"Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sins for themselves and also for the souls of Purgatory"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1498)
What is an indulgence? Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say:
An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.
"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead." (1471)
Jesus gave to his disciples, and therefore to the Church, the power to bind and to loose, and down through the centuries, in many different ways, the Church has used this channel of the mercy of God towards the living and the dead.
Everything concerning indulgences was revised by Pope Paul VI; the results can be found in The Book of Indulgences, Rules and Grants, published June 29, 1968 (Vatican Publishers).
"The aim pursued by ecclesiastical authority in granting indulgences is not only that of helping the faithful to expiate the punishment due to sin, but also that of urging them to perform works of piety, penitence and charity--particularly those which lead to growth in faith and which favor the common good."
"And if the faithful offer indulgences in suffrage for the dead, they cultivate charity in an excellent way and while raising their minds to heaven they bring a wiser order into the things of this world."
"Although indulgences are in fact free gifts, nevertheless they are granted for the living as well as for the dead only on determined conditions...the faithful have to love God, detest sin, place their trust in the merits of Christ and believe firmly in the great assistance they derive from the communion of saints."
As a result of the reform, all distinctions of day, month, and year have been abolished; the only distinction retained is that between plenary and partial indulgence.
We should also note the following:
NO ONE PERSON CAN GIVE THE INDULGENCE HE OBTAINS TO ANOTHER PERSON WHO IS STILL LIVING.
BOTH PLENARY AND PARTIAL INDULGENCES CAN ALWAYS BE GIVEN FOR THE DEAD.
"The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular or medal) properly blessed by any priest, can acquire a partial indulgence. But if this object is blessed by the Supreme Pontiff or any bishop, the faithful who use it devoutly can also acquire a plenary indulgence on the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, provided they also make a profession of faith using any legitimate formula."
In Medjugorje, on July 18, 1995, Our Lady said:
"Dear children, today I call you to place more blessed objects in your homes and call everyone to put some blessed object on their person. Bless all objects, and thus Satan will attack you less because you will have armor against him."
"To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent."
The condition of praying for the Supreme Pontiff's intention is fully satisfied by reciting one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary." Nevertheless, the individual faithful are free to recite any other prayer according to their own piety and devotion toward the Supreme Pontiff.
The new reform provides for three concessions:
1. Partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, in fulfilling their duties and in facing the adversities of life, raise their souls to God with humble confidence, and add in their heart a pious invocation.
2. Partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, with a soul full of faith and mercy, give themselves of their goods to their brothers in need.
3. Partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, in a spirit of repentance, deprive themselves spontaneously of something.
Plenary indulgence can be obtained on the following occasions:
1. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least one half-hour.
2. Recitation of the entire rosary in church, as a family or in community.
3. Making the Stations of the Cross.
4. Reading Holy Scripture for at least one half-hour.
5. A church visit between Noon of November 1 and Midday of November 2, for the intention of the deceased.
6. Visiting a cemetery, for the intention of the deceased.
7. Taking part in a First Holy Communion ceremony, or the first Mass of a Priest, or the anniversary of 25, 50, or 60 years of priesthood.
8. Renewing one's baptismal promise during the Easter Vigil.
9. Adoration of the Cross during the Good Friday liturgy.
10. Papal benediction, even when received listening to the radio or watching on television.
By going to confession regularly, one can obtain many plenary indulgences.
Only one plenary indulgence a day is permitted, but one may obtain a number of partial indulgences on one day by reciting certain prayers suggested by the Church.
Here are some of the principal concessions of plenary indulgences within reach of most Catholics.
1. Remain in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at least half an hour.
2. The participation in the Adoration of the Cross, on Good Friday.
3. Spiritual exercises of at least three days.
4. Those who make their first Communion or who assist at another's first Communion.
5. Praying at least five decades of the rosary in a church or chapel, or else in family, a religious community or a pious association. The conditions are that the five decades be prayed without interruption; meditation on the mysteries must be added to the vocal recitation; and in public recitation the mysteries must be announced according to approved local custom.
6. Celebrating or assisting at a priest's first solemn Mass, or at his 25th, 50th or 60th anniversary Mass. The priest should also renew before God his proposal to faithfully fulfill the obligations of his vocation.
7. Visiting a church or altar on the day of its dedication and praying an Our Father and a Creed.
8. Renewing one's baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil or on the anniversary of one's baptism.
9. Reading sacred Scripture as spiritual reading with the devotion due to God’s Word for at least a half-hour.
10. Making the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross. This must be done at legitimately erected stations, which require 14 crosses to which other images or statues may be added.
The Way of the Cross usually consists of 14 sacred readings, to which some vocal prayers may be added.
