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” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1471).
There are two types of indulgence: Partial indulgence and Plenary indulgence. A partial indulgence removes only part of the temporal punishment due to sin while a plenary indulgence removes all the temporal punishment due to sin.
A partial indulgence can be acquired more than once a day, unless otherwise expressly indicated. A plenary indulgence may be gained once a day for oneself. No one acquiring plenary indulgences can apply them to other living persons. Partial as well as plenary indulgence can always be applied to the departed by way of suffrage. In order to obtain a plenary indulgence, one must observe the following necessary conditions (referred to hereafter as “the usual conditions” or “the prescribed conditions”):
Sacramental Confession (go to Confession) usually within a week before or after performing the work to which the indulgence is attached. One confession is sufficient for several indulgences.
Eucharistic Communion (Receive Holy Communion). Unlike Confession, only one indulgence may be obtained for each communion.
Prayer for the intentions of the Pope. Like Communion, prayer for the Pope’s intentions must be recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence. Although there are no prescribed prayers, the condition is satisfied by reciting one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary”.
In addition to the above three prescribed conditions, the person who wishes to gain a plenary indulgence must be completely free from attachment to sin, including venial sin.
On December 8th, 2020, Pope Francis declared the beginning of a Year of St. Joseph from December 8th, 2020 until December 8th, 2021, for us to gain the plenary indulgence. We must therefore observe the following throughout the year to do this;
• Meditate for at least 30 minutes on the “Our Father”, or be part of a “spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph”.
• Carry out a corporal or spiritual work of mercy.
• Pray the Holy Rosary “in families…”
• Those can gain a plenary indulgence “who daily entrust their activities to the protection of St. Joseph and all the faithful who invoke with prayer” the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker.
• We can gain a plenary indulgence if we recite the Litany to St. Joseph for the Church persecuted (from inside or outside) and for the relief of Christians who suffer every form of persecution.
• We can also gain a plenary indulgence if we recite any legitimately approved prayer or Act of Piety in honour of St. Joseph, for example, “To you O Blessed Joseph”, especially on his feast days on March 19th and May 1st, on the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, on the 19th of each month and on every Wednesday, the day dedicated to St. Joseph. Under these prayers to St. Joseph, we can also get the indulgence by doing the Consecration to St. Joseph.
By Prof. Michael Ogunu
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