It is during the month of November that the Church meditates on the Communion of Saints, which is the link with the faithful who have already reached heaven (the Church Triumphant), the faithful departed who are still expiating their sins in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) and of the pilgrim faithful still here on earth (the Church Militant). As Pope St. Paul VI describes it in his Credo of the People of God:
We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers (CCC, 962). On the first of November the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation, honouring all those faithful in heaven, the known and unknown saints. The feast began the traditional Octave of All Saints, November 1-8. November 2nd is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, also known as All Souls Day, a day set aside to pray for all the dead. All Souls Day shifts the Church's focus on praying for the Faithful Departed throughout November. The need and duty of prayer for the dead has been acknowledged by the Church. It is recommended in the Scriptures of the Old Testament: "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Macc. 12: 46). This duty is expressed in public and private prayers but especially in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the repose of souls.
The prayers are particularly directed for the souls who are being purified in Purgatory, waiting for the day when they will join the saints in heaven. The celebration of Mass is the highest means the Church can provide for charity for the dead, but we can also relieve their sufferings through our prayers, sufferings and penances. We can particularly help the Poor Souls by doing acts and prayers that have indulgences attached to them.
Indulgenced Acts for the Faithful Departed - There are many indulgences, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, that can be obtained during the month of November. From the fourth edition of the Enchiridion of Indulgences, 1999:
A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed;
on All Souls' Day (or, according to the judgment of the ordinary, on the Sunday preceding or following it, or on the solemnity of All Saints), devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.
A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead;
devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Requiem aeternam (Eternal rest).
Incorporating Indulgences Acts Through November and the Year
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed. The "Eternal Rest" prayer gains a partial indulgence and can be prayed all year. Passing a cemetery and praying the "Eternal Rest" can help out the souls in need.
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.
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