However, to fulfill the pious exercise it is enough to meditate on the Lord's passion and death, with no need to make a particular consideration regarding each individual station. Thus, one may also meditate on episodes of the Passion that differ from the traditional 14 stations.
It is also necessary to move from one station to the next, although, if during a public celebration the whole group cannot easily move, it is sufficient that the person who guides the stations move from one station to the next.
If someone is legitimately impeded from doing the stations, he or she may obtain the same indulgence through pious reading and meditation on the Lord's passion and death for about 15 minutes or so.
11. Devoutly receiving a papal blessing including those imparted "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world) such as is customary at Easter and Christmas, and received through live transmission by radio, television or Internet.
The local bishop may also impart the apostolic blessing three times a year on dates of their choosing, at the end of a specially solemn Mass.
12. Each Friday of Lent a plenary indulgence is granted to those who piously recite the prayer "Look down upon Me, Good and Gentle Jesus" after Communion, before an image of Christ crucified. This prayer is among those offered in the missal for thanksgiving after Communion.
13. "To the faithful in danger of death, who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing with its plenary indulgence, Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or a cross to gain this indulgence is praiseworthy.
"The condition, provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime, supplies in such cases for the three usual conditions required for the gaining of a plenary indulgence".
"The plenary indulgence at the point of death can be acquired by the faithful, even if they have already obtained another plenary indulgence on the same day." (Enchiridion of Indulgences)
Apart from the plenary indulgences, Catholics do well to be aware that most of their habitual prayers, sacrifices and habitual service to others, from the sign of the cross to the Hail Mary, are endowed with partial indulgences which increase their weight before God and give them an opportunity to exercise selfless charity in offering their prayers in benefit of the souls in purgatory."
The Enchiridion of Indulgences
Issued by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, 1968
+ Joseph Cardinal Ferretto,
Titular Bishop of the Suburban Church
of Sabina and Poggio Mirteto,
Originally published by Liberia Editrice Vatican,
Vatican City, 1968
This is a digest of the works and prayers listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences. The Enchiridion recites each indulgenced prayer in full. Because most are recognizable they will only be listed by name. The un- translated Enchiridion lists each work and prayer in alphabetical order by their Latin names. The order shall remain the same in this listing. The descriptions of the works and details regarding obtaining the indulgence will be edited and abreviated in this listing. The following is not represented to be an exact reprint of the Enchiridion but an accurate digest of what constitutes an approved indulgenced work by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary.
In all but the plenary indulgence of In Articulo Mortis, at the moment of death, a plenary indulgence mentioned below MUST be accompanied by the three prerequisites of a plenary indulgence.
1. Sacramental Confession,
2. Communion, and
3. Prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time.
Thus the formula for obtaining a plenary indulgence are the three constants mentioned above plus any one of the variable works mentioned below as being worthy of a plenary indulgence.
1. Direct, we beg you, O Lord.(Prayer from Roman Ritual) Partial indulgence.
2. Acts of the Theological Virtues and of Contrition. A partial indulgence is granted to those who devoutly recite, according to any legitimate formula, the acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition.
3. ADORATION OF THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament for at least one half hour (together with the three prerequisites (constants) of a plenary indulgence. A partial indulgence is granted to those who visit and adore the Most Blessed Sacrament without the three constants or for any period less than one half hour.
4. Hidden God (Adoro te devote) -- hymn, partial indulgence.
5. We have come (Adsumus) -- prayer, partial indulgence.
6. To you, O blessed Joseph (Ad te, beate Ioseph) --- prayer, partial indulgence.
7. We Give You Thanks ---- prayer from Roman Breviary, partial indulgence
8. Angel Of God --- prayer, partial indulgence.
9. The Angel Of The Lord --- prayer, partial indulgence.
10. Soul of Christ (Anima Christi) --- prayer, partial indulgence.
11. Visit to the Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome. A PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who devoutly visit one of the Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome and recite one Our Father and the Creed,
1. On the titular feast of the Basilica;
2. On any Holy Day of Obligation;
3. Once a year on any other day of one's choice. (Remember the three constants are also required to obtain ANY plenary indulgence.)
12. PAPAL BLESSING. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who "piously and devoutly" receive, even by radio, the Blessing of the Pope when imparted to Rome and the world (Urbi et Orbi). (3 constants.)
13. Visit to a Cemetery. Only applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is bestowed for this work each day between November 1 and November 8.
14. Visit to a "Catacomb" (early Christian cemetery.) Partial indulgence.
15. Act of spiritual Communion according to any pious formula -- partial indulgence.
16. Recitation of the Apostles Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolian Creed -- partial indulgence.
17. ADORATION OF THE CROSS. A PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who in solemn liturgical action of Good Friday devoutly assist in at the adoration of the Cross and kiss it.
