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. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.
To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that SIN HAS A DOUBLE CONSEQUENCE. Grave sin DEPRIVES US OF COMMUNION WITH GOD and therefore makes us INCAPABLE OF ETERNAL LIFE, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy ATTACHMENT TO CREATURES, which must be PURIFIED either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments MUST NOT BE CONCEIVED OF AS A KIND OF VENGEANCE INFLICTED BY GOD FROM WITHOUT, BUT AS FOLLOWING FROM THE VERY NATURE OF SIN (Catechism 1471-2).
To gain a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfil the following three conditions:
– Sacramental Confession
– Holy Communion
– Prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.
-It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent. If this disposition is in any way less than perfect or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only.
The condition of praying for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary; nevertheless, each one is free to recite any other prayer according to his piety and devotion.
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who:
1. In the performance of their duties and in bearing the trials of life, raise their mind with humble confidence to God, adding even if only mentally – some pious invocation.
2. In a spirit of faith and mercy give of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need.
3. In a spirit of penance voluntarily deprive themselves of what is licit and pleasing to them.
INDULGENCES FOR SPECIFIC PRAYERS AND DEVOTIONS
– The Holy Rosary: A plenary indulgence may be gained, under usual conditions for the recitation of the Rosary (five decades are sufficient), in a church or public oratory or in the family. If the Rosary is said privately a partial indulgence may be gained.
– The Way of the Cross: A plenary indulgence is attached to this devotion.
– Prayer before a Crucifix: A plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions is attached to the recitation of this prayer on the Fridays in Lent and Passiontide. At other times a partial indulgence can be obtained.
– Act of Resignation: A partial indulgence. A plenary indulgence at the hour of death, if the dying person is properly disposed and has been in the habit of reciting some prayers during his or her lifetime.