Many Catholics know little about indulgences. There was some interest this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy when Pope Francis declared the opening of holy doors in cathedrals and other churches in all dioceses.
Believers passing through the doors and saying designated prayers would obtain plenary indulgences removing temporal punishment for sins forgiven in confession. And those indulgences can also be offered for the souls in Purgatory, to reduce their period of suffering before going to heaven.
At this point, many of us may lose interest. And that’s the state of our faith today.
Anything about the next life or unseen spiritual matters don’t count as much, if at all, compared with the things we can see, hear, smell, taste, touch and count. Especially count, as in bank balances, cars in the garage, holidays a year, and holiday homes.
So the counting, touching kind may wish to turn the page. But those of us who think that what really counts isn’t always what one can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and calculate, read on. Especially if high on your list are the souls of your dearly departed.
To be with God, we can’t be with sin
So what’s this indulgence thing, and how does it help one’s deceased mother-in-law or any others among one’s beloved dead?
Put simply, indulgences remove any imperfections in our souls imparted by sin. One priest explained it this way: Sins are like nails driven into the wood of our souls. God’s mercy and grace pulls out the nails in the Sacrament of Penance, but holes remain — the sinful wishes and weaknesses that again pull us to sin and away from God.
Indulgences patch up those holes and bring our souls closer to the perfection of God.
As for living, so for the dead. Many people, even devout ones, end their lives with imperfections and sins, which must be purged from their souls through temporal punishments in Purgatory. In this way, they are rid of their sinful aspects and made worthy of entering into the absolute perfection of God.
By offering indulgences for the dead, the faithful help repair the flaws and damage inflicted by sin on the souls suffering in Purgatory.
And only we and the holies in heaven can pray and offer indulgences for the deceased yet to enter heaven. They can’t do it for themselves.
So these coming days of remembering our departed loved ones, let’s do something more than paying respects and offering prayers. With indulgences we directly lift the burdens of sin and punishment from those suffering souls. And if we offer them plenary indulgences, they go immediately to heaven, just like the good thief crucified with Christ.
An indulgence a day …
It’s not hard to earn indulgences, and one can even obtain several in a day. They can be partial, removing some punishment and damage wrought by sin, or plenary, wiping away all of it.
One can earn any number of partial indulgences in a day, but only one plenary indulgence. Here’s how:
First, one must ask for indulgences by praying to obtain them at the start of the day.
Second, one must be in a state of grace with no mortal sin, a grave offense committed with full knowledge of its seriousness, and full consent to violate the law of God. Those of us who may have committed such transgressions, one must first confess them.
Third, one does the act or acts of indulgence. Besides entering holy doors, other acts conferring plenary indulgences are adoring the Blessed Sacrament for half an hour or longer, praying the Holy Rosary in a group or before the Blessed Sacrament, doing the Stations of the Cross, saying certain prayers after communion facing a crucifix, visiting a parish church on its feast day, and studying the Bible for at least 30 minutes.
For a list of indulgenced acts, go to < http://www.catholic.org/prayers/indulgw.php >. One can also get indulgence pamphlets from Santuario de San Jose Parish in Greenhills, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the dead in particular, visiting any cemetery confers indulgences for the souls in Purgatory, and if done November 1 to 8, it’s a plenary indulgence.
Fourth, one goes to confession and receives communion within 20 days before or after the act of indulgence. Communion at Sunday mass and monthly confession are enough for all indulgences earned in a month, with one proviso: to earn a plenary indulgence one must receive communion especially for that.
Fifth, one offers prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions, usually one Our Father and one Hail Mary or Glory Be for every indulgence earned.
Lastly, for plenary indulgences, one must be completely detached from sin, despising every offense, even small ones, and exerting all effort to avoid it. Of course, even with such striving, one may still commit sin, but what’s crucial is the inner resolve not to sin.
If the last condition is not fulfilled — and we may have some sinful ways and weaknesses we do not wish to let go of — then partial indulgences are still earned. And that is still of immense help to ourselves and our beloved dead.
… keeps the devil away
Now here’s the best part about indulgences: earning them actually advances the faithful toward holiness. This is in addition to the grace of repairing the damage done by sin.
Receiving communion and going to confession, resolving to avoid sin, and perfoming the acts of indulgence all lead one to greater devotion to God and His will, which is what holiness is all about.
Reciting the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, and other indulgenced prayers; reading the Bible, performing Temporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, visiting churches and joining processions and other parish activities, and a host of other acts of indulgence all bring our souls close to God’s perfection.
So be more holy and bring your departed loved ones to holiness through indulgences. Certainly a better way to spend the long weekend than hunting Pokemons.