18. Office of the dead. A partial indulgence to those who devoutly recite Lauds or Vespers of the Office of the Dead.
19. "Out of the Depths" (De profundis). Psalm 129. Partial indulgence to those who recite.
20. Christian Doctrine. Partial indulgence to those who take part in teaching or learning christian doctrine.
21. "Lord God Almighty." (Roman Breviary.) Partial indulgence.
22. "Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus." "Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech you to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, while I contemplate with great love and tender pity your five wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David, your prophet, said of you, my good Jesus: "They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones." PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited on a Friday in Lent and Passiontide, when recited after Communion before an image of Christ crucified. On any other day the indulgence is partial.
23. Eucharistic Congress. PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who devoutly participate in the customary solemn eucharistic rite at the close of a Eucharistic Congress.
24. "Hear Us" (Roman Ritual) -- partial indulgence.
25. RETREAT. (Exercitia spiritualia). PLENARY INDULGENCE to those who spend at least three (3) whole days in the spiritual excercises of a retreat.
26. "Most sweet Jesus --Act of Reparation" PLENARY INDULGENCE when this prayer is publicly recited on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Otherwise the indulgence is partial.
27. "Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer -- Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King." PLENARY INDULGENCE when this prayer is publicly recited on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King. Otherwise the indulgence is partial.
28. The Moment of Death (In articulo mortis). PLENARY INDULGENCE. EXCEPTION TO THE THREE CONSTANTS. (Verbatim recitation of the grant follows:) "To the faithful in danger of death, who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing with its plenary indulgence (see can. 468, Sec.2 of Code of Canon Law), Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or a cross to gain this indulgence is praiseworthy." The condition: 'provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime' supplies in such cases for the three usual conditions required for the gaining of a plenary indulgence." The plenary indulgence at the point of death can be acquired by the faithful, even if they have already obtained another plenary indulgence on the same day."
29. Litanies. Partial indulgence to those who recite the following litanies: the litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus; The litany of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; The litany of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ; The litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The litany of St. Joseph; and the litany of All Saints.
30. "The Magnificat". Partial indulgence.
31. "Mary, Mother of Grace." (Roman Ritual) Partial indulgence.
32. "The Memorare." (Remember, O Most gracious Virgin Mary.) Partial Indulgence.
33. "The Miserere" (Have mercy of me.) Psalm 50. Partial indulgence.
34. Novena Devotions. Partial indulgence to those who participate in a public novena before the feast of Christmas or Pentecost, or the Immaculate Conception.
35. Use of Articles of Devotion. (Verbatim follows:) "The faithful, who devoutly use an article of devotion (crucifix or cross, rosary, scapular or medal) properly blessed by any priest, obtain a partial indulgence. "But if the article of devotion has been blessed by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any Bishop, the faithful, using it, can also gain a PLENARY INDULGENCE on the feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, provided they also make a profession of faith according to any legitimate formula."
36. Little Offices. The following Little Offices are each enriched with a partial indulgence: the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph.
37. Prayer for Sacerdotal or Religious Vocations. Partial indulgence is granted to those who recite a prayer approved by ecclesiastical Authority for the above intention.
38. Mental Prayer. Partial indulgence to those who spend some time in pious mental prayer.
39. "Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff" (Roman Breviary) Partial Indulgence.
40. "O Sacred Banquet" (Roman Breviary) Partial indulgence.
41. Assistance as Sacred Preaching. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who attend a Mission, hear some of the sermons and are present for the solemn close of the Mission. A partial indulgence is granted to those who assist with devotion and attention at the sacred preaching of the Word of God.
42. FIRST COMMUNION. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who receive Communion for the first time or to those who ASSIST at the sacred ceremonies of a First Communion.
43. First Mass of a Newly Ordained Priest. PLENARY INDULGENCE granted to the priest and to the faithful who devoutly assist at the same Mass.
44. "Prayer for Unity of the Church." Partial indulgence.
45. Monthly Recollection. Partial indulgence to those who take part in a monthly retreat.
46. "Eternal Rest." A partial indulgence only to the souls in purgatory. "Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace."
47. "May it Please you, O Lord." Partial indulgence. "May it please you, O Lord, to reward with eternal life all those who do good to us for your Name's sake. Amen."
