How to Spring a Soul from Purgatory

According to the current Enchiridion of Indulgences, one can apply a plenary indulgence to a departed soul by the “visitation of a cemetary” {Coemeterii visitatio} from November 1st till the 8th (i.e. the octave of All Saints).

Here’s the text:

13. Visit to a Cemetery (Coemeterii visitatio)

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 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

In order for the indulgence to be plenary, the following conditions must also be met alone with the visit and prayers at the cemetery:

  1. Sacramental confession within “about twenty days”[1] of the actual day of the Plenary Indulgence.
  2. Eucharistic Communion on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.
  3. Prayer for the intentions of the Pope on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.
  4. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.[2]
Taking young people, particularly teenagers, to cemeteries to pray for the dead is a wholesome thing. Young people are not usually aware of their mortality. It’s a good thing to recognize the tombs of the dead…and pray for them.

Perhaps our culture’s fascination with death and horror movies is related to the fact that young people are isolated from death and prevented from attending funerals. Do you agree? Please leave a comment.

[1] Apostolic Penitentiary, Prot. N. 39/05/I (18 February 2005).
[2] If the latter detachment from sin is in any way less than perfect or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only. In accordance with the canonical norms 34 and 35 of the Enchiridion of Indulgences (1968), a confessor or bishop can dispense someone of one or two of the norms above.
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  • Texas Mike

    oh my Lord! what the heck am I reading? What are all these “qualifications” for plenary indulgence? Sounds a little too much like trying to “buy” your way into heaven. Are you serious that yuou must pray for the Pope’s Petitions? I’m a big fan of my Pope, but this is too too close to buying indulgences as in the 16th century. Let’s try not to do as the Democrats do, let’s try not to “earmark” these things. It’d go a long way toward not being heretical.

  • MissJean

    You’re not “buying” your way into Heaven. You’re praying for the dead, like St. Paul did in 2 Timothy 1:18.  Do you seriously think that praying for the dead is in the same league as buying an “indulgence” before you commit a pre-mediated mortal sin?

    As for praying for the Pope’s INTENTIONS, I do that all the time for friends, don’t you? Currently I’m praying for some friends who are intent on getting jobs. I’m also praying for my own intentions, such as the conversion of a loved one from neo-paganism.

  • Bradnsc

    In my Parish, we have our own Parish Cemetery, and on the Sunday before All Soul’s Day we have an Annual Visit to the Parish Cemetery, which includes Prayers for the Faithful Departed, the Litany for the Faithful Departed, other Prayers, and the Sprinkling of Each Grave with Holy Water and the Placing of a Rose on Each Grave.    There are over 120 Graves.   This is a very well attended event even for people who do not have loved ones in the Parish Cemetery.  The Parish Cemetery pays for the roses.  It is very prayerful.  The Names of those Buried in the Cemetery are read aloud, followed by the response, “may they rest in peace.”  It is a beautiful and meaningful ceremony.


    I think this is a beautiful and rather easy way to help others out of purgatory, not yourself, others, it could be your mother, father, sibling, or a friend or a stranger. Is it not worth taking a few minutes out of your day and to attend mass and reconciliation and pray and avoid the temptation of sin,  as we as Catholics should be doing, but we have been given a wonderful way to do that that we should and bring us closer to God AND help get souls out of purgatory. Thank you Jesus and the Catholic Church for this gift. Please pray for the Blessed souls in purgatory every day and ask them to pray for you, they are  wonderful friends in the war against evil in all of our lives as they cannot pray for themselves when they are purgatory, but they can pray for us! God bless all the souls in purgatory and I ask that they please pray for us sinners, here on earth.        

  • G

    These are some of the things I love about Holy Mother Church- Their ability to really take care of business on Gods behalf.

  • Mary


    Thank you for your post.  I am sure that all the families that have their dead interred in your cemetery, are grateful and blessed by your yearly ritual.

    What I think we ALL must remember is that what is IN the cemetary is NOT our dead loved one in the way that we remember them or think about them after they are gone.  Why would one think so much about the beautiful box that an indescribably holy, faithful and perfect present is wrapped in? 

    Those of the faithful know that “He lives within us” – Galatians 2:20. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corintians 5:17
    A ‘new creature’ is spiritual not physical.  In death the box is disgarded so that the ‘spirit, who IS Christ within us’, can be set free.

    “He is not here, he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”  Matthew 28:6 

    While it is lovely to remember our departed souls, it is also important to remember who they and we really are – the parts of a whole.  “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.”  1 Corinthians 6:17

    Being not of the faithful church of Christ, “Not holding Christ, from whom all the body by ligament and joint, having nourishment ministered and knit together, increases, with the increase of God.”  Colossians 2:19, one has no future hope.

    Romans 8:10 “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

    Colossians 1:27 “To them God has chosen to make known among Gentiles, the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

    We are all one – the living Spirit of Christ.  What we produce in spiritual righteousness here, is who we really are.  Spiritual selves, living at this time,  in a physical body, for the purpose of producing good fruit in order to grow the spiritual body of Christ.

    The spiritual selves of our loved ones live on in Christ. To honor their earthly enclosure makes us feel good, but really does nothing for their spiritual soul.  Christ had no problem with the temptation of satan in the desert, because Jesus knew already that there was nothing that satan had that he did not already have, being one with God.  And so it is for all of us.  I believe that my loved one has returned to the God who gave him/her life because the word of God promises it.  God never goes back on His promises.

    “And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God, who gave it.”  Ecclesiastes 12:7

  • Mary

    BTW, I am not familiar with any bible verse that speaks of Purgatory.  Could someone lead me to them?  I would be grateful for the knowledge.

    Thank you

  • Robert Sessford

    Are you sinning by trying to get someone out of God’s intended “cleansing” ?
    If your prayers are not to add forgiveness, but rather, “righteousness” to the dearly departed, how do you reconcile that with scriptures that declare God alone imputes righteousness?

    Romans 4:6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

    When Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom, one might say Lazarus had suffered sufficiently in the flesh not to need purgatory. But what about Abraham? Did he go straight from life on earth to a pleasant place? (He was not perfect in the flesh!)

    If Abraham’s believing God was sufficient, why isn’t anyone else’s? Does God play favorites? Don’t Christians have a like faith?

    In Isaiah 6, Isaiah becomes a missionary to the people. At first he doesn’t feel able because he is unworthy and sinful. But the Lord cleanses him and takes away his sin. I guess God can do what He wants eh?

    2 Tim 1:18…… “May the Lord grant him mercy on that day” is either a prayer for the living (someone who hasn’t come to THAT DAY yet), or a prayer for someone fallen asleep (who hasn’t come to THAT DAY yet). Whatever it is, it is not a prayer that someone presently experiencing purgatory be helped out of it because it refers to THAT DAY, not the present.

  • John G

    I would like to point out a key distinction regarding how souls in purgatory pay their debts.  The Church teaches that their are two sorts of punishments that must be payed to enter heaven: Temporal punishment and punishment derived from intrinsic disorder in the soul caused by sin.  Now Indulgences, whether plenary or partial only pay the debt owed by temporal punishment.  This makes good sense because indulgences are effective on account of the Church’s treasury of merit, which is the storehouse of graces accumulated over time.  Temporal punishment has a time component; finite debts that can be paid are paid, and therefore those in time can help others pay.  Now the intrinsic disorder of the soul requires works of virtue to straighten the soul out.  It is like rehab.  No one can help a soul purge purge their evil desires, or curb bad habits.  The point is this: Indulgences will not spring a soul out of Purgatory, though they help pay temporal punishment of sin.

  • Matthias

    Mr. Marshall,

    Thank you for the post. I was wondering, however, if the plenary indulgence is granted by visiting the cemetery once during the octave or every day of the octave. Another site seemed to indicate the latter, and I just wanted to inquire. Thank you!

  • liz alexandre

    didn’t the POPE abolish purgatory some time ago?
    i am confused!!  if the prayers are true…all rich people would be in heaven including dictators from Portugal, Spain, Italy etc….they had lots of prayers and sunday services payed with $$$$$$$$$$$ of other rich guys scared of hell
    gimme a break :'(   >:o

  • liz alexandre

    anyway…i welcome any comments and help…please!
    lizalexandre @ yahoo
    my faith needs lots of help…thanks

  • John G

    Hi Liz, Purgatory will always remain a teaching of the Church.  Purgatory is a great example of God’s mercy.  Here is an apt way to think of Purgatory.  In order to enter heaven, you must be ‘perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Now, very few people die in a state of perfection.  Rather than sending these souls to hell, God purifies them that they may soon enter into the glory of heaven.  So luckily for me and you Purgatory exists.  Now about the dictators and those evil people who may get an easy way into heaven because of the prayers of others.  There is no easy way into heaven.  If someone is truly evil and unrepentant, then they are in hell.  No prayers will be able to help them.  If they die repentant, then they will be purified in purgatory.  And as I said above, even if a plenary indulgence is applied to there soul, they will not enter into heaven immediately.  This is because plenary indulgences do not purify the soul, but only take away temporal punishment; debts owed to others: society, family, the Church. Heaven is the most valuable prize.  And as no prize of great value is gained easily, heaven, is not gained easily.  It must be earned and fought for.  Don’t worry too much about the souls of others.  God is perfectly just.  He will work out the details.  He will also take care of you, but do what is necessary.  Work for the salvation of your own soul. Salvation is worth more than anything else.