What is an indulgence?
“An indulgence is the remission before God of temporal punishment for sins, whose guilt is already forgiven (through the sacrament of confession), which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful obtains under certain and clearly defined conditions through the intervention of the Church, which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies authoritatively the treasury of the expiatory works of Christ and the saints.” (Norm 1)
To sum it up, an indulgence is a grace granted by Jesus Christ through the authority of the pope for particular acts of charity done by the faithful that remits the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
What is temporal punishment?
Temporal punishment is “purification of the unhealthy attachment to creatures, which is a consequence of sin that perdures [endures] even after death. We must be purified either during our earthly life through prayer and a conversion which comes from fervent charity, or after death in purgatory.” (CCC glossary)
What happens when I go to confession then?
Sin has a double consequence: eternal punishment and temporal punishment. When a person goes to confession and confesses their mortal and venial sins, they are forgiven of the eternal punishment, which cut them off from communion with God and eternal life, but the temporal punishment still remains.
A wood board can be used as an analogy, though imperfect, to try to explain this. When we are baptized, we are forgiven of any sins committed and the stain of original sin—we have a smooth piece of wood. Over time, when we commit sins, nails are hammered into the board. When we go to confession, we are forgiven of our sins—the nails are removed. However, the board is still marred by the sins we committed. These holes can only be filled in by prayer and works of charity, which leads to a conversion of heart.
Two kinds of indulgences
An indulgence is partial [removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin] or plenary [removes all of the punishment due to sin] insofar as it partially or totally frees from the temporal punishment due to sins. (Norm 2)
Graces offered through indulgences do two things:
How is an indulgence granted?
- Strengthen one's own faith and hope.
- Allow one to perform supreme acts of charity towards others, especially the poor souls in purgatory.
To gain a plenary indulgence, one must be detached from all sin and must fulfill the following three conditions: a sacramental confession, receive our Lord in Holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the pope. These must be done within 14 days before or after the work of mercy, however, it is best to receive Holy Communion and pray for the Holy Father the same day as the work is done. If these requirements are not met, the indulgence is partial. (Norm 7 and 8)
Explain “detached from all sin.”
After an individual receives the sacrament of reconciliation, we are to leave with the desire to sin no more. That is what the detachment from all sin is referring to: we are to desire to sin no more. Thus, we can’t be intending to sin later in the day and thereafter. It’s not about us never falling again.
- When unsure of whether or not you’re detached from all sin, express the sincere desire to sin no more and perform the three conditions for the plenary indulgence and entrust yourself to Christ.
- It is recommended to offer these indulgences for the holy souls in purgatory, who depend on our prayers and works of charity.
- Only one plenary indulgence can be received on a single day, with the exception of those at the point of death. (Norm 6)
- More than one partial indulgence can be received each day, unless otherwise stated. (Norm 6)
- One sacramental confession done within 14 days meets the condition for any plenary indulgences received during this time frame. So, make a habit of going to confession every two weeks! (Norm 9)
The following indulgence opportunities have been taken from the Manual of Indulgences published by the USCCB in 1999. The citation following the explanation indicates the grant number/section.
- Eucharistic Adoration. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who visit the Blessed Sacrament for adoration lasting at least a half hour. (G7,1.1)
- A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who visit the Blessed Sacrament for adoration; (G7,2.1)
- A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who offer any duly approved prayer to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., the Adoro te devote, the prayer O sacrum convivium, or Tantum ergo). (G7,2.2)
- Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who read the Sacred Scriptures as spiritual reading, from a text approved by competent authority and with the reverence due to the divine word, for at least a half an hour; if time is less, the indulgence will be partial. (G30,1)
- If for some good reason a person is unable to read the Sacred Scriptures, a plenary or partial indulgence is granted, as above, if the text of Sacred Scripture is listened to while another person is reading or if it is heard by means of a video or audio recording. (G30,2)
- Rosary. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who:
- Devoutly recite the Marian rosary in a church or oratory, or in a family, a religious community, or an association of the faithful, and in general when several of the faithful gather for some honest purpose; (G17,1.1)
- Or devoutly join in the recitation of the rosary while it is being recited by the Supreme Pontiff and broadcast live by radio or television. (G17,1.2)
- In other circumstances, the indulgence is partial. For these indulgences, you must: recite the 5 decades without interruption, devoutly mediate on the mysteries, and announce the mysteries during public recitation of the rosary.
- Communion. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who using any duly approved pious formula, make
- an act of spiritual communion; (G8,2.1)
- an act of thanksgiving after Communion (eg. Anima Christi; En ego, O bone et dulcissime Iesu). (G8,2.2)
- Mental Prayer. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who for their personal edification devoutly spend time in mental prayer. (G15)
- Renew Baptismal Promises. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who renew their baptismal vows in any formula; (G28, 2.1)
- Sign of the Cross. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly sign themselves with the sign of the cross, using the customary words: In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen; (G28,2.2)
- The Creed. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly recite either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed; (G28,2.3)
- Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who Recite an Act of Faith, Hope, and Charity in any legitimate formula. (G28,2.4)
- Examination of Conscience. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, especially in preparation for sacramental confession, examine their conscience with the purpose of amendment; (G9,1)
- Act of Contrition. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, especially in preparation for sacramental confession, devoutly recite an act of contrition, according to any legitimate formula (e.g., the Confiteor, the psalm De profundis, or the psalm Miserere, or any of the gradual or penitential psalms). (G9,2)
- Christian Doctrine. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who teach or study Christian doctrine. (G6)
- Magnificat. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly recite the canticle of the Magnificat. (G17,2.1)
- Angelus. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who either at dawn, noon or evening devoutly recite the Angelus with its accompanying versicles and prayer or, during the Easter season, the Regina caeli antiphon with its usual prayer; (G17,2.2)
- Marian Prayers. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly address the Blessed Virgin Mary with some approved prayer (e.g. Maria, Mater gratiae; the Memorare; the Salve Regina; the Sancta Maria, succurre miseris; or the Sub tuum praesidium.) (G17,2.3)
- Before/After Meals, Start/End of Day. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who,
- At the beginning and end of the day,
- In starting and completing their work,
- Before and after meals,
Devoutly offer some legitimately approved prayer of supplication and act of thanksgiving (e.g., Actiones nostras; Adsumus; Agimus Tibi gratias; Benedic, Domine; Domine, Deus Omnipotens; Exaudi no; the Te Deum; the Veni Creator; the Veni Sancte Spiritus; Visita, quaesumus, Domine). (N26,2.1-3)
Agimus tibi gratias
We give You thanks, Almighty God, for all your blessings: who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen
Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts, which we are about to receive from your bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Pray for Pope. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who in a spirit of filial devotion, devoutly recite any duly approved prayer for the Supreme Pontiff (e.g., the Oremus pro Pontifice). (G25,1)
Oremus pro Pontifice
V. Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Francis.
R. The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth,
and deliver him not to the will of his enemies.
- St. Joseph. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who invoke St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a duly approved prayer (e.g., Ad te, beate Ioseph). (G19)
Ad te, beate Ioseph
To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also. Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities. O most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness. As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
- Sts. Peter and Paul. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly recite the prayer Sancti Apostoli Petre et Paule. (G20)
Sancti Apostoli Petre et Paule
Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, intercede for us. Guard your people, who rely on the patronage of your apostles Peter and Paul, O Lord, and keep them under your continual protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Saint’s Feast Days. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who on the memorial of any saint listed in the calendar recite in that saint’s honor the prayer taken from the Missal or another one approved by legitimate authority. (G21,1)
- New Blesseds and Saints. In order to promote the veneration of newly proclaimed saints and blessed, a plenary indulgence is granted a single time within the year following the canonization or beatification to those faithful who make a visit to a church or an oratory in which a solemn celebrations is held in honor of the saint or blessed, and who there devoutly recite the Our Father and the Creed. To any of the faithful who make the aforesaid pious visit during the same period, a partial indulgence is granted. (G21,2)
- Guardian Angel. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly invoke the care of their guardian angel with a duly approved prayer (e.g. Angele Dei). (G18)
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom his love entrusts me here, enlighten and guard,
rule and guide me. Amen.
Calendar Day Opportunities
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly assist either at the recitation or solemn singing of: the Veni Creator, on the first day of the year (January 1st) to implore divine assistance for the course of the whole year. (G26,1.1)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who on any of the Fridays of Lent devoutly recite after Communion the prayer En ego, O bone et dulcissime Iesu before a crucifix. (G8,1.2)
En ego, O bone et dulcissime Iesu
Here, O good and gentle Jesus, I kneel before you, and with all the fervor of my soul I pray that you engrave within my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and love, true repentance for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment. While I see and I ponder your five wounds with great affection and sorrow in my soul, I have before my eyes those words of yours that David prophesied about you: "They have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones" (Ps 22:17). Amen.
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who piously recite the verses of the Tantum ergo after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday during the solemn reposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament. (G7,1.2)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly assist at the adoration of the Cross in the solemn liturgical action of Good Friday. (G13,1)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who, at the celebration of the Easter Vigil or on the anniversary of their own Baptism, renew their baptismal vows in any legitimately approved formula. (G28,1)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who, on the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus publicly recite the act of reparation (Iesu dulcissime); a partial indulgence is granted for its use in other circumstances. (G3)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly participate in a solemn Eucharistic procession, held inside or outside a church, of greatest importance on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. (G7,1.3)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who, on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (June 29) make prayerful use of an article of devotion, as defined by Norm 15, that has been blessed by the Supreme Pontiff or by any bishop, provided the faithful also make a profession of faith using any legitimate formula. (G14,1)
- A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly use such articles of devotion properly blessed by a priest or deacon.(G14,2)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who visit, and there devoutly recite an Our Father and the Creed, the Cathedral or parish church on August 2, the day of “Portiuncula” indulgence. (G33,1.3e; G33,1.5b)
- A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
- On any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed. (G29,1.1) (A partial indulgence is granted if this act is done during the rest of the year. G29,2.1)
- On All Souls’ Day or on the Sunday following it, devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed. (G29,1.2)
- A partial indulgence, only applicable to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Eternal rest. (G29,2.2)
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who visit, and there devoutly recite an Our Father and the Creed, the cathedral church on the dedication of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior (St. John Lateran, November 9); (G33,1.3d)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who, on the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, publicly recite the act of dedication of the human race to Christ the King (Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor); a partial indulgence is granted for its use in other circumstances. (G2)
Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to the Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
- A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly recite a prayer taken from the Missal for the bishop of an eparchy or diocese on the occasion of the beginning of his pastoral ministry or on its anniversary (November 30th for Bishop Kagan). (G25,2)
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly assist either at the recitation or solemn singing of the Te Deum, on the final day of the year (December 31) to offer thanks to God for gifts received throughout the course of the entire year. (G26,1.2)
- Family Consecration. A plenary indulgence is granted to the members of the family on the day on which it is first consecrated, if at all possible by a priest or deacon, to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus or to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, if they devoutly recite the duly approved prayer before an image of the Sacred Heart or the Holy Family; on the anniversary of the consecration, the indulgence will be partial. (G1)
- First Communion. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who receive Holy Communion for the first time or devoutly assist at the first Holy Communion of others. (G8,1.1)
- Papal Blessing. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly receive a blessing imparted either by the Supreme Pontiff to Rome and the World (Urbi et Orbi), or by the bishop who care of the faithful are entrusted in accordance Norm 7, 2 of this Manual, even if, because of reasonable circumstances they are unable to be present physically at the sacred rite, provided that they follow it devoutly as it is broadcast live by television or radio. (G4)
- Retreat. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who spend at least three entire days in the spiritual exercises of a retreat. (G10,1)
- Parish Mission A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who on the occasion of a mission have heard some of the sermons and are present for the solemn conclusion of the mission. (G16,1)
- Month of Recollection. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who take part in a month of recollection. (G10,2)
- Priest’s First Mass. A plenary indulgence is granted to
- a priest celebrating his first Mass before the people on a chosen day;
- the faithful who devoutly assist at such a Mass. (G27,1.1-2)
- Jubilees. A plenary indulgence is granted to
- priests celebrating their 25th, 50th, 60th, and 70th anniversary of their priestly ordinations, who renew before God their promise of faithfully fulfilling the duties of their vocation; (G27, 2.1)
- bishops celebrating the 25th, 40th, and 50th anniversaries of their episcopal ordination, who renew before God their promise of faithfully fulfilling the duties of their office; (G27, 2.2)
- the faithful who devoutly assist at jubilee Mass celebrations. (G27, 2.3)
- Point of Death. A priest who administers the sacraments to someone in danger of death should not fail to impart the apostolic blessing to which a plenary indulgence is attached. (G12,1)
- If a priest is unavailable, Holy Mother Church benevolently grants to the Christian faithful, who are duly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime; in such a case, the Church supplies for the three conditions ordinarily required for a plenary indulgence. (G12,2)
- Diocesan Synod. A plenary indulgence is granted a single time to the faithful who, during a diocesan synod, devoutly visit the church in which the synod is celebrated and there recite an Our Father and the Creed. (G31)