Memento Mori for Kids: Other People Died and You Will, Too. Or, A Very Catholic Hallowtide

by | Oct 24, 2019 | Catholic All Year Compendium, Halloween | 12 comments

The new episode of the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Show is here a bit early! For November, I want to share some Catholic traditions for All Souls’ Day, and that comes right at the beginning of the month.

As usual, stay tuned to the end for my book recommendations for the month, courtesy of our sponsor, Ignatius Press. Get 25% off of the recommended books through 12/31/19 at with the code CAY1119.

Let’s talk about Hallowtide, shall we? All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) make up what is traditionally called Hallowtide. The spooky skeletons and ghosts and death imagery of Halloween celebrations are part of the Catholic tradition of Memento Mori or “Remember you will die,” popular in the Medieval Era, but also found in the Bible.

The idea is that it is important that we remember our own mortality, and that of those we love, so that we can live each day preparing our souls to meet God and face our particular judgement, and helping those around us be ready to face theirs. In our home, alongside the fun of costumes and candy, we use Halloween and the other days of Hallowtide to focus on the three different parts of the Church.

On Halloween, we think of the Church Militant: all of us here on earth, struggling against temptation and our fallen natures, loving God and our neighbor, and hoping, through God’s grace, to one day die a happy death and be welcomed into heaven.

We dress up in spooky and/or funny costumes. We carve jack-o-lanterns. We go trick-or-treating and eat too much candy. We read spooky stories and watch spooky movies and read or recite spooky poems about death.

Get the Momento Mori Poetry booklet here as a printable pdf. Or as part of the October bundle here. Or in the Catholic All October paperback booklet on Amazon.

On All Saint’s Day we focus on the Church Triumphant: all the saints who have died and are in heaven, beholding the face of Our Lord, and inspiring us and interceding for us.

We go to Mass, and, around here, we dress up again for All Saints’ Day, this time as a favorite saint for our homeschool All Saints’ Day Pageant.

On All Souls’ Day (and for the whole month of November) we focus on the Church Suffering: the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who are guaranteed to one day be in heaven, but who are now suffering and need our prayers.

Get the Eternal Rest prayer and the Order for Visiting a Cemetery as a printable pdf here, in the November bundle here, or as part of the Catholic All November paperback on Amazon here.

One of our favorite “weird” Catholic family traditions is visiting a cemetery in November to pray for our beloved dead and all the Holy Souls in purgatory, and to attempt to gain for them the Holy Souls indulgences. 

This practice combines two of the most easily misunderstood Catholic teachings: purgatory and indulgences.

We know that after our deaths, we will be judged according to our love for God and our fellow man, and our actions on earth, and end up in heaven or hell. But since the early days of the Church, theologians have recognized a third possible destination for the souls of the dead. Those who loved God, but died with an attachment to sin, must be purified in some was to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. We call that process of purification: purgatory. 

The souls in purgatory can no longer pray for themselves, or make sacrifices, or do good works, so they need us, the living, to do these things for them. Especially on the Feast of All Souls, and in the month of November, Catholics pray for and make sacrifices for our beloved dead, and for the other souls in purgatory who need our prayers.

One of the best ways we can do this is by gaining indulgences. An indulgence is a way that the Church uses the authority given by Jesus to bind sins and to loose them. It’s a way to encourage the faithful in prayers, practices, and devotions that will be beneficial to our souls and to the souls in purgatory.  

Indulgences can be plenary, which means full, or partial. A plenary indulgence will release us, or a soul in purgatory, from the temporal punishment due to sins. 

Our family’s favorite plenary indulgences to obtain each year are the All Souls’ Indulgences. Every year, from November 1-8, we can obtain a plenary indulgence each day (subject to the usual conditions), applicable only to the holy souls in purgatory, and subject to the usual conditions, for praying for the Holy Souls in a cemetery. You can use any prayers, but our favorites are the Eternal Rest Prayer, or if we have more time, the Order for Visiting a Cemetery.

It’s truly one of the greatest acts of Christian charity a person can do, plus it’s pretty fun to hang out in cemeteries looking for forgotten gravestones and praying for the soul of someone who might not have anyone else in the whole world to pray for him!

So that’s it! A very Catholic Hallowtide is a fun and spooky and meaningful way to teach our kids about important Catholic Truths. (And the mom tax on candy, of course. Gotta learn that one young.)

My Ignatius book recommendations for the month are:
Mozart, Gift of God by Demi
Stories of the Blessed Sacrament
Jesus Invites Me to Mass
Use the code CAY1119 for 25% off at through 12/31/19.

Further reading for All Souls’ Day:

Praying for the Dead With Children

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

Further reading for All Saints’ Day:

Awesome All Saints Day Costumes in Expert, Store-Bought, and, What? is it October?

Last Minute Twofer Costumes for Halloween AND All Saints Day

Over 150 All-Saints Day Costumes for Kids

Twofer Costumes for Halloween and All Saints 2015 Edition

Over 150 MORE All Saints Day Costumes for Kids

Further reading for Halloween:

Halloween Movies to Spook the Whole Family

Halloween for Kids on Netflix Streaming: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Spooky Stories for the Whole Family


  1. Amanda

    Thanks for the indulgence specifications. I’ve been meaning to look them up. Is it true that the November indulgence is the only time you can apply it to a specific person of your choosing?

    • Kendra

      The Manual of Indulgences doesn’t say anything either way about being able to apply the indulgence to a specific person. So I think, officially, no. But I could certainly see God, in his mercy, answering that prayer!

  2. Katie

    Love everything about this. Because our kiddos attended Catholic School, they were very often pulled from class to serve funerals. Death is very natural for them.

  3. Gina D.

    Our plan is to go to mass on All Souls Day and then visit a cemetery. Am I understanding correctly that you can only get one plenary indulgence per day? So if you go to mass on All Souls Day, a visit to the cemetery that day doesn’t count for a separate indulgence? Thanks for your help!

    • Kendra

      That’s correct that you can gain only one plenary indulgence per day, but you can gain multiple partial indulgences in a day, so if you pray for the dead in a church on Nov 2 and then also in a cemetery, you can (potentially) gain one plenary and one partial indulgence. Then the rest of the days through Nov 8, you can (potentially) gain a plenary indulgence each day for praying for the dead in a cemetery.

  4. AnneMarie Miller

    This is great! I love Hallowtide. Last year, since All Souls Day was during the week (and my husband was at work) I got together with another mom and we took our toddlers & babies to Mass before taking them to the cemetery to pray. To this day, my now-three-year old points out cemeteries when we drive past them and the other day, I heard him quietly praying the Eternal Rest Prayer in the backseat as we drove past the local cemetery.

  5. Aileen

    In your graphic on All Souls Day Indulgences it says, “Visit a church, etc……plenary indulgence obtained by those who (proceed to list requirements), etc.” Then “visit a cemetery, etc. etc….” So this is good. I understand it. But then, in smaller type below that, it says “to obtain an indulgence, you must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, etc. etc. etc.” Now I’m confused. So the first part of the graphic is not enough to obtain an indulgence? The description in the smaller type is in ADDITION to the first part? Indulgences have always confused the heck out of me. I can’t keep track of every little thing I’m supposed to do. Help Kendra!

    • Kendra

      Yes, sorry for the confusion! The large print has the actions for these particular indulgences. However one must also fulfill the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence, which include receiving holy communion, going to confession, and praying for the Holy Father.

    • Kristina

      This all sounds great!

      Question: Is it necessary to pray in Catholic cemeteries to gain indulgences? We particularly like to pray for our family members who are buried in local cemeteries, and they were Christian but not Catholic (my husband was a convert). Does any cemetery count?

      • Kendra

        The Manual of Indulgences doesn’t say anything more specific than “cemetery” so any cemetery will do!

        • Kristina

          Awesome, thank you!

  6. Aileen

    Oh, I see, that helps! Thank you!

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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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