DPPL 260: Various Popular Devotions to the Dead

STA altar at night smallFour forms of popular devotions are briefly discussed:

260. In accordance with time, place and tradition, popular devotions to the dead take on a multitude of forms:
• the novena for the dead in preparation for the 2 November, and the octave prolonging it, should be celebrated in accordance with liturgical norms;

More often I see a month observing prayers for the dead. Any readers with experiences of the novena preceding?

• visits to the cemetery; in some places this is done in a community manner on 2 November, at the end of the parochial mission, when the parish priest takes possession of the parish; visiting the cemetery can also be done privately, when the faithful go to the graves of their own families to maintain them or decorate them with flowers and lamps. Such visits should be seen as deriving from the bonds existing between the living and the dead and not from any form of obligation, non-fulfilment of which involves a superstitious fear;

I remember a cemetery visit at a monastery where I happened to be on retreat one November. It was a very moving experience, seeing the religious community praying with devotion as well as affection for their deceased brothers.

• membership of a confraternity or other pious association whose objects include “burial of the dead” in a the light of the Christian vision of death, praying for the dead, and providing support for the relatives of the dead;
• suffrage for the dead through alms deeds, works of mercy, fasting, applying indulgences, and especially prayers, such as the De profundis, and the formula Requiem aeternam, which often accompanies the recitation of the Angelus, the rosary, and at prayers before and after meals.

As for these last two, I have no experience of them growing up, not being in a Catholic family. You readers, any experiences to share?

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to DPPL 260: Various Popular Devotions to the Dead

  1. Melody says:

    There is a plenary indulgence to be earned in connection with All Soul’s Day, I forget just what the requirements were. I can remember in grade school trying to bail all my relatives out of Purgatory. Which brings us to a sticky issue, a kind of Pelagianism wherein people feel that getting someone into heaven is the responsibility of the living. I have read, even recently, comments lamenting that some of the dead have no one to pray for them, and as a consequence they are languishing in Purgatory. Which is a faulty understanding of that teaching, and a faulty understanding of a Judge (God) who has to be paid off. Please note, however, that I am not at all saying that prayers for the dead are not a good and comforting thing.
    As far as visits to the cemetery on All Souls, I can remember doing that a couple of times with my grandmother. But November days are often cold and windy here; we usually visit the family graves on or around Memorial Day. My mother and grandmother used it as a teaching experience, telling us the stories of the family members who were buried there.

  2. Liam says:

    Well, I certainly grew up aware of suffrage for the dead. And I am aware that one reason you see certain people regularly receiving confession is so that they may (hope to) offer plenary indulgences for the dead, a particular form of suffrage that has certain specific requirements (the most difficult one being detachment even from venial sin).

    Well, all indulgences can be applied by suffrage to the dead (or to one’s self; just not to other living people); one is not limited to the specific All Souls-related indulgenced prayers/acts such as:

    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.

    Click to access The.Enchiridion.of.Indulgences.pdf

    Understood correctly, and not magically, suffrage is a rather beautiful practice.

    Click to access The.Enchiridion.of.Indulgences.pdf

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