November is the month when the Church Militant prays for the Church Suffering, meaning the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Most of us submit the names of loved ones to our parish or a Mass society to be remembered during this month. But ask yourself this:
- What else can I do to make a difference for my loved ones who may still be suffering in purgatory?
- Besides the Anointing of the Sick, is there anything I can do to spiritually assist a loved one who is dying?
For answers to these questions, I turned to EWTN Chaplain Fr. Joseph Mary. Here’s what Fr. Joseph recommends we do in November:
For the Souls in Purgatory:
- November 1-8: You can obtain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the souls in purgatory if you “devoutly visit a cemetery and, at least mentally, pray for the departed.”
(That means you don’t have to pray out loud, but you certainly can!) If you are reading this after Nov. 8, don’t worry. You can still receive a partial indulgence by performing the actions above.)
- On All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2): You can receive a plenary indulgence for the souls in purgatory, if you “devoutly visit a church or oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.”
- Daily in November: Here’s a suggestion Father Joseph was given and really likes – so he is passing it on to EWTN’s viewers. Get out your calendar, and write down the name of a deceased family member or friend that you intend to pray for that day. Offer up everything, good and bad, that happens to you that day, and pray as much as you can for their release, if necessary, from purgatory. This is an important spiritual work of mercy!
- At any time, you can gain a partial indulgence for the poor souls by reciting morning or evening prayer from the Office of the Dead, or devoutly reciting the prayer “Eternal rest grant unto 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.”
For Those in Danger of Death:
There are many benefits of working at EWTN. When my husband was dying of cancer, I knew I needed to ask a priest to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In fact, my husband had been anointed a number of times over the eight years he battled the disease.
However, when EWTN Chaplain Father Joseph Mary visited our home in the days before my husband’s death, he asked my husband if he would like to receive an “Apostolic Blessing.” That’s something I didn’t know about. You definitely want to ask your priest to administer this blessing to a loved one who is dying as part of the last rites, which state, “A priest who administers the sacraments to someone in danger of death should not fail to impart the apostolic blessing to which a plenary indulgence is attached.”
If a priest is not present as a person is dying, and they haven’t previously received the apostolic blessing during that sickness (which would suffice), the Church “grants to the Christian faithful, who are duly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime; in such a case, the Church supplies for the three conditions ordinarily required for a plenary indulgence” (confession, communion, and prayers for the intention of the pope). In those situations, the Church also commends the devout use of a crucifix.
All of the above has yet another benefit. Father Joseph says that #958 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that our prayer for the souls in purgatory “is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”
Did you know that? While the Holy Souls can no longer pray for themselves, they can pray for us! Think of the greeting you will get one day when you meet a soul whom you helped obtain release from purgatory! In helping them, we may very well be one day helping ourselves, when they are in heaven and we are not yet there!
(Note: For the LIVING to receive an indulgence we must go to confession 20 days before or after we perform the indulgenced actions; receive Holy Communion, preferably on the day or days we perform the actions; pray for the Holy Father’s intentions; and be unattached to sin. That latter is a tough one, but all is not lost. Since most of us are attached to something, we may receive a partial indulgence rather than a plenary indulgence.)