Dearly Departed

News: World News
by Samuel McCarthy  •  •  November 1, 2021   

Benefits of praying for the dead

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ROME ( - The Vatican is expanding special graces for Catholics — both living and dead.

An indulgence has been granted for praying for the dead

Throughout the entire month of November, plenary indulgences may be obtained by visiting a cemetery and praying for the deceased, according to a decree issued last week by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

"From the renewed generosity of the Church," reads the decree, "the faithful will certainly draw pious intentions and spiritual vigor to guide their lives according to the gospel law, in filial communion and devotion to the Supreme Pontiff. ... This decree is valid for the entire month of November."

There are two indulgences available: The first is a plenary indulgence for the souls of the dead, typically available from Nov. 1–8; the second is a plenary indulgence for one's own soul, usually available only on All Souls' Day itself.

Saint of the Day: All Souls' Day

This year, however, the indulgences may be obtained any day throughout the month.

The Vatican cites China-virus concerns in making the decision to expand the availability of the indulgences, but it provides Catholics a greater window of opportunity to pray for graces for themselves and for the dearly departed.

The same expansion was offered last year.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1471 explains:

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.

Moreover, section 1478 of the Catechism clarifies that by offering indulgences, "The Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance and charity."

Partial indulgences alleviate some of that temporal punishment, while plenary indulgences offer remission of all temporal punishment. Indulgences may benefit one's own soul or may be offered on behalf of the souls in Purgatory.

In order to obtain a plenary indulgence, one must first be in a state of grace; he must be in communion with the Church and detached from both mortal and venial sin.

Indulgences may benefit one's own soul or may be offered on behalf of the souls in Purgatory.

Second, one must attend the sacrament of penance and receive the Blessed Sacrament within about two weeks before or after performing the indulgenced work.

Third, one must pray for the good intentions of the Holy Father.

And, of course, one must perform the indulgenced act. In the case of All Souls' Day, the indulgenced act consists of visiting a cemetery and praying the Creed and an Our Father for the faithful departed.

All Souls' Day

St. Odilo of Cluny

In the early 11th century, St. Odilo set aside Nov. 2 as a special day of prayer and penance for the souls of the dead. His monks in the Abbey of Cluny adhered to this practice, which spread to Rome some 200 years later.

In 1915, Pope Benedict XV permitted and promoted the celebration of three Masses on All Souls' Day — spurred to do so partly in the wake of the massive generational slaughter being wreaked by the First World War.

The Feast of All Souls reminds Catholics of two unique spiritual opportunities.

One of these is to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory. Catechism, §958 explains:

The Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and "because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins," She offers Her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

Catechism, §1479 expounds, "Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted."

The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death.

Another opportunity provided by All Souls' Day is what Catholics often call memento mori. The Latin phrase, meaning "remember your death," is associated with the practice of meditating on one's own death in order to prepare one's soul better for eternity with Christ.

Sr. Theresa Alethia Noble

Indeed, Catechism, §1014 reminds Catholics, "The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death."

Sister Theresa Alethia Noble, F.S.P., describes the benefits of practicing memento mori: "Meditation on death in this context is not morose, but rather becomes a celebration. For those who choose to accept the grace of salvation, death is a positive step, a doorway to Heaven."

Praying for the souls of those who have gone before benefits not only those souls who have passed away, but also the souls of the living who pray for them.

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