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November: Releasing Souls from Purgatory with Plenary Indulgences

From November 1st to the 8th, the Church grants plenary indulgences applicable to the souls in Purgatory with simple conditions. Is the parable of the Dishonest steward (Lk. 16) related to it? Use this guide and complete the conditions required to achieve significant benefits for your life.

November is traditionally an especially important month to pray for those in purgatory, and many visit the graves of the departed on All Souls’ Day, November 2nd.

In Purgatory souls can remain for centuries while purifying themselves (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Curch -1031) before they can access the glory of Heaven.

Guide to obtaining plenary indulgences for the souls in purgatory

Between November 1st to the 8th, the Church motivates us to think of those who have departed from this world and are no longer among us. We celebrate the Feast of All Saints on November 1st and All Souls’ Day on the 2nd of the same month.

It is an auspicious time then, to consider especially those who hope to enter the glory of Heaven, still having to be purified. In this regard, the Church grants plenary indulgences applicable to the purging souls, by which one can release one soul per day from the Purgatory (a plenary indulgence can only be obtained once a day) with simple and easy conditions.

Review of the indulgenced works:

From November 1st to 8th:
To visit a cemetery and pray for God to grant forgiveness to the deceased.

November 2nd (All Souls’ Day):
To devoutly visit a church (or oratory) and pray the Our Father and the Creed, for the deceased.

General conditions

In addition to the indulgenced work, it is necessary to comply with the general conditions applicable to all plenary indulgences (Those listed in bold can be performed within 20 days of the indulgenced work):

  • One must be baptized, not excommunicated.
  • To have a disposition of mind and heart which totally excludes all attachment to sin, even venial sin.
  • To have the intention to gain the indulgence;
  • To do a sacramental Confession of sins (It is necessary to be in state of grace at least at the end of all prescribed actions. One sacramental confession is sufficient for several plenary indulgences);
  • To receive the Holy Eucharist (it is better to receive it during a Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is necessary);
  • To pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, the Pope (pray for his intentions one Our Father and Hail Mary; however any other pious prayer may be substituted).

It is desirable, but not necessary, that sacramental confession, and especially Holy Communion and prayer for the Pope’s intentions, be done on the same day the indulgenced work is done; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be performed within a few days (about twenty) before or after the indulgence action.

If full disposition of mind and heart is lacking, or if the prescribed action and the above conditions are not fulfilled, except as prescribed for those ‘disabled’, the indulgence will be only partial.

To gain the indulgence available for a day, if it is required to visit a church or oratory, it can be done from noon in the previous day (vigil) until the midnight that ends the established day.

Indulgences are always applicable either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they can not be applied to other living people on earth.

Finally, those who are legitimately impeded from fulfilling some of the conditions may ask the confessor to exempt them from complying with one or more of them:
«Confessors may commute, in favour of those who are legitimately impeded, both the prescribed action and the required conditions (obviously, except the detachment from sin, even venial).»

Other ways

In addition, one may also perform other actions awarded with plenary indulgence and offer them by mental prayer in suffrage for the souls in purgatory (It is also required to fulfill the general conditions mentioned above). These awarded actions are:

• Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least half an hour.
• Pious reading of the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour;
• Merciful exercise of the Via Crucis.
• Recitation of the Rosary at a church or oratory, or with the family, or with a religious community or a pious association (Partial Indulgence if prayed alone).

(e.g. you can do pious reading of the Bible for at least half an hour, fulfill the general conditions for plenary indulgences, and offer the indulgence in suffrage for the souls in purgatory.)

Enchiridion Indulgentiarum – Paenitentiaria Apostolica, 4° ed. july 16, 1999 (in force).
Apostolic Constitution «Indulgentiarum Doctrina» from His Holiness Paul VI about the revision of indulgences.

What are indulgences?

CCC: Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Indulgences are the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins, even after being forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession (also called Reconciliation or Penance), since sins in addition to guilt, produce in the person who commits them the need to repair the damage done, in this life or in the other (in Purgatory).

While guilt disappears with the absolution of sins as pronounced by the priest, the temporary punishment for those sins persists and is only withdrawn through indulgences -partial or plenary indulgences (e.g. performing acts of charity, praying for the living and the dead, bearing wrongs, among many others). Plenary indulgences remove all temporary punishment while partial indulgences remove a portion of it.

Purgatory is a dogma of faith of the Catholic Church:

CCC 1031: The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. (Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000.) The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture (Cf. 1Co. 3:15; 1Pe. 1, 7), speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396)

Does the the Parable of the Dishonest Steward (Lk 16:1-9) relate to indulgences applied to the deceased?

This parable that still causes difficulties with its interpretation seems to have points in common with the suffrage of indulgences for the deceased. Let us remember the parable (only present in the Gospel according to St. Luke):

Gospel according to Saint Luke 16:1-9

1- Then he also said to his disciples, «A rich man had a steward* who was reported to him for squandering his property.
2- He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’
3- The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
4- I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’
5- He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6- He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
7- Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’
8- And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. «For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
9- I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

* Steward, manager, administrator or treasurer: primarily denotes the person who ran a house or estate, the administrator or steward, who were usually slaves or freedmen (Lk 12:42; Lk 16:1, Lk 16:3, Lk 16:8); translated into these passages as «Steward»

The parable puts us in the shoes of the steward. The goods are of his Lord, who represents God. The administrator has engaged in dishonest behavior regarding his Lord’s patrimony, and upon being discovered he prepares a plan to make friends out there who would receive him in their dwellings and thus avoid hard work and begging.

To do this, the unfaithful steward turns to those he knows are debtors of his Lord and helps a couple of them to cancel a part of their debt (note that in the parable, the dishonest steward does not cancel the totality of their debts but only a portion of them).

We understand that this parable, mainly concerning the use of ill-gotten riches, is suitable to be applied to the situation of the suffrage of indulgences for the souls in Purgatory. The goods administered can be our own mental faculties and our use of them, the gift received from God.

The dishonest administrator can then be compared to someone who has been walking a path that leads away from Heaven, but who wishing to repair his past evils, helps some purging souls to release them from some of their punishments, and thus managing to obtain the same mercy he had for them (with the intercession of the benefited souls), allowing his salvation.

This highlights the great value of having aided the purging souls as an achievement to have under our belt at the time of our death, even more so when we consider the possibility of releasing them completely from the Purgatory through the offering of plenary indulgences. We will have those souls interceding for ourselves and making their requests for our salvation more effective (cf. Catechism C. C. 958).

Prayers for the deceased

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord (Requiem aeternam)
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
(cf. Ritual of Exequies, partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory.)

Purging souls
Holy souls, purging souls, pray to God for us, that we will pray for you too, so that He may grant you the glory of Paradise.
Eternal Father, we offer you the blood, passion and death of Jesus Christ, the pains of the Blessed Virgin and those of St. Joseph, for the remission of our sins, the freedom of the souls in Purgatory and the conversion of sinners. Amen.

Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
(The Lord promised Saint Gertrude that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.)

To all who out of love
To all who out of love have become our benefactors,
Oh Lord, grant them eternal life as reward. Amen.

Prayer with holy water for the souls of purgatory
By this holy water and for your Precious Blood, O Lord,
grant eternal rest to the holy souls in purgatory. Amen.

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