Prayer, indulgences and purgatory

This question is more conceptual and spiritual than dogma or doctrine, so I decided to post it here.

Recently, I have been contemplating purgatory and indulgences. I have read and reread the section about indulgences in the Catechism, but the concept still eludes me a bit. Anyone’s clarification on it is most welcome.

My question here as it popped into my head the other day is this:

Do you offer prayers and those that qualify for indulgences generally to “the souls in purgatory” – since realistically you don’t know who is in purgatory?

Simply put – I could go to the church and pray a rosary for my grandmother who has died. But realistically, I don’t know if she is still in purgatory. So rather than say one “for her” – I simply say it for the “souls in purgatory” who are in need of indulgences. Right?


…as a prodigal daughter – I never want to leave His side again…

I like to offfer them up for all the souls in purgatory but if there is someone special (like my grandmother) I usually offer it up for her, but include a little clause “lord if she is already in Heaven may this go to whom most needs it”. Hope that helps!

Since the Holy Father has given plenary indulgences for adoration or time in front of the Blessed Sacrament every time I take the students in the chapel I pray for someone different and ask for the indulgence to be applied for that soul. But I always trust God knows best and applies the prayers to a different souls if that is necessary. I just hope and ray when I die that we have a great Holy Father to help with the plenary indulgence as Pope John Paul the II has today. Great question! Great answers!

don’t forget to pray for your other relatives and the forgotten souls in purgatory that are not prayed for.

here is a good prayer:
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home, and within my family. Amen

Pope John Paul II

THANK YOU! The article was most helpful.

“Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion.”

This point really clarified the whole concept for me. It isn’t as if we’re trying to rack up points for ourselves or others. It’s much deeper than that.

Thanks Bulldog for the prayer too - very helpful.

And Tyler - your comments were exactly what I was thinking when I posted the question.

Thanks everyone! The Church makes more and more sense to me every day!


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit