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 being purified of their sins in Purgatory (the Church Suffering), and of the pilgrim faithful still here on earth (the Church Militant). As Pope St. Paul VI said, these "all together [form] 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, honoring all those faithful in heaven, the known and unknown saints.
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 begins the Church's focus on praying for the Faithful Departed throughout November. The need and duty of prayer for the dead has been taught by the Church since the beginning. It is highlighted 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).
It is an important part of Christian charity to offer prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ 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 Poor Souls, but we can also relieve their sufferings through our prayers, sufferings and penances. A very effective way to make an act of love to help the Poor Souls is by giving to God acts and prayers that have indulgences attached to them.
There are many indulgences, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, that can be obtained during the month of November. The official directory of indulgences, called "Enchiridion of Indulgences" (1999) states:
- 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; also any who on All Souls' Day
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; or devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Requiem
aeternam (Eternal rest).
- The "Eternal Rest" prayer gains a partial indulgence when prayed any time of the year. Passing a cemetery and praying the
"Eternal Rest" can help out the souls in need:
- Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.
- 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.
What a beautiful thing to remember the Eternal Rest prayer at the end of the "Prayer Before Meals": Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, Which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
In Christ, our Hope,