48. RECITATION OF THE MARIAN ROSARY. (The following is verbatim.) "A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted, if the Rosary is recited IN A CHURCH OR PUBLIC ORATORY OR IN A FAMILY GROUP, A RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY OR PIOUS ASSOCIATION; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances. "Now the Rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of fifteen decades of 'Hail Marys' with an 'Our Father' before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our Redemption. "The name 'Rosary,' however, is commonly used in reference to only a third of the fifteen decades. "The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms: "
1. The recitation of a third part only of the Rosary suffices; but the five decades must be recited continuously. 2. The vocal recitation MUST be accompanied by pious meditation on the mysteries. "
3. In public recitation the mysteries must be announced in the manner customary in the place; for private recitation, however, it suffices if the vocal recitation is accompanied by meditation on the mysteries. "
4. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this devotion is not practiced, the Patriarchs can determine some other prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for those of the Byzantine rite, for example, the Hymn 'Akathistos' or the Office 'Paraclisis'); to the prayers thus determined are accorded the same indulgences as for the Rosary."
49. Jubilees of Sacerdotal Ordination. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to a priest on the 25th, 50th and 60th anniversaries of his ordination when he renews before God his resolve to faithfully fulfill the duties of his vocation. If the priest celebrates a jubilee Mass, the faithful who assist at it can acquire a Plenary Indulgence.
50. READING OF SACRED SCRIPTURE. While a partial indulgence is granted to those who read from Sacred Scripture with the veneration which the divine word is due, a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who read for at least one half an hour.
51. "Hail Holy Queen." (Roman Breviary.) Partial indulgence.
52. "Holy Mary, help the helpless." (Roman Breviary.) Partial indulgence.
53. "Holy Apostles Peter and Paul." (Roman Missal.) Partial indulgence.
54. Veneration of the Saints. Partial indulgence granted to those who on the feast of any Saint recite in his honor the oration of the Missal or any other approved by legitimate Authority.
55. Sign of the Cross. Partial indulgence.
56. A Visit to the Stational Churches of Rome. A partial indulgence is granted to those who on the day indicated in the Roman Missal devoutly visit the stational church in Rome named for that day' but if they also assist at the sacred functions celebrated in the morning or evening, a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted.
57. "We fly to your Patronage." Partial indulgence.
58. Diocesan Synod. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who during the time of a diocesan Synod, devoutly visit the church in which it is being held and there recite one Our Father and the Creed.
59. "Down in Adoration Falling" (Tantum ergo) (Roman Breviary) PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited on Holy Thursday and the feast of Corpus Christi. Otherwise a partial indulgence is granted for recitation.
60. The Te Deum. PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited publicly on the last day of the year. Otherwise a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite the Te Deum in thanksgiving.
61. "Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest." PLENARY INDULGENCE if recited on the first of January or on the feast of the Pentecost. Otherwise, a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite it.
62. "Come, Holy Spirit" Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. (Roman Missal) Partial indulgence.
63. EXERCISE OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS. PLENARY INDULGENCE. A Plenary indulgence is granted to those who piously make the Way of the Cross.
The gaining of the indulgence is regulated by the following rules:
1. Must be done before stations of the cross legitimately erected.
2. 14 stations are required. Although it is customary for the icons to represent pictures or images, 14 simple crosses will suffice.
3. The common practice consists of fourteen pious readings to which some vocal prayers are added.. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
4. A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the stations are made publicly and it is not possible for everyone taking part to go from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their places.
5. Those who are "impeded" can gain the same indulgence if they spend at least one half and hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death for the gaining of this indulgence.
64. "Visit, we beg you, O Lord." (Roman Breviary) Partial Indulgence.
65. Visit to the Parochial Church. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who devoutly visit the parochial church either on its titular feast or on the 2nd of August when the indulgence of the "Portiuncula" occurs. In visiting the church IT IS REQUIRED that one Our Father and the Creed be recited. Both indulgences can be acquired either on the day designated above or on some other day designated by the Ordinary (bishop) for the benefit of the faithful. The same indulgences apply to the Cathedral church and, where there is one, to a Co-Cathedral church, even if they are not parochial churches; they apply to quasi-parochial churches also.
66. Visit to a Church or an Altar on the day of its consecration. PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who visit a church or an altar on the day itself of its consecration, and there recite on Our Father and the Creed.
67. Visit to a Church or Oratory on All Souls Day. PLENARY INDULGENCE. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or -for those entitled to use it, a semi public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.
68. Visit to a Church or Oratory of Religious on the Feast of the Holy Founder. A PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted to those who piously visit a church or oratory of a religious order on the feastday of its canonized founder, and there recite one Our Father and the Creed.
69. Pastoral Visitation. Partial indulgence to those who visit a church during the time that a pastoral visitation is being held. But a PLENARY INDULGENCE, to be gained only once during the visitation, is granted if during the time of the visitation they assist at a sacred function at which the Visitator presides.
70. Renewal of Baptismal Promises. A partial indulgence is granted to those who renew their baptismal promises according to any formula in use; but a PLENARY INDULGENCE is granted if this is done in celebration of the Paschal Vigil or on the anniversary of one's baptism.
"Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sins for themselves and also for the souls of Purgatory"