XVI. INDULGENCES

A brief summary of the Church’s teaching on indulgences is provided to help make use of these treasures the Church offers us, purifying our heart from all attachment to sin and guiding it toward the will of God in every aspect of our lives. Then follows a list of prayers, works and objects that the Church enriches with a partial or plenary indulgence.

Every sin involves both guilt and punishment. The guilt is forgiven in confession, but part of the temporal punishment for sin often remains and must be remitted in this life or the next. The Church has the power to remit this punishment by means of indulgences.

An indulgence is the remission in the sight of God of the temporal punishment due for sins, the guilt of which has already been forgiven. A member of Christ’s faithful who is properly disposed and who fulfills certain specific conditions, may gain an indulgence by the help of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints.

An indulgence is partial or plenary, depending on whether it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

No one gaining an indulgence may apply it to other living persons. Both partial and plenary indulgences can be applied to the dead by way of suffrage.

To be capable of gaining indulgences a person must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least on the completion of the prescribed work, besides being a subject of the person who has the power to grant the indulgences. A person capable of gaining indulgences in order to actually receive them must have at least the general intention of so doing, and must fulfill the prescribed works at the time and in the manner determined by the terms under which it has been granted.

The requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are the performance of the indulgenced work and the fulfillment of three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the Pope’s intentions. A further requirement is the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin; that is, there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce.

The three conditions may be carried out several days preceding or following performance of the prescribed work. But it is more fitting that Communion and prayer for the Pope’s intentions take place on the day this work is performed.

The condition requiring prayer for the Pope’s intentions is completely satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary for his intentions; nevertheless all the faithful are at liberty to recite other prayers suited to their own customs and devotion.

Any of the faithful who, being at least inwardly contrite, perform a work enriched with a partial indulgence, receive through the Church a remission of temporal punishment equivalent to what they already receive by virtue of the act itself.

A plenary indulgence may be gained only once on any one day; the rule regarding those on the verge of death is an exception.

A partial indulgence may be gained many times a day unless something different is explicitly stated. Partial indulgences are granted to the Christian faithful who:

  1. in the performance of their duties and in bearing the trials of life, raise their minds with humble confidence to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation;
  2. prompted by a spirit of faith, devote themselves or their goods in compassionate service to their brothers and sisters in need;
  3. in a spirit of penance, voluntarily deprive themselves of what is licit and pleasing to them.

Some prayers and works enriched with a partial indulgence:

  1. Every act of faith, hope, charity, and contrition, prayed devoutly in any authorized form
  2. A visit to the Blessed Sacrament for the purpose of adoration
  3. The Prayer to the Guardian Angel
  4. The Angelus and the Regina Caeli recited in their respective seasons
  5. The Anima Christi
  6. An act of spiritual communion
  7. The Creed
  8. Teaching or studying Christian doctrine
  9. The litany of the saints, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, etc.
  10. The Magnificat
  11. The Memorare
  12. The Miserere
  13. Prayer for priestly and religious vocations
  14. Mental prayer or meditation
  15. Prayer for the Pope
  16. Private recitation of the Rosary
  17. A reading from sacred Scripture
  18. The Hail Holy Queen
  19. The Sign of the Cross
  20. The prayer Under Your Protection
  21. The Tantum Ergo
  22. The Te Deum
  23. The Hymn to the Holy Spirit
  24. The renewal of baptismal promises

Prayers and works blessed with a plenary indulgence include:

  1. A visit in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least half an hour.
  2. A devotional visit to one of the four papal basilicas in Rome (namely, St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major on their titular feast day, on Sundays and any holy day of obligation, and once a year on any other day of one’s choice.
  3. The papal blessing imparted urbi et orbi, and received piously and devoutly, even when this takes place solely via radio or television.
  4. Visiting a cemetery between November 1–8 and praying, even silently, for the dead. This indulgence is applicable only to the souls in purgatory.
  5. Adoration of the cross during the solemn liturgical ceremony on Good Friday.
  6. The faithful who receive their first Communion or devoutly participate in that Mass.
  7. Priests who celebrate their first Mass with a congregation and the faithful who devoutly participate in it.
  8. Taking part in spiritual exercises at least three days in length.
  9. Praying the Rosary in a church or a public oratory, with family members, in a religious community, or in a prayer group.
  10. Reading sacred Scripture for at least half an hour.
  11. The Te Deum, when it is said in a public celebration on the last day of the year.
  12. The Veni Creator, when it is said in a public celebration on the first day of the year and on Pentecost Sunday.
  13. The Way of the Cross in the presence of stations legitimately erected. According to common practice, the Way of the Cross consists of fourteen readings to which some vocal prayers are added. This is not indispensable; devout meditation on the passion and death of the Lord suffices. Unless hindered from doing so, you should move from one station to another. Whenever there is a public Way of the Cross, it is enough for the leader to move from one station to another while the rest of the participants remain in their places.
  14. The renewal of baptismal promises during the celebration of the Easter Vigil or on the anniversary of your own baptism.
  15. The Prayer to Jesus Crucified, recited devoutly in the presence of a crucifix after Communion on any Friday during Lent or on Good Friday.
  16. Recitation of the Act of Reparation, using the approved text, during a public celebration on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
  17. Recitation of the Act of Consecration of Mankind to Christ the King, using the approved text, during a public celebration on the feast of Christ the King.
  18. A visit to the cathedral of your diocese or to your parish church, on its titular feast day or on August 2 (unless the local ordinary determines another date).
  19. Devout attendance at the final liturgical celebration of a Eucharistic congress or a popular mission.
  20. If “on the verge of death” there is no priest available to confer the sacraments and the apostolic blessing with the plenary indulgence attached to it, holy Church grants to the dying who are properly disposed a plenary indulgence, provided they have said some prayers regularly during their lifetime. In such a case, this condition substitutes for the three usual conditions.

Some religious articles blessed with indulgences:

  1. A partial indulgence may be gained by devoutly using religious articles blessed by a priest according to the customary rite. Such articles include crucifixes or crosses, rosaries, scapulars, and medals.
  2. If these religious articles have been blessed by the Holy Father or by any bishop, a plenary indulgence may be gained by using them devoutly on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and also praying any approved text of the profession of faith.

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