By Kendra Tierney
Kendra Tierney is a wife and a mother of ten children. She writes the award-winning blog Catholic All Year and is a contributor to Blessed Is She, Endow, and the St. John Paul II Foundation. Kendra has spoken to audiences at moms’ groups, Eucharistic Congresses, and the Fiat Conference, which she also founded. She is the author of the Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life and O Come, Emmanuel: Advent Reflections on the Jesse Tree for Families.
On All Souls’ Day (and for the whole month of November) we focus on the Church Suffering: the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who are guaranteed to one day be in heaven, but who are now suffering and need our prayers.
One of our favorite “weird” Catholic family traditions is visiting a cemetery in November to pray for our beloved dead and all the Holy Souls in purgatory, and to attempt to gain for them the Holy Souls indulgences.
This practice combines two of the most easily misunderstood Catholic teachings: purgatory and indulgences.
We know that after our deaths, we will be judged according to our love for God and our fellow man, and our actions on earth, and end up in heaven or hell. But since the early days of the Church, theologians have recognized a third possible destination for the souls of the dead. Those who loved God, but died with an attachment to sin, must be purified in some was to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. We call that process of purification: purgatory.
The souls in purgatory can no longer pray for themselves, or make sacrifices, or do good works, so they need us, the living, to do these things for them. Especially on the Feast of All Souls, and in the month of November, Catholics pray for and make sacrifices for our beloved dead, and for the other souls in purgatory who need our prayers.
One of the best ways we can do this is by gaining indulgences. An indulgence is a way that the Church uses the authority given by Jesus to bind sins and to loose them. It’s a way to encourage the faithful in prayers, practices, and devotions that will be beneficial to our souls and to the souls in purgatory.
Indulgences can be plenary, which means full, or partial. A plenary indulgence will release us, or a soul in purgatory, from the temporal punishment due to sins.
Our family’s favorite plenary indulgences to obtain each year are the All Souls’ Indulgences. Every year, from November 1-8, we can obtain a plenary indulgence each day (subject to the usual conditions), applicable only to the holy souls in purgatory, and subject to the usual conditions, for praying for the Holy Souls in a cemetery. You can use any prayers, but our favorites are the Eternal Rest Prayer, or if we have more time, the Order for Visiting a Cemetery.
It’s truly one of the greatest acts of Christian charity a person can do, plus it’s pretty fun to hang out in cemeteries looking for forgotten gravestones and praying for the soul of someone who might not have anyone else in the whole world to pray for him!
This blog has been republished in part with permission. Read the full blog here.
Get Ready for Advent
Inspired by the Jesse Tree tradition, author Kendra Tierney’s O Come, Emmanuel roots families in the rich symbols of the Old Testament that point to the coming of Jesus Christ. For each day of December leading to Christmas, you’ll find a reading from Sacred Scripture, family-friendly reflections for the day, and a short prayer.