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What Is A Plenary Indulgence? (…And Why You Should Care!) – Part III

In Part 3 of 3 blog entries, I’ll be discussing exactly how one goes about obtaining an indulgence. In case you missed my earlier 2 posts, you can access Part I here and Part II here. To review briefly, there are 2 kinds of indulgences that can be obtained – partial (removes some of the temporal punishment due to sin) and plenary (removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin – i.e. a soul is released from Purgatory and goes directly to Heaven). I am only going to give a few examples, but to find out all of the ways to obtain an indulgence, I recommend that you obtain a copy of the Manual of Indulgences.

There are many ways to obtain a partial indulgence. Some of the more common are: voluntarily abstaining from something you enjoy, performing an act of charity, blessing yourself “In the name of the Father, etc”, visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead, and any number of prayers detailed in the Handbook.

The requirements for a plenary indulgence are :

1. Performance of the indulgenced work (some examples are: Adoration of the cross on Good Friday, receiving First Communion or attending and participating in the ceremony, participating in the first Mass of a recently ordained priest, reading scripture for 30 minutes, reciting the rosary in a Church or in a family setting and numerous other special circumstances as announced by the pope)

2. *Sacramental confession.

3. *Holy Communion.

4. *Prayer for the intentions of the pope. (Traditionally an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, but other prayers may be substituted.)

5. The exclusion of all attachment to sin (This is a tough one to judge, but we need to have a strong desire to avoid sin (mortal and venial) during the time of the indulgence. If that is not the case (and only God really knows our intentions), the indulgence will be partial. In order to avoid discouragement, please remember that the Church does want indulgences to be attainable, so this is not an impossible requirement!

(* NOTE – These may be carried out several days preceding or following the prescribed work, but it is more fitting that the communion and prayer for the pope’s intentions take place on the day that the work is performed. Several plenary indulgences can be gained on the basis of a single sacramental confession, but only one may be gained on the basis of a single Eucharistic communion and prayer for the pope’s intention. Additionally, only one plenary indulgence may be obtained daily, but many partial indulgences may be obtained each day.)

In addition to the Manual of Indulgences, more information can be found in Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution, “Indulgentiarum Doctrina” which can be found online here. Please try to take advantage of this tremendous gift of indulgences, especially for your loved ones who have passed on.

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