QUAERITUR: Can very small children gain indulgences for Poor Souls?

From a reader:

Can a child who has not yet made their First Holy Communion obtain indulgences for the holy souls in purgatory on All Souls Day? My 5 year old would love to do this but I don’t want to tell him wrong as to whether or not he can participate.

Among the requirements for gaining this indulgence, the faithful must confess within a brief period of time and receive Holy Communion. A Latin Church child under the age of reason would not be able to fulfill these requirements, and so would not be able to gain this indulgence.

That said, I strongly urge the parent to allow her child to accompany her to the cemetery and pray to gain the indulgence!  Help to establish a habit of prayer that will serve the junior well through his whole life.

Furthermore, the prayers of small children are, in my opinion, efficacious even if they are not capable of gaining indulgences.

As someone not yet capable of committing a mortal sin, baptized children are in the state of grace. (Although I am not so sure about 3 year olds.)  Their prayers must be of surpassing sweetness to the ears of Our Lord, who would hardly refuse to answer. Parents should encourage children to pray for the souls in Purgatory. Even if little stupor mundi is not yet capable of fulfilling all the requirements for gaining the indulgence, he is nevertheless helping to free souls from the deprivation of Purgatory and to stand face to face before God.  Those holy souls will surely remember and intercede for the young one who assisted them in their hour of anguish.

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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    ‘Furthermore, the prayers of small children are, —in my opinion—, efficacious even if they are not capable of gaining indulgences.’

    No need to qualify that opinion so. It is plainly correct.

  2. MattH says:

    I understand the Enchiridion of Indulgences says something to the effect “if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only.” So I wonder if children who are not yet receiving Holy Communion would be able to obtain partial indulgences?

    Regardless, great point that we should be teaching our kids to aid the Holy Souls.

  3. Bea says:

    I think because of their innocence, that Our Lord is more prone to listen to a child’s prayers than us “thick skinned” adults.

    “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” Read Matthew 19 :14

  4. BLB Oregon says:

    The plain meaning of Scriptures is that children ought to be encouraged to approach the throne of God, where their angels are given particularly choice positions. The guidance given when the hierarchy gives the faithful forms for gaining indulgences does not put a limit on the Holy Spirit, after all. No one ought to conclude from these very helpful signposts that their existence implies any limit on the efficacy of any prayer. I would encourage children to pray for the poor souls often, and let them know that because their angels are so close to God we cannot limit what good they might do by their intercessions. Certainly it pleases the Lord very much and does do good for the poor souls, and that is the main thing.

  5. Rachel K says:

    My six year old son really enjoyed visiting the cemetery earlier this week where we prayed for the Holy Souls. He was especially interested in looking at the details on the gravestones. We talked about how some souls are not prayed for ( and all the other details about purgatory from the catechism) due to being forgotten or neglected by their families or friends. He is a kindly soul and thinks very deeply about such things, often asking very pertinent theological questions. I am sure his prayers are doing much good. We pray each night (and at other times) for the faithful departed too.

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