It’s the first week of November, which means it’s the best time of year, liturgically speaking, for you to shave off some temporal punishment for all your loved ones in Purgatory.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Catholic teaching on the afterlife, there are three places for a soul to go after death: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.


According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, those who go to Heaven are “(t)hose who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.”

Those souls that go to Hell are those who have freely chosen through mortal sin “exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.”

Purgatory is a place where souls go who die in grace in friendship with God but are still imperfectly purified.  Purgatory is where “after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” These souls are ensured eventual entrance into Heaven, once they are purified.

Souls in purgatory rely on the prayers of souls still on Earth to relieve some of their temporal suffering and speed their journey to Heaven, so be sure to take advantage of these days to pray for them by gaining indulgences for them.

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. [CCC 1471]

Here’s when and how:

  1. The first chance for gaining a plenary (or full) indulgence for the deceased is available Nov. 2 only. In a Church, recite the Creed and the Our Father for the dead, receive Communion, and pray for Pope’s intentions.
  2. The second opportunity lasts through November 8. A person can obtain one plenary indulgence for a deceased person per day if they receive Communion, pray for the deceased at a cemetery, and pray for the Pope’s intentions.
  3. Throughout the year, a person can obtain one partial indulgence for a deceased person per day if they receive Communion, pray for the deceased at a cemetery, and pray for the Pope’s intentions. November is a good time to remember to do this, since the Church is praying in a special way for souls this month.

In each instance, the person obtaining the indulgences needs to receive the sacrament of confession within about a week of the indulgence act. One confession covers the person obtaining one partial indulgence per day. Additionally, the person needs to be in a state of grace when completing the indulgence act, and have detachment from all sin (which, if that sounds impossible, is more fully explained by a priest in this blog post.)


So take advantage of the month of November, and love your deceased relatives by praying them out of Purgatory!

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” – St. John Chrysostom

This story originally ran on Nov. 2, 2016.