2 November – All Souls, Indulgences, and YOU!

Let’s have a review of the indulgences available for All Souls and the days that follow, so that you can plan your own action.  Don’t let these days slip by.

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.

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{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ACTION ITEM!, Four Last Things, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Kathleen10 says:

    What a consolation, to be able to do something for our loved ones in purgatory! Thank you for being such a source of information, and consolation as well.

  2. Joy65 says:

    THANK YOU! Sharing!

  3. Ron Van Wegen says:

    You can “gain” an indulgence.
    Can you then “lose” it?

  4. KT127 says:

    Thank you, Father!

  5. JamesA says:

    Thank you, Father, for this wonderful post which encourages me to begin afresh in my faith and pray for the salvation of others. You are a treasure of the the Church !

  6. Jack007 says:

    Perhaps this is a good place to answer the question of the ages?
    Well, maybe not that earth shattering.
    I was taught by my aged Augustinian priests the post meal prayer as “agimus tibi gratias”… as opposed to “gratias agimus tibi”.
    What gives? Maybe age had caught up with them?
    After almost 40 years of saying it one way, I can make an effort to say it correctly.
    Jack in KC

  7. Pingback: MONDAY CATHOLICA EDITION – Big Pulpit

  8. richmondtom says:

    Good post… and since I’m hearing a lot of historical misinformation about indulgences and what the Church teaches about them, on this 500th “anniversary” of Luther’s rebellion, perhaps this reminder courtesy of the Old Catholic Encyclopedia would be timely:

    an indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven.
    It is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be grantedby any power. It is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven. It is not an exemption from any law or duty, and much less from the obligation consequent on certain kinds of sin, e.g., restitution; on the contrary, it means a more complete payment of the debt which the sinner owes to God. It does not confer immunity from temptation or remove the possibility of subsequent lapses into sin. Least of all is an indulgence the purchase of a pardon which secures the buyer’s salvation or releases the soul of another from Purgatory. The absurdity of such notions must be obvious to any one who forms a correct idea of what the Catholic Church really teaches on this subject.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. MoreIncenseLessNonsense says:

    Hi Father, THANK YOU for sharing the awareness about this!!! I would have totally missed the cemetery component. Can the cemetery component work if say I visit the closest cemetery near my house but am praying for grandparents buried in another state?

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Actually, “Agimus tibi gratias” is often used as the word order for this prayer. There’s a motet like that, too.

    Keep doing it the way you learned it; that way isn’t wrong.

    Latin is a highly inflected language, so word order doesn’t usually affect meaning. It can affect sound and ease of pronunciation, and be used as a rhetorical device.

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    Thanks, Fr! I say the “Eternal Rest” prayer when I go to lock the mausoleum and the gates to our parish cemetery each evening. I’ll remember to say some “extra” prayers while I’m there over the next week.

  12. TonyO says:

    I have this suspicion that “being free of all attachment to sin” is, in the minds of some, equated with “being free of all attachment to worldly goods”. The are not the same, as should be apparent from even simple inspection: sin is always evil, which only has an appearance of good because we look at it through a wrong perspective. The goods of this world really are good, though their goodness is limited (unlike God, whose goodness is unlimited). It is a Manichean heresy to consider all the things of this world as evils.

    Eventually, (for most of us, perhaps in Purgatory), we must come to lose any inordinate attachments to all lesser goods in order to be perfect and suited to heaven. But that “inordinate” is a big difference: any attachment at all to sin is always inordinate, whereas it is not valid to say any attachment to goods is inordinate. If we are attached to persons in our family in just the way God wants us to be, out of true charity, these attachments are not “inordinate”. But that cannot be said of attachments to sin, of course.

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