I was going through a prayer booklet and came across indulgences promised for praying certain prayers. 300 days indulgence for this prayer, 500 days indulgence for another prayer. And I was just thinking to myself... how often do we go through life thinking about them? Myself? Barely... once a year at most (Divine Mercy Sunday).
An indulgence (in case you need to refresh your memory like I did) 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. (Okay that was a bit long...it gets simpler from here onwards)
All sins entail an unhealthy attachment to our souls which must be purified either here on earth or after death in a state called Purgatory. An indulgence can be either partial or plenary—it removes part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.
While it is most important to gain the forgiveness of our sins, especially mortal sins, it is also worth paying attention to gaining indulgences—shortening our stay in Purgatory with the hope of avoiding it all together.
So, we should all look out for these little "cheques" that the Church holds out for us to grab, and use them to pay off our time in Purgatory. We should especially look out for the big blank cheques (Plenary Indulgences) that pay off ALL the time we need to spend in purification before we meet God. So if we were to receive a plenary indulgence and die the next moment, we would go straight to heaven!
So here are a few quick "need to know"s in order to obtain these indulgences:
i) We must be in the state of sanctifying grace—no mortal sin
ii) We must have at least the general intention of wanting to gain the indulgences
- You can pray weekly, "Gracious God, I want to gain all the indulgences I can during this week and always"
iii) We carry out exactly, according to the time, place and manner prescribed, all the requirements the Church lays down for the gaining of any particular indulgence.
- For partial indulgences, it can be as simple as reciting a certain prayer
- For plenary indulgences, there is the addition of these conditions
a) sacramental confession
b) eucharistic communion
c) prayer for the intentions of the Pope
d) attachment to sin, even venial, be absent
A plenary indulgence may be gained, under the usual conditions for the recitation of the Rosary (5 decades are sufficient), in a church or public oratory or even in the family.
A plenary indulgence is also attached to The Way of the Cross.
It's amazing (yet so sad) how most of us go through our life missing all the "free goodies" the Church is handing out to us. Realizing this, go and tell your friends to seek to gain what is truly valuable. God Bless.
Ref: A Simple Prayer Book by the Catholic Truth Society
Ref: The Faith Explained by Leo J. Trese