Praying for the Dead With Children

November is the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. If you aren't in the habit of hanging out in cemeteries and praying for the dead with your kids . . . well, you're really missing out. And so are your kids. AND so are the dead.

As Christians, we believe that the dead are not gone. Their bodies have died, but their souls live on forever.

We believe that Jesus will come at the end of time to judge all human beings who have ever lived. This is called the general judgement. But those who die before Jesus comes again, face what is called the particular judgement.
"There are three possible outcomes to the particular judgment. Those whose love for God has been perfected in this life are taken straight to heaven, where they enjoy endless happiness in the face to face vision of God. Those who die in God's love but still love Him imperfectly must be purified in the intermediate state of purgatory. Those, however, who reject God's love by mortal sin and die without repenting are condemned to the everlasting torments of hell. The general judgment at the end of time simply solemnly confirms the particular judgments of each one, with the difference that then the body as well as the soul will receive what is due it. And all God's judgments will be revealed as most just." -Rev. William G. Most

As Catholics we believe that our deceased loved ones who died in God's love are a very real part of the Church. We the believers are divided into three parts . . .

1. The Church Militant: That's us. "Militant" because we are fighting . . . against our inclination towards sin, against our fallen natures, against temptation, against the devil.

2. The Church Triumphant: That's the saints. Everyone who has died and gone to heaven is a saint. Some saints lived lives of such heroic virtue that the Catholic Church recognizes them by name, and holds them up as models for us to emulate.

3. The Church Suffering: That's who we are praying for this month, the holy souls in purgatory.

"Those in purgatory cannot pray for themselves, this is why they are called “poor” souls. They can no longer merit anything for themselves and rely entirely on others to pray and make sacrifices on their behalf. As they are nevertheless part of the communion of saints, they depend upon us to help ease their suffering and quickly advance them through their purification so that they can join the saints in heaven.
Prayers for the faithful departed please God, who makes use of our prayers to help purify these souls that He loves. It is an act of charity that we can give for those we have known and loved, for our ancestors who gave us life, for those souls whose memory is lost, and for those who have no one else to pray for them." -Gretchen Filz
Death, and dying, and the dead are all things we mostly try to keep far, far away from our children. I did, anyway. But I don't anymore. And praying for the dead, especially in November, ESPECIALLY especially this week, has become a really beautiful family tradition for us.

In case you aren't in the habit of hanging out in cemeteries with your kids, I figured I'd share the whens and whys and hows.


Now. Like RIGHT now.

The whole month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This week, from All Saints Day on November 1st through November 8th, there is a special indulgence available.
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.


One of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy is to Pray for the Living and the Dead. It truly is a beautiful act of charity to pray for these souls who cannot pray for themselves, and to make sacrifices for them since they cannot make sacrifices for themselves.

Frankly, I wasn't sure how my kids would take it. But we've been doing special prayers for the dead every November for the past few years, and my kids love it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030). It notes that "this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1031).
The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
They really get that these are people who need their help. It's something important and meaningful and useful that kids can do just as well as grownups. Maybe better. At least with more enthusiasm.


1. On All Souls Day itself, if you visit a church, and pray the Our Father and the Creed, you can be granted a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in purgatory.
A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace (as opposed to being in mortal sin):
—have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin (which isn't the same thing as never sinning);

have sacramentally confessed their sins within a few weeks;

receive the Holy Eucharist within a few days (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);

pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

2. Any time between November 1st and 8th, you can visit a cemetery and pray for the dead. Any time of the year, you can obtain a partial indulgence for praying for the dead in a cemetery, but this week you can obtain a plenary (or full) indulgence. You can obtain one on each of those days. This year, on All Souls Day, we met two other families at a cemetery and the kids all (devoutly) ran around the cemetery praying for the dead by name and leaving a flower at the gravestone. It was beautiful and sweet and moving and fun.

We can always pray for specific souls like this, or for our own loved ones, by name. If that soul doesn't need our prayers, God will pass them along to another soul in need.

3. A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed. This is a good prayer to recite any time, but it's especially appropriate during the month of November:
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.
by request, here it is in the shop!

4. Soul Cakes! I like the idea of having special foods we make that are associated with the liturgical year. During Lent, we make soft pretzels, during Christmas, we bake special cookies, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, we make soul cakes.
I use this recipe from Lavender and Lovage, but it's in British. Here's a translation of measurements:
  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • A little milk (I use buttermilk if I have it on hand)

Praying for the dead with kids: it's not spooky, it's not scary. It's sweet and empowering and awesome.


If you'd like to keep track of ALL the feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, I've created a wall calendar to help you do it!

It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.

January:The Holy Name of Jesus
February: The Holy Family
March: St. Joseph
April: The Blessed Sacrament
May: Mary
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus
July: The Precious Blood
August Immaculate Heart of Mary
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary
October: The Holy Rosary
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory
December: The Immaculate Conception

As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2018 through December 2019, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!

Coupon codes are available from the publisher here.