues.  It takes time to develop habits of the spirit as well.

We can do this.  And when we fall short, we still have the joy of obtaining the partial indulgence and that’s not nothing.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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26 Responses to ACTION ITEM! All Souls’ Day Indulgences. Wherein Fr. Z rants for a while.

  1. mamajen says:

    Thank you, I needed this. I was just reading in our bulletin about indulgences, and yes, plenary seemed impossibly out of reach. After reading this post and Fr. Finigan’s, it seems I have had too extreme an understanding of what “attachment” means.

    But, I’m still a bit confused. From what I understand now, “no attachment” means that we should desire not to commit sins. So, that’s different from actually being free from venial sin (at the time of mass, visiting cemetery, etc.), right? I’m assuming so, since there are other requirements on the list that actually cover the forgiveness of sins.

    Having too extreme an understanding is really dangerous because it discourages one from even trying. I’m glad I’m learning otherwise.

  2. pelerin says:

    ‘Do you know this prayer?’ asks Fr Z.
    Some fifty years ago in my parish this prayer was always said every Sunday by Priest and people after the list of deaths and anniversaries of deaths of former parishioners was read out. Always accompanied by the Sign of the Cross it reminded us of our mortality as well as reminding us to pray for the dead.

    Why it was discontinued I do not know but I still miss it.

  3. qmbarque says:

    Fr.: Suppose one went to confession and received absolution on 20 October (parenthetically, at St. Peter’s Basilica), but did not do so intending that it “count” for the plenary indulgence. Does this satisfy the requirement for sacramental confession “within 20 days” of All Souls Day?

  4. majuscule says:

    I, too, remember that prayer at Mass on Sunday. I always thought it was majestic for some reason.

    November 2 is also a First Saturday. And of course, November 1 is a First Friday.

  5. Imrahil says:

    I think (with all due respect) that a “complete detachment from sin” is something else than lack of attachment to sin. It is obviously the latter that is demanded by the rules.

    The notion of an attachment has been treated by theologians at length. It is something specific of its own… a habit, yes, but not insofar as sin itself is also a habit (which St. Thomas says if I remember correctly), but according to a more colloquial understanding of habit. It might be the same as a vice.

    St. Francis of Sales (again if I remember correctly) goes so far as to say that repeated falling into mortal sin, if without attachment (apparently that’s possible!) is better than an attachment to venial sin. It was, I guess, the same, who frowned upon calling a man a liar just for the fact that we have heard him tell a lie, and so on. This is, I guess, where the difference is.

    Then, after mortal and venial sins there are also the imperfections.

    I think the Church is quite generous:
    *she does not demand lack of attachment to imperfections,
    *she does not demand any degree of freedom from problematicisms of character (which is still one step down after imperfections, if I remember St. Francis of Sales correctly),
    *she has no problem with repeated offenses as long as they do not constitute an attachment,
    *she lifts (if I read the Enchiridion correctly) the condition of non-attachment for the hour of death for all Catholics who regularly prayed in their lifetime.

    She does, of course, demand Confession.

  6. Imrahil says:

    Dear @qmbarque,

    I’m not Fr. Z nor any other priest, but short answer: yes.

    The only thing that must be accompanied by intention is the “work of indulgence” (visit the Church and pray the prayers), not the surrounding conditions. As a matter of fact, there has been theological dispute over just how much intention is needed, but the “I intend to win all indulgence I can win with what I do today” customarily attached to one’s morning prayer should of course suffice.

  7. Priam1184 says:

    Thank you Father for your words on indulgences. They can be confusing if one is not well formed on the subject. Our pastor and his parochial vicar have both mentioned indulgences connected with the Year of Faith from the pulpit the last two weeks and I think that these are the first times I can ever remember hearing a word preached about them in any parish I have ever attended.

    I have a question though: the indulgences on All Souls Day are automatically applied to the suffering souls in Purgatory but I have read that it is possible to apply any indulgence that one is eligible for throughout the year to souls (or a particular soul?) in Purgatory through suffrage; how does one do that? Do we just state in a prayer before the indulgenced act that we wish to apply whatever indulgence we are eligible to that particular soul or souls in Purgatory? Thank you.

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    TAN Books All Souls Day sale.
    35% Off Purgatory Titles

    Use Coupon Code ASD13. Coupon expires November 8, 2013.

    “Hungry Souls” is the only one of these books I have read. In addition to the time it takes to read the book, one must consider all the additional time it will encourage you to spend praying for the departed. The souls are hungry for something named by a four-letter word that begins in English with the letter “L”.

  9. Nan says:

    I have a plan for Nov. 2; I have a formative session beginning with Mass at the Seminary, after which I plan to go to the cemetery and pray at the grave of our first Archbishop.

  10. JARay says:

    As Majascule says above, Friday is First Friday and Saturday is First Saturday.
    Thank you very much indeed for this reminder of the possibilities of Indulgences. I am happy to admit that I intend keeping my usual pattern of morning Mass on both of these days. After our First Saturday Mass we always have Benediction as well.

  11. rsbsa says:

    Our parish is having a Solemn High Requiem Mass on Nov 2. I’m pretty excited about it.

    Thanks Father Z, for the comment about not attaining spiritual pursuits overnight. It really is so easy to lose sight of that.

    And nice link, Charles E. Flynn!

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  13. First, I have to find a tree I can climb, then try to do so with a rock in my hand.

  14. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for many a year, dear Father, and this post is a perfect example of why I continue to do so. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement.

  15. LarryW2LJ says:

    “Do you know this prayer?”

    Like the back of my hand – said at all wakes and funerals.

    We have a tradition at the parish that I grew up in, that is taking place again this coming Sunday. On the Sunday closest to All Souls day, the Pastor goes to the parish cemetery and blesses each grave. My parents are buried there, so I made sure to go last weekend and put a new candle in the holder and to put down a fresh mum. I don’t know if this is just a Polish tradition or what. The parish that I now belong to doesn’t do this, although they have their own tradition – a “Mass of Remembrance”.

    Anybody? Does this blessing of the graves happen in parishes other than predominantly Polish?

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  17. Magash says:

    Not one of my favorite trends, but many Catholic churches in the United States have started building columbariums on Church property. This is I suspect a response to escalating costs of burial and the prohibition of the establishment of cemeteries on new Church properties.
    This being the case, since a columbarium located at a church contains the remains of the faithful can the partial indulgence obtained by visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed there be applied to columbariums?

  18. LadyMarchmain says:

    Thank you, Imrahil, what a wonderful prayer with which to begin the day!

    Pelerin and Larry, what beautiful ceremonies and traditions, how wonderful it must have been to have them built into the regular life of the parish.

  19. Speravi says:

    Fr. Z, You mentioned that we don’t know how much of an indulgence a partial indulgence is. This line is written in the praenotanda of the Enchiridion: “The faithful, who at least with contrite heart perform an action to which a partial indulgence is attached, obtain, in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church.” I know we have to be careful about being too mechanistic in discussing matters of grace, but am I right in understanding that this is suggesting that a partial indulgence simply doubles the expiatory value of any given work to which the indulgence is attached?

  20. Rachel Pineda says:

    Thank you very much. This is an inspiring post.

  21. Mariana2 says:

    Thank you to Father, and all the above posters, I’ve learned a lot!

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  23. WesleyD says:

    I know that the Vatican has some way of publicizing the pope’s monthly intentions.

    When praying for the Holy Father’s intentions for the purpose of an indulgence, should I have in mind “I make this prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father”? Or should I look up on the internet the specific intentions of the Holy Father for this month, and when I pray, have in mind, “I make this prayer for [XXX]“?

    When I did a quick internet search, I found prayer intentions for each month of 2013 (released in January 2012 by Benedict) and for each month of 2014 (released in February 2013 by Benedict before his resignation). Does anyone know whether Francis has updated these intentions?

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  26. joan ellen says:

    Thank you for this, Father Z. Most helpful.