We don’t hear a lot these days about the importance of praying for the souls of the dead. That’s because we like to canonize everyone the minute he or she dies. “Good ole’ Grandpa Joe…he’s up there in heaven right now playing poker…” (Everyone laughs.) Sure, it makes us feel good, but it’s actually a severe disservice to those truly in need of our prayers: the holy souls in Purgatory.

The Church teaches that praying for the dead is a Spiritual Work of Mercy. The truly charitable thing to do is pray for Grandpa Joe’s soul, not selfishly presume he’s in heaven because it makes our sorrow less intense. Have Masses said for his soul. Pray the rosary for him. One day, it will be our turn and we’ll be in need of the prayers of the Church Triumphant and Militant. Believe me, we’ll be happy to be on the receiving end of the prayers of those here on earth. A fake canonization by mourning family members won’t make us any better off.

For All Souls’ Day, here’s a rundown of what you can do over the course of the next week to help our departed family and friends.

You 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. A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, is also granted when you visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. While visiting the church or oratory say one Our Father and the Apostles Creed.

Requirements for obtaining a plenary indulgence: Say one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month); worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass); make a sacramental confession within 20 days; and be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

Pope Francis prays for the dead. Reuters image.