Easy Family Activities for the Month of the Poor Souls in November

by | Nov 2, 2017 | Halloween, Liturgical Year, November, Saints | 3 comments

For Catholics, November is the month we remember the dead. 

On November 1st, we celebrate all the saints in heaven, who are our hope and help and inspiration. The rest of the month, we focus on the holy souls in purgatory. (They are also called poor souls . . . same souls, they are “poor” because they are suffering, and “holy” because they will definitely get to heaven some day, it’s just a matter of time.)

We pray especially for the souls of our family members who have died, and aren’t quite in heaven yet, but will get there with our assistance. And we pray for the souls who have no one else to pray for them. As Catholics, we believe that our prayers and sacrifices offered to God can help the souls in purgatory to get to heaven. It is something very real and important that even little kids can do!

Our family has a few activities we like to do each year, that we’ve found to be fun and meaningful. I thought you might like to join us. So I jotted them down.

1. Get Some Indulgences Applicable to the Poor Souls

There are some really awesome opportunities to gain plenary (or full) indulgences on November 2, and for the entire week of November 1-8th, that are applied to the poor souls in purgatory. The rest of the month (and the rest of the year) you can get partial indulgences.

I talked all about it in this post:


We visited our local cemetery today, to leave flowers on graves and pray for the dead, both at that cemetery, and our own beloved dead. The kids really do look forward to it each year. There are lots of cultures who do a great job of remembering their dead in a way that’s tangible to kids, but I think that for most Americans, it’s a foreign concept. Many of us tend to try to keep the idea of death and the dead far away from our kids. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Catholic tradition is not to hide death, but to prepare for it, and to remember those who have gone before us.

Each day this week, we’ll stop by once per day, and without getting out of the car we’ll pray for all the poor souls. It take just a few minutes, but it really makes this month and those souls real to our family.

2. Pray Some Very Efficatious Prayers

There are two prayers that are especially good for this month.

Prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory aka Requiem Prayer

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

and the Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory by St. Gertrude the Great

Eternal Father,
I offer You 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,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.

We pray these in addition to, or instead of, our usual family evening prayers.

3. Write the Names of Deceased Family Members on a Candle and Set Up a Family Altar

This is an activity that helps us remember our beloved dead all month long. And it’s SUPER easy. I buy a plain large glass votive candle. They are available at dollar stores and in the latin food section of grocery stores around here. But a smaller glass votive candle holder or even just a glass jar with a candle in it would work just as well.

Using a sharpie, we write the names of everyone we can remember who has died, for whom we would like to pray. For us, it’s family members, neighbors, and even celebrities who have died. In any year, not just this year. Then we place the candle on our home altar table, and all month long we keep the candle lit during dinner and our evening prayers.

If you don’t have an altar table, a corner of a counter of the center of the dinner table would work, too.

We put any photos we have to go with the names on the altar table as well, and any Mass cards from funerals. It’s a really beautiful way to help kids remember family members who have gone before them, especially those with whom they share a name!

And, just to be clear, this isn’t any sort of ancestor worship. It’s just a reminder of those that we have loved who have died. Either they are already in heaven, and they can offer prayers to God for us, or they’re not yet in heaven and we can offer prayers to God for them.

4. Make Soul Cakes and Trade Them for Prayers

On All Souls Day, and any time this month, we like to make soul cakes. This recipe from Lavender and Lovage is very authentic, and very tasty, but it’s in British. Here’s a translation of measurements:

  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • A little milk (I use buttermilk if I have it on hand)
They really are not at all fussy to make. You put together the ingredients in a mixer or by hand, roll them out, cut them into circles with a cookie cutter or a glass, cut a cross in the top, and bake them. 
But if you don’t like the look of those, any scone or muffin recipe can be your soul cakes.

The important thing is that you’re meant to trade them for prayers. You don’t take one and eat it yourself. You take one, offer it to someone else, and ask him to pray for someone by name. As in, “Please pray for George Dosé.”

5. Make Eggs in Purgatory

A traditional recipe for this month is Eggs in Purgatory. There is a fancy version here at Bon Appétit that is super tasty, but involves things like rubbing the outside of a lemon on toast.

If that’s not your jam, just pick your favorite salsa, dump it into a frying pan, heat it to bubbling, crack whole eggs into individual wells in the salsa, and cook them to taste with some salt and pepper. Scoop individual eggs onto pieces of toast with some salsa and serve with a salad. It makes a delicious breakfast anytime, but I love it for a meat-free Friday dinner.

I hope some of these traditions will be fun and meaningful for your family as well!


If you’d like to keep track of ALL the feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, I’ve created a wall calendar to help you do it!

It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It’s an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.

January:The Holy Name of Jesus 
February: The Holy Family 
March: St. Joseph 
April: The Blessed Sacrament 
May: Mary 
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus 
July: The Precious Blood 
August Immaculate Heart of Mary 
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary 
October: The Holy Rosary 
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory 
December: The Immaculate Conception 

As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!

There’s a special coupon code currently available from the publisher:

Save 10% On Orders of Print Products
Plus Free Mail or 50% Off Ground Shipping
Use Code: BOOKSHIP17
Cannot be combined with other offers
Does not apply to ebooks or services
Ends November 6th at 11:59 PM

Related reading . . . 

From this blog:

At the End, Charlotte Dies: a Reflection on Death for All Souls Day

Little Kids and Death: How Taking My Kids to a Traditional Funeral Didn’t Freak Them Out

From around the interwebs:

Mary Reed Newland: Teaching About Death

Hallowmas with Harry: What Harry Potter Taught Me About Death and the Communion of Saints

20 Ways to Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

What is an Indulgence?

The Doctrine Of Purgatory


  1. AnneMarie

    I have never heard of eggs in Purgatory, and I think I now know what I'm making for breakfast today! Thank you for sharing that!!!

  2. Theresa

    My entire family is Cajun-French heritage in DEEP South Louisiana. It is a time-honored tradition to prepare the tombs/graves of our beloved dead for November 2 with fresh flowers, cleaning, and attending the cemetery blessings by the priests/deacons. I'm very pleased to pass this down to my sons.

  3. Tracy

    Wonderful traditions especially visiting the cemetery and your candle and alter for deceased family members. I just read your post from a while back on taking children to funerals. We grew up going to funerals and then taking our children to funerals. Our daughter who is now 30 has thanked us several times for not hiding death from them. She has had so many friends ( even now at 30) who haven't even been to a funeral. To me it wasn't even a thought not to take my kids.
    Thank you for the good ideas for the month of holy souls in purgatory.


  1. Memento Mori for Kids: Other People Died and You Will, Too. Or, A Very Catholic Hallowtide - Catholic All Year - […] Easy Family Activities for the Month of the Poor Souls in November […]

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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