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September 2020
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They sound archaic and controversial. They are very simple and great gifts to all of us. So what is an indulgence?

When we sin, we separate ourselves from God and from His grace. We partake in the sacrament of Reconcilliation to ask for God’s forgiveness for our sinfulness. God is merciful and loving and forgives us if we approach him with sincerity. Even though these sins are forgiven, we have “stained” ourselves in committing them. Before we can enter the perfect presence of God after our life here has been fulfilled, those souls that are not quite ready (due to sins committed during life) must be purified. This purification is fulfilled in Purgatory. The ‘length’ of the purification, the time spent in Purgatory, is relative to the sinfulness of our lives.

There is a way to reduce or even abrogate our stay in Purgatory. Through indulgences. Indulgences are the partial or plenary (full) remission of the temporal punishment / purification assigned to each of us due to our sins. Indulgences are typically applied to the faithful departed in Purgatory, but we can also apply indulgences to ourselves. Not only is it a wonderful thing to help the faithful departed enter in to the loving presence of God that much quicker, but we are sure to gain prayers from these saints when it comes time for us to undergo purification in the hereafter. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the help I can get. And above all, there are so many wonderful relatives and friends in my life – people that I really didn’t have much to offer while they were with us – who I can now offer one of the greatest gifts I can think of. The great thing about indulgences is, they aren’t really that cumbersome or difficult to obtain through prayer and devotion.

So how do we go about obtaining an indulgence?

Straight from the Daily Roman Missal:

- One must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least at the time of the completion of the prescribed works.
- Have at least the general intention of receiving the indulgence and fulfilling the prescribed works at the time and in the manner of the terms of the grant.
The usual conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence are, in addition to the good work to which it is attached:
- Confession and Holy Communion on the day of the performance of the good work itself, or within a few days before or after.
- Prayer for the intentions of the pope. For this, the recitation of one Our Father and one Hail Mary suffices, though the faithful may say any other prayer, according to their personal devotion.
- Exclusion of all attachment to sin, even the slightest venial sin.
As much as possible, the reception of Holy Communion and prayer for the pope’s intentions should take place on the same day as the prescribed works.

Plenary Indulgences
One may gain, among other ways, a plenary indulgence by:
- Visiting the Blessed Sacrament for half an hour.
- Reading the Bible (Sacred Scripture) for at least half an hour.
- Making the Stations of the Cross.
- Praying the Rosary (five decades) in a church or with one’s family.
- Receiving the Apostolic Blessing at the hour of death.
- Visiting any parish church:
- On the day of the titular feast of the church.
- On August 2nd, the day of the Portiuncula indulgence.
- On November 2nd (this indulgence can only be applied to the dead).
On these visits, one should recite an Our Father and the Creed in addition to the three requirements of Confession, Communion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions.
- On Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter) participating in pious practices in honor of the Divine Mercy.

If we are not properly disposed to receive a plenary indulgence when it is granted to us, we receive only a partial indulgence according to the degree of perfection of our dispositions.

The holy father’s prayer intentions can be found here.