The Church provides a great opportunity to help the departed by performing acts of devotion, repentance and charity. These acts provide remission from temporal punishment and are called indulgences. During the Octave of All Saints, (November 1-8) the Church gives us a special opportunity to gain indulgences for the departed.
A plenary or full indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
1. On any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed; or
2. On All Souls’ Day, devoutly visit a church or oratory and recite an Our Father and Creed.
A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
1. Devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead; or
2. Devoutly recite lauds and vespers from the Office for the Dead or the prayer:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord and let the perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
It is also necessary to fulfill the following conditions for the plenary indulgence,
1. Make a sacramental confession; and
2. Receive Holy Communion; and
3. Pray for the intention of the Holy Father (no particular prayers are prescribed for the intention of the Holy Father, an Our Father and a Hail Mary are appropriate).
These conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the visit to the Church. A plenary indulgence can only be acquired once in the course of the day; it is, however, fitting that Holy Communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day the work is performed.
Prayers for the dead, especially offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for their eternal repose, rests securely on this truth expressed so eloquently by St. Paul: “Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9).