Pope Francis and the Curia actually listened to the world’s bishops, and they have reinstituted Pope Benedict’s generous grant, adding the entire month of November to the Halloween through November 8 octave for visiting cemeteries and praying for the dead.
So from October 31 through November 30, you can visit any cemetery (not just Catholic ones), pray for the dead, and earn them a partial or plenary indulgence.
“The usual conditions” apply. Which means that to get the dead their full plenary indulgence, you need to go to Confession and receive Communion at some point before, during, or after the month. (Usually it’s a period within about 21 days. So you could go in October, go in December, and still cover the entire month of November. You also have to maintain a state of not being attached to sins, even if you happen to sin, and you have to pray for the pope’s intentions on the day you go to Communion and/or Confession.
But what if you don’t? What if you mess up or leave out some of the conditions?
Partial indulgence. Still good for the Poor Souls or any other dead person.
Basically, the Church wants you to pray for the dead, an.d to have a good excuse for calling on the Church’s treasury of prayers and other good things. So the idea is to make it super-easy and generous.
But you have to go in person.
There’s another plenary indulgence for praying for the dead in a church or oratory, which is normally available only on All Soul’s Day, but which has also been extended to the entire month of November. Homebound or vulnerable people can pray at home before a picture or statue of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, or they can offer up their own sufferings as an act of mercy.
So you can grab either of the two indulgences every day in November, for the dead!
NOTE: Jesus said that people would not just be subject to justice for their sins, or mercy and forgiveness of their sins, after they died and were judged. He said that there were earthly consequences to our sins, and that we have to pay those back in some way after we die, “to the very last penny.” (Lk. 12:59)
An “indulgence” is basically a promise, on the authority of the Church as Christ’s Bride, that this payback part of Purgatory would be taken care of, by Christ and the members of His Body. Most of the time, we are encouraged to acknowledge our own sinfulness, and to do various prayerful activities that provide partial and plenary indulgences for ourselves. This month, we do it for the dead, whether those we know or those we don’t.
You can seek an indulgence for “one of the souls in Purgatory,” or name a specific person. If the person you name is already in bliss in Heaven, or sadly is in Hell instead of Heaven/Purgatory, some other soul will get helped.
When you help those in Purgatory, they will help you with their prayers. Ask them for intercession if you have special intentions that you need help with. This is a beautiful manifestation of the Communion of Saints, and someday you will meet up with these folks in Heaven and on the New Earth.