2 Nov – All Souls, Indulgences, and YOU!

It seems somehow fitting to post about indulgences on 31 October.

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.

So… take that, Luther!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Matt Robare says:

    Can the Sacramental Confession be made 20 days before All Soul’s Day, or just afterwards?

  2. Gabriel Syme says:

    Thank you for this great post Father.

    When trying to gain an indulgence for the souls in purgatory, does one have to stipulate who it is for? For example, a specific dead relative or “whichever of my loved ones is most in need”, or is simply “the souls in purgatory” sufficient and trust in divine providence to best apply it?

    And If I managed to visit a graveyard to pray for the dead multiple times between No 1 – Nov 8th, am I right to think that a single confession and communion is adequate to fulfill the requirements for all such visits?

  3. Joseph-Mary says:

    I used to think it possible to earn plenary indulgences but my reading here in the past has brought me to doubt that now. [I suggest that you read again!]

  4. un-ionized says:

    Joseph-Mary, if the issue is attachment to sin, God can read your mind and heart. And angels watch over you too. Go for it. You probably get something for trying, sometimes even a partial indulgence.

  5. Imrahil says:

    1. Dear Gabriel, as for the first, of course we needn’t be specific, as for the second, yes, that suffices.

    2. Technical question (not the case this year): If All Souls Day falls on a Sunday and you attend the Vetus Ordo, can you use a Church on the 3rd, or even on the 2nd and 3rd, instead of a cemetery?

    3. My regular point this year, but our reverend host already answered it, so I won’t ask it again: It suffices “visit a cemetery” in the sense of being present at its gate, if the gate is closed.

    4. Oh and for those who prefer the meal-prayers in a somewhat more memorizable way, I offer this translation from the German:

    (V:) In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (R:) Amen.

    Oh my dear Lord, we ate and drank:
    Now Thee for all good things we thank.
    Thou gav’st and thou wilt further give,
    we’re praising thee as long we live. Amen.

    (V:) And the souls of the faithful departed may by the mercy of God rest in peace. (R:) Amen.

  6. Imrahil says:

    Ah yes and…

    5. “Whosoever dareth speak against the truth of the Apostolic Indulgences, let him be cursed and anathema.”

    End quote. Said? Well, Martin Luther. These 71. Take that, Lutherans and later Luther!

  7. LeeF says:

    @Gabriel Syme

    Maybe Fr. Z will come back and clarify, but my understanding is that you can specify to whom it is applied rather than just all the poor souls, and that is what I do. In fact if one holy person could meet all the requirements for a plenary indulgence and could apply to *all* the poor souls, then he or she could empty purgatory one would think! As to confession, it does apply to all, but the communion has to be done each time, i.e. you would have to receive communion and go to a cemetery each and every day, along with saying the prayers each time. If I have this wrong, hopefully Father will come along and correct me.

    Also note that on All Souls Day itself, there is no required cemetery visit. One other thing is that I don’t see any requirement to go to the actual cemetery where someone for whom you wish to gain an indulgence is buried, but just any cemetery, though of course a Catholic one would be nice.

    Something I think we need to pray for as well, is that Catholics we know who have some loved one’s cremains sitting on their mantle or wherever, would follow the Church’s teachings and have same interred properly in a cemetery.

  8. Pingback: All Souls Day – From Around The Loop | Traditional Catholics Emerge

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