October 10, 2002
volume 13, no. 113

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The Sacrament of Penance

Part Eleven:
Indulgent Prayers and Objects

    The following is taken from the excellent work My Catholic Faith by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow in 1949 and is one of the most succinct, simple and concise explanations of the doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism that both Catholic and non-Catholic can easily understand without any ambiguity or relativism. Pure, unadulterated facts and absolutes. Bolded sections and blue type within brackets are by editor for added emphasis.

    Examples of Plenary indulgences that can be gained by all the faithful are the following:

    1. "Totius quoties" (as often as) indulgences that can be gained any day, as often as performed. Of these the most important prayers are:

      a. The Way of the Cross

          "The faithful who with at least a contrite heart, whether singly or in company, perform the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, when the latter has been legitimately erected according to the prescriptions of the Holy See, may gain a plenary indulgence as often as they perform the same" (Raccolta 194). They may gain another plenary indulgence if they receive Holy Communion on the same day, or even within a month after having made the exercise ten times. (Note: we will cover this when we treat "Practices of Devotion").

      b. The Holy Rosary

          "Those who piously recite a third part of the Rosary in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament publicly expoed or even reserved in the tabernacle, as often as they do this, may gain a plenary indulgence, on condition of confession and Communion." (Raccolta 395c). The decades may be prayed separately, provided the entire chaplet is completed on the same day. If during the recitation of the Rosary a properly blessed chaplet of beads is used, other indulgences may be gained in addition to the above. (Note: we will also cover this when we feature "The Rosary". For now, we urge you to go to The Holy Rosary and Promises to those who faithfully recite the Holy Rosary.

    2. "Toties quoties. These are indulgences that can be gained on specific dates, particularly on -

      a. All Souls' Day - November 2

          "The faithful, as often as they visit a church or public oratory, or even a semi-private oratory, in order to pray for the dead on the day on which the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is celebrated or on the Sunday immediately following may gain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the souls detained in Purgatory, on condition of confession and Communion, and the recitation of six times during each visit of Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff (Raccolta 590). Note, by praying for the intentions of the Pope is meant to pray for the Church that the Holy Father will carry out all that is necessary for "the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our holy Mother the Church."

      b. The Portiuncula Indulgence - August 2

          "Those who wish to gain this indulgence must confess their sins, receive Holy Communion, and visit a church or oratory posesing the privilege, and there pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff in the usual manner. i.e. they must say at least six times Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be at each visit, which they may repeat at will in order to gain the indulgence as often as they desire" (Raccolta 698

3. Plenary Indulgences that can be gained once a day. These are easy examples:
    a. Prayer to Christ the King

        O Jesus Christ, I acknowledge Thee as universal King. All that has been made, has been created for Thee. Exercise all Thy rights over me. I renew my baptismal vows. renouncing satan, his pomps and his works; and I promise to live as a good Christian. In particular do I pledge myself to labor, to the best of my ability, for the triumph of the rights of God and of Thy Church.

        Divine Heart of Jesus, to Thee do I proffer my poor services, laboring that all hearts may acknowledge Thy Sacred Kingship, and that thus the reign of Thy peace be established throughout the whole universe. Amen.

    (plenary indulgence on the usual conditions once daily, Raccolta 232).

    b. Prayer Before a Crucifix

        "The faithful who recite this prayer devoutly before an image of Jesus Christ Crucified, may gain an indulgence of 10 years; a plenary indulgence if, moreover, they go to confession, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff" (Raccolta 201).

          Look down upon me, O good and gentle Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; the while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Thy five most precious wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David Thy prophet said of Thee, my good Jesus: "They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones."

      Indulgence of ten years; a plenary indulgence if recited after devout reception of Holy Communion, Raccolta 201)

    c. Offering of Holy Mass in Reparation.

        "The faithful who make an offering and have the sacrifice of the Mas said in preparation for the insults offered by mankind to the most holy Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist may gain a plenary indulgence on the usual conditions" (Raccolta 173).

4. There are very many plenary indulgences that can be gained on specific days of the year, or by the recitation of certain prayers for a week, or a month, under the usual conditions. They can be found in approved prayer books and at our Prayer & Devotions pages.

    Most partial indulgences for prayers are made plenary if such prayers are recited daily for a month, on the usual conditions.

5. A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions is granted to thoe who receive the papal blessing given even by means of radio