May 25-29, 2000
volume 11, no. 99


    "Getting to the Heart of the Matter" is what Sister Mary Lucy Astuto pinpoints in every issue when she takes a common sense approach to living our faith with her practical columns.

    This weekend, Sister continues her piece on Indulgences, focusing on plenary and partial indulgences - the origin and how they evolved through the Enchiridion and sources that give us a clear indication of what indulgences truly are, which she shares in part three of her column this weekend on What are Indulgences.

    Her column provides effective, vital insights into our faith and ways of fulfilling God's Will every day in every way. You can visit Sr. Lucy at her web site for Heart of Mary Ministry at or you can reach her at Srmarylucy by e-mail.

part three

        Pope Paul VI in 1967 revised the Enchiridion, which is the Church's official handbook on what acts and prayers carry what kind of indulgences (plenary or partial). Pope Paul VI did away with the formerly prescribed "Days" and "Years," which had been so very misunderstood by many Catholics, who thought that they would receive a certain number of days or years removed from their Purgatory. Not so!

        This was never the Church's teaching. There are no "Days" or "Years" in Purgatory. Rather what the application of "300 days" or "5 years," as examples, was that the Church was applying to Catholics the merits early Christians would have received had they done the severe penances which used to be given them in the early days of the Church. A penitent in those early years might have been directed to fast for 300 days or sit in sack cloth and ashes for 5 years. As the Church grew and spread, these kinds of penances became very impractical. So the Church, using the authority given her by Our Lord, Jesus, made application of merits for so many days or years as would have been received by the early Christian doing penance for that long. Of course, this is totally in God's Hands and Mercy.

        The new Enchiridion, therefore, makes no further mention of days or years, but rather applies only "partial" or "plenary" indulgences to particular prayers or acts of charity.

        For example, a partial indulgence can be gained by praying the Hail, Holy Queen, the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love and Contrition, the Angel of God prayer, by making a "spiritual communion," by studying or teaching Christian doctrine, or reading Scripture with devotion.

        A plenary indulgence can be gained by spending a half hour in adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, by praying the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament, by receiving even by radio or television the Papal Blessing of the Pope, by receiving Holy Communion for the first time or by assisting at the sacred ceremonies of a First Communion.

        There are other requisites, however, necessary to gain a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence can be received only once a day and sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father are also necessary Prayers for the Holy Father are usually the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Creed, but other prayers may be said instead. The above three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work.

        It is further necessary and this is rarely heard or stressed, that a person must be free of all ATTACHMENT to sin, even to venial sin in order to gain a plenary indulgence. If this disposition is in any way incomplete, or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be only partial,, except for the provisions contained in Norm # 11 for those who are "impeded." One example of this would be if the local Bishop excuses people from fulfilling the "conditions" if they live a great distance from a Church. However, those persons must fulfill the "conditions" as soon as they are able.

        Partial indulgences may be received many times in one day. There are certain special privileges for obtaining a plenary indulgence by one that is dying. I should like to explain that at another time. I would also like to refer the reader to a few excellent web sites that explain in greater detail what prayers and good acts carry what indulgences and the norms for obtaining indulgences. They are: and

        God bless you and I pray that you are better informed about indulgences so that you may make better use of this great Treasury of the Church.

    Sister Mary Lucy Astuto


May 25-29, 2000
volume 11, no. 99

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