Here’s a very basic question, but I can’t find the answer anywhere. Tomorrow is All Soul’s day, and my understanding is that you can get an indulgence for souls in purgatory if you visit go to a church or a cemetary and say an Our Father, a Hail Mary etc. But what does that mean exactly? Can I pray for a specific person and apply the indulgence to them, thus shortening their stay in purgatory? Do I get to decide, for example, that I’ll apply the indulgence to Aunt Mildred who died in 1964, or can I just pray for souls in general and let God decide? I know it’s a really dumb question, but I’m confused about indulgences, and I don’t think the priest at my somewhat modern parish would be thrilled to answer it.
You can pray for your aunt if you want and trust in the Lord’s mercy. Of course, hopefully, your aunt doesn’t need your prayers and the Lord can give your prayers to another needy soul.
You can direct your All Souls Day indulgences to whoever you want.
This morning I managed to get a plenary indulgence I asked God to direct to to whoever was most in need. I don’t know who in my family would actually need it.
I am dedicating November to the souls in Purgatory (at the suggestion made by the priest in Confession) so will also direct requests toward departed family members over that time.
It’s not a dumb question. Yes, you may ask for it to be applied to specific persons, or give it up to God’s discretion, either one. If it cannot be applied to your requested person, for example, if they are already in heaven, they have no need of the plenary indulgence, it goes into the treasury and God will use it for whom He wills.
This is my first day in the forum. I found the site because I was searching for people interested in All Souls Day. I wrote a piece about this important day of remembrance of the departed, which I wish to share. It combines spirituality with social analysis in contemplating the relation of heaven and earth: