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  • Kenton E. Biffert

Head to the Graveyard

It is that time of the year again - All Hallow's Eve comes on the 31st of October followed by All Souls Day on Nov. 2nd. All Souls Day is the day set aside by the Church wherein we remember those that have passed on and we pray for their souls.

Now those that have died fully rejecting Christ have no hope in the afterlife and are/will be in hell. But we don't know the state of someone's soul at the time of death, so we pray for them. The Church teaches, logically and Biblically, that there is a place called Purgatory for those that die in God's grace, but still carry unforgiven, unrepentent sin. We know from Sacred Scripture that God only forgives the sin of those whose confess (I Jn 1:9) and that no sin enters past the pearly gates. We also know that death doesn't simply erase all of our sins. If it did, there would be no one in hell and it would mean that God supercedes our will and forgives us without us being repentent.

Those in Purgatory are in the perfect state to receive the grace from our prayers. They are making reparation for their sins (as my son would clean up a mess he made) and are being purged and made ready to enter into the fullness of the presence of God.

All Souls Day is an Octave (8 days) wherein we can go to a grave yard, pray for our loved ones in Purgatory and gain an indulgence for them. In fact, we can go each day of the eight days and gain indulgences for our loved ones.

An indulgence in a grace that is granted through the authority of the Church that removes (partially or fully) the temporal effects of our sins. Temporal meaning those effects for our sins done here. For eg: the temporal effect of murder is jail time or capital punishment. The eternal effect of murder (for the unrepentent) would be Hell. Our indulgence can be applied to the temporal effects of the sins of our loved ones thus helping them get out of Purgatory.

In order to gain an indulgence, one must: (

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

An indulgence, in order to be gained, as also the following conditions:

The following norms are taken from the Apostolic Constitution of Pope St. Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, 1967, the fourth edition of the Enchiridion of Indulgences, 1968, 1999, the Jubilee Apostolic Penitentiary, The Gift of the Indulgence, 2000 and the Norm of Confession for Gaining a Plenary Indulgence Apostolic Penitentiary, 2005.

An indulgence is "the remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due sin" (Indulgentiarum Doctrina, n.1-2).

To obtain this remission there are proper dispositions and certain conditions predetermined by the Church that must be met. Firstly, one must have the intention to gain the indulgence, and perform the works at the time and in the manner prescribed.

To gain a Plenary Indulgence (only one per day), the faithful must be in the state of grace and the following conditions must accompany the prescribed act:

  1. have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;

  2. receive the sacrament of confession

  3. receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required)

  4. and recite prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father (one Our Father and one Hail Mary is suggested as a minimum, but any other additional prayers may be added).

All attachment to sin, even venial sin, must be absent. If one's disposition is less than perfect or if some of the above conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence becomes partial.

More details about the timing of these requirements:

It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.

So head to daily Mass this week, stop off at the Parish graveyard, and go to confession sometime during the octave.

Our plan is to take the children, hopefully five times during the octave to pray for our loved ones. And, the chances of our children gaining plenary indulgences is high as their attachment to sin is low.

Hopefully, when I pass, my children will do the same for me.

Semper Fidelis


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