All Soul's Indulgences (Something to upset the non-Catholics out there)

Every November 2nd, I find myself looking up the regulations for plenary indulgences again. I can never remember them. So I am placing them here for good keeping and future reference and also as a reminder for all you Catholics out there that this is a significant way you can perform a spiritual work of mercy for your loved ones who have died in the last year.

Of course, this sort of stuff will enrage our protestant and bemuse our Orthodox friends, but we’re not doing it for you (not now any way, we will after you die).

This comes from Father Pat’s Place:

All Souls Regulations

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the first to the eighth of November; on other days of the year it is partial.


A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed [November 2 {as well as on the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints’ Day}] piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.


To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions:

sacramental Confession,
Eucharistic communion,
and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.

The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is, however, fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit.


The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once in the course of the day.

Before you ask, I can tell you that going to confession once will suffice for the whole week (unless you fall into sin in the mean time) but you do have to receive communion once for each indulgence you seek to obtain over the next eight days. It doesn’t have to be on the same day as the fulfillment of the other requirements, but can be some days before or after.

Of course it goes without saying that freedom from any attachment to sin is necessary for the reception of the full plenary indulgence. That, as they say, is the tricky bit.

For more info on the how-to-do-its of indulgences, see: Frequently asked questions about indulgences.

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4 Responses to All Soul's Indulgences (Something to upset the non-Catholics out there)

  1. Anonymous says:

    From the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog:

    Detachment from venial sin
    The most problematic condition is:

    […] the complete exclusion of any attachment to any sin, even venial,

    This is not a new provision in the reform of Paul VI. Lépicier in his book Indulgences, their origin, nature and development reported a controversy which was widely current in his own time. Some theologians considered that the actual gaining a plenary indulgence was very rare.

    […] whilst with regard to plenary Indulgences, they teach us in a dogmatical tone that exceedingly few are those who can gain it, and fewer still are those who actually do gain it – perhaps a holy nun in some remote corner of the world, or some saintly hermit dead to this life and its concupiscences. (page 341)

    In countering this severe view of indulgences, Lépicier observed that falling into venial sin is not the same as having an affection for venial sin:

    From the first no man, however holy, excepting Christ, and His Blessed Mother, can call himself free; but many should be, and in reality are, free from the second. How can we imagine faithful souls, that are anxious to please God, and daily seal this desire with the Bread of Life – and their generation, thank God, is not extinct – how can we imagine such as these to be wilfully attached to that which, though not causing eternal death, yet is infinitely injurious to the Divine Majesty? (page 343)

    If there is any doubt about the more lenient view of “detachment from venial sin”, it is perhaps worth noting that this view was expressed in 1895 by a Roman professor of theology.

    More recently, in the grant of an indulgence for the Year of the Eucharist, the Apostolic Penitentiary restated the conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence. However, when speaking of special conditions for those who are infirm, the official English translation reads:

    […] as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin, as has been stated above.

    We may treat the more “lenient” view as common teaching since the Church clearly intends to grant plenary indulgences that can be obtained by the faithful every day. It would not seem reasonable to do this if it were almost impossible to gain them in practice.

    We may therefore encourage people to carry out the works prescribed for the gaining of a plenary indulgence (including, for many, a return to the sacrament of confession) without discouraging them by the rigorist opinion that a plenary indulgence can scarcely ever be gained in fact. It is also a good thing to pray before doing the indulgenced work, asking God to take away all affection for venial sin and conceiving in our hearts a hatred of any sin since all sins displease God who loves us so much

  2. Schütz says:

    What an excellent contribution. Thanks, Anonymous, for adding this!

  3. Christine says:

    Thank you, gentlemen!

  4. Christine says:

    Oooops, my apologies for assuming Anonymous was a gentle-MAN!

    Thanks, Anonymous!

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