Year of the Priest, which takes place from June 19, 2009 - June 19,
2010, the Church is offering the opportunity to receive a plenary
indulgence for all the faithful.
Priests will be able to gain this indulgence by praying lauds or
vespers before the Blessed Sacrament - either in the tabernacle or
exposed to public adoration. Priests are also to "offer themselves with
a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments,
especially the sacrament of penance." This indulgence can also be
applied to deceased priests.
Partial indulgences can be obtained by priests through "devotedly
reciting the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and carrying
out the duties entrusted to them."
The plenary indulgence available for the faithful can be obtained on
the opening and closing days of the Year of the Priest, on August 4th –
the 150th anniversary of the death of St.
Jean-Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month throughout
the jubilee year, or on other days as established by the ordinaries of
particular places. The faithful on these days must attend Mass in an
oratory or church 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.”
They must also have gone to confession and prayed for the intentions of
the Pope, as is always the case with obtaining indulgences.
A partial indulgence is available for the faithful as well when they
pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times, or any other
approved prayer “in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that
priests maintain purity and sanctity of life.”
The plenary indulgence is also available to those elderly, sick, or
otherwise unable to leave their homes, provided that, “on the days
concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their
sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles,”
with the intention of fulfilling the usual three conditions – going to
confession, receiving the Holy Eucharist, and praying for the
intentions of the Pope.
What is an Indulgence?
The Decree of Indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday
grants a plenary or full indulgence to those who satisfy certain
conditions established by the Church and a partial (incomplete)
indulgence to those who fulfill some but not all or the conditions.
A plenary indulgence means that by the merits of Jesus Christ, the
Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the full remission of the
temporal punishment due to sacramentally forgiven sins is obtained. The
person becomes as if just baptized and would fly immediately to heaven
if he died in that instant. A partial indulgence means that a portion
of the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin is remitted. Partial
indulgences are received either by doing some act to which a partial
indulgence is attached (e.g. praying a partially indulgenced prayer),
or by the incomplete fulfillment of the conditions attached to a
Eternal and Temporal Punishment or Guilt
There are two kinds of punishment attached to sin, eternal and
temporal. If the sin is mortal (serious, grave) sin, the person loses
the friendship of God and with it the life of divine grace within. This
punishment is eternal. If the person is not restored to grace before
death he will be punished forever in hell, since serious sin is an
infinite insult to an All-Holy God and thus deserves a like punishment.
It was to repair for such sin that Jesus became man and was crucified.
As God His sacrifice was infinitely meritorious, as Man He was able to
represent us. He thus could expiate for our mortal sins, which are not
just beyond our power of expiation but infinitely beyond it.
Mortal sin, and also venial sin (which has no eternal punishment
attached to it), both disturb the right order within us and in the
order of justice in general. We all experience these temporal (or
in-time, in-this-world) consequences of sin, both both personally and
socially. Sin changes us (or rather we sin because we are not what we
are supposed to be), and like a pebble in a pond these changes have
effects beyond us. Not only must we be sorry for our sins, but we must
be more thoroughly converted to the Lord, and demonstrate that
conversion (Acts 26:20) by our actions. So, while sacramental
absolution forgives the eternal guilt of sin, which requires the
infinite merits of Christ, it does not necessarily remove all the
temporal punishment, since they are somewhat within our power to repair
(and somewhat unknown to us). Depending on our degree of sorrow,
absolution may result in the expiation of all the temporal guilt of
sin. However, for that which it does not repair, we must offer further
expiation through prayer, penance, carrying the Cross etc., or after
death be purified in purgatory (Rev 21:27).
What an Indulgence does is to take an occasion of such expiation (a
certain prayer, penance, charity or other designated work) and add to
its intrinsic merit before God an additional value based on the
treasury of merits of Jesus Christ, and those perfectly united to Him
in heaven (the saints). This can either partially, or under certain
conditions, totally remit the temporal punishment due to sin. This
depends, naturally, on our openness to God's grace. A mechanical
performance of an indulgenced work would not have effect. Performing an
indulgenced work should have the consequence of fixing our will away
from our sins and entirely on God. This is why among the most important
of the conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence, and the hardest
to satisfy, is the complete detachment or detestation of our sins. By
detesting our sins we orient our will away from creatures (to the
degree we love them inordinately), towards God. In this way we open our
will to the action of His mercy flowing into our souls, which alone is
able to effect the complete remission of the temporal punishment to our
An example will perhaps better illustrate these points. A boy playing
ball breaks a window of his home. Contrite and sorrowful he goes to his
father, who forgives him. However, despite the forgiveness the window
is still broken and must be repaired. Since the boy's personal
resources are insufficient to pay for a new window, the father requires
him to pay a few dollars from his savings and forego some of his
allowance for several weeks, but that he, the father, will pay the
rest. This balances justice and mercy (generous love). To ask the boy
to do nothing, when it is possible for him to make some reparation,
would not be in accordance with the truth, or even the boy's good. Yet,
even this temporal debt is beyond the boy's possibilities. Therefore,
from his own treasury the father generously makes up what the child
cannot provide. This is indulgence. Unlike the theologies that say "we
are washed it the blood of the Lamb and there is nothing left to do,"
Catholic teaching respects the natural order of justice, as Jesus
clearly did in the Gospels, yet recognizes that man cannot foresee or
undo all the temporal consequences of his sin. However, God in His
mercy will satisfy justice for what we cannot repair.
Note on Partial Indulgences (days and years)
In the past partial indulgences were "counted" in days (e.g. 300 days)
or years (e.g. 5 years). Catholics often mistakenly thought that this
meant "time off of purgatory." Since there is no time in purgatory, as
we understand it, it meant instead the remission of temporal punishment
analogous to a certain amount of penitence as practiced in the early
Church. This was a very generous standard, since the penitence required
for sacramental absolution in the early centuries was arduous, indeed.
However, with Pope Paul VI's 1968 revision of the Enchiridion
Indulgentiarum (Collection or Handbook of Indulgences), this confusing
way of counting partial indulgences was suppressed, and the evaluation
of a partial indulgence left to God.
There are many prayers still circulating on prayer cards and in prayer
books which have partial indulgences in days and years attached to
them. However, all grants of indulgence issued prior to 1968, unless
re-issued in the Enchiridion or specifically exempted by papal decree
or privilege, were suppressed by Pope Paul VI. Thus, these many
specific prayers with their attached indulgences, as well as the manner
of measuring partial indulgences, are no longer valid. Some of them may
still receive an indulgence, though, because of being re-issued in the
new Enchiridion (e.g. the Anima Christi, the Prayer before a Crucifix
and many other formal prayers). All other prayers previously
indulgenced could, nonetheless, receive a partial indulgence under the
general grants of indulgence which Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II
in his 1999 revision of the Enchiridion, established. These general
grants establish partial indulgences for devout prayer, penitence and
charity, and are a new and very generous inclusion in the Church's
grants of indulgence. They have made it unnecessary to grant specific
indulgences to prayers and other pious acts, as was done in the past.
on General Conditions of Indulgences>