Explained in a helpful letter and attached file from Fr. Gabriel Lavery, CMRI, to his parishioners:
Nov. 1, 2022
As mentioned in the announcements last Sunday I’m sending by email the information on the various indulgences which can be gained only for the Holy Souls in Purgatory during All Souls Day and the following octave. I’ve also attached a chapter from Fr. Winfrid Herbst’s book on Indulgences in which he goes into more detail about the All Souls Day indulgences and answers some practical questions.
One thing to note is the requirement of separate visits to the church for each separate plenary indulgence one wishes to gain (this is true not only on All Souls Day but for all indulgences that require a visit). The Sacred Congregation of Indulgences was asked (February 29, 1864) whether or not it is necessary to make as many visits as the number of indulgences one wishes to gain (“totidem vicibus, quot sunt indulgentiae lucrifaciendae”). It replied in the affirmative and furthermore decreed that one must “exit the church after each visit and again enter into it” in order to gain each indulgence for which a visit is required. So to gain several of the “toties quoties” plenary indulgences for the Holy Souls during one visit to the church one must exit and return each time the prayers are said.
One might wonder why the Church would require such a “technicality” to gain an indulgence when the end result is the same prayers are said and the same amount of time is spent in church. While the decree does not give a reason for this requirement I think we can surmise the reason has something to do with the general mind of the Church in regard to gaining indulgences. When granting an indulgence the Church is dispensing from the “treasury of the Church,” i.e. the infinite merits gained by Christ by His life and death on the cross together with those of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which she did not need for herself as she was sinless) and the superabundant merits of the other saints who did more satisfactory works and prayers than needed to atone for their own faults and sins. This treasury is unlimited and it is a great mercy that we are able to draw from it to fulfill the debt of satisfaction for our own sins which might otherwise require severe penance (remember even venial sin is the worst evil in the world!). It is almost incredible that we are able by such simple and easy indulgenced prayers gain far more than we could with the Church granting such indulgences. Yet, while the Church is exceedingly generous in dispensing these treasures she still wishes us not to take them for granted and forget what a treasure they are. So the Church requires that there at least be some effort on our part, some conditions which put us to some trouble to fulfill. Otherwise we would be like spoiled children whose parents always gave them everything they asked no matter how bad or good, grateful or ungrateful they were. Christ Himself said if anyone would come after Him he must pick up his cross and follow him. I believe I read somewhere that St. Robert Bellarmine was so keenly aware of how generous the Church was in gaining indulgences and just how comparatively little we are asked to do to gain them that he preferred to gain the indulgences that were harder to gain with more conditions and effort required on his part. He felt in this way he would appreciate more the favor the Church was granting him. So, I think perhaps this is the mind of the Church in requiring that little extra effort to exit the church and return for each visit. Besides, human nature being what it is, if we simply stayed in church endlessly repeating the same set of prayers to gain multiple indulgences we would very easily turn into a robot saying them mindlessly. The interruption caused by each separate visit at least provides a means for us to refocus our thoughts.
Let us remember all our loved ones and friends and all the rest of the Holy Souls in Purgatory this month and gain for them the indulgences we can. They won’t forget us when they get to heaven sooner due to our prayers.
For the Holy Souls indulgence information please see below my signature in this email as well as the attached file by Fr. Herbst.
In Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Gabriel M.
1) The faithful who recite prayers or perform other devout exercises in supplication for the faithful departed during the month of November, may gain: An indulgence of 3 years once on each day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if they perform these devotions daily for the entire month. (Raccolta, 589)
2) Those who, during the aforesaid month, take part in public services held in a church or public oratory in intercession for the faithful departed may gain: An indulgence of 7 years on each day of the month; A plenary indulgence, if they attend these exercises on at least fifteen days and, in addition, go to confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the Church. (Raccolta, 589)
3) From noon on All Saints Day to midnight of All Souls Day: The faithful, as often as they visit a church or public oratory in order to pray for the dead, may gain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the souls in purgatory, on condition of confession and Communion, and the recitation six times during each visit of Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be for the intentions of the Church. (This indulgence may also be gained on the following Sunday, but only by those who did not gain it on Nov. 1st or 2nd.) (Raccolta, 590) [N.B. – When All Souls’ Day falls on November 3rd, the indulgence may only be gained from noon on November 2nd (Sunday) to midnight of November 3rd.]
4) The faithful who during the period of eight days from All Souls Day (counting All Souls Day itself) visit a cemetery in a spirit of piety and devotion, and pray, even mentally, for the dead may gain a plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, on each day of the Octave, applicable only to the dead. (Raccolta, 592)
N.B. Whenever a plenary indulgence says it is granted under the “usual conditions” that means the following must be done in order to gain the indulgence:
“The usual conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence are: confession; Communion; visit to a church or public oratory (or semi-public oratory for those who have the right to use it, if no church or public oratory is attached, provided nothing special is prescribed); prayer for the Pope’s intentions. It is to be noted that the usual conditions are not always prescribed, e.g., none of them are really prescribed for gaining the indulgence of the Way of the Cross.” (Winfrid Herbst, S.D.S. The Church Suffering. Emphasis added.)
The confession can be made on the day in question or anytime during the week before or after. Holy Communion can be made on the day in question or within the following week or one day before the day in question.
The faithful who are in the habit of confessing at least twice a month unless legitimately impeded, or who receive Holy Communion daily in the state of grace and with a good and holy intention, though they may abstain from receiving once or twice a week, can gain all indulgences without actual confession for which otherwise confession would be a necessary condition. (Canon 931)
What are prayers for the intentions of the Pope?
When prayers “for the intentions of the Pope” are required one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be are sufficient unless otherwise stated in the grant of the indulgence. These must be said externally by moving the lips but need not be said audibly.
The Toties Quoties indulgence on All Souls’ Day specifically requires six Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s during each visit in church. These six are to be said for the intentions of the Pope. They are not said for the Poor Souls but with the intention of gaining the plenary indulgence for them. The visit is made to pray for the Poor Souls and gain the plenary indulgence for them.
How does one pray “for the intentions of the Pope” during a vacancy?
During a vacancy of the Holy See, one can still gain a plenary indulgence by praying for the general intentions that every pope has. We sometimes refer to these as the “intentions of the Church” to avoid confusion during this time of vacancy. As explained by a notable canon lawyer before Vatican II:
“The intentions of the Supreme Pontiff for which one is to pray are: the exaltation of the Church, propagation of the faith, ending of heresy and schism, conversion of sinners, peace and harmony among Christian rulers and nations, and other blessings for the welfare of Christianity. It suffices to have the general intention to pray for the intentions of the Pope or the Church.” (Stanislaus Woywod, A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, p. 538. 1957)