What is an indulgence?
Indulgences, you will recall, wipe out the temporal punishment for sins that have already been forgiven. The indulgence can be partial (some of the punishment) or plenary (all of it).
Most importantly (you only need one plenary indulgence for yourself after all, at least until you commit your next major sin!), they can be applied to the souls in purgatory.
These days, you can only collect one plenary indulgence a day - but you can accumulate several partial ones.
To gain a plenary indulgence
To gain a plenary indulgence where one is offered, you need to:
- have an intention to gain the indulgence (adding a line to your morning prayers saying 'and I intend to gain all the indulgences I can' seems to be sufficient, at least for partial indulgences);
- be in a state of grace and in full communion with Rome at the time the work is undertaken;
- have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
- have sacramentally confessed your sins within several days before or after the work (one confession will suffice for several days worth of indulgences!);
- receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);
- pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff (remember that you are not praying for the Pope, but for the specific prayer intentions he announces each month). Usually an Our Father and a Hail Mary is said.
A partial indulgence requires one to be to be in a state of grace at the time of the work and have at least the general intention of gaining it.
The Year if the Priest Indulgence on the first Thursday
"All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart, are granted Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff."
And don't forget that in this Year of the Priest a partial indulgence is available every day by praying five Our Fathers, Ave Marias and Gloria Patris, or any other duly approved prayer "in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life".
Other plenary indulgences
There are a few other fully indulgenced works that can be gained every day (remembering that you can only gain one plenary indulgnece a day) and that are also worth considering adding to your regime on a regular basis:
- rosary recited in a Church by a family or pious association;
- half an hour's adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; and
- devout reading of Scripture for at least half an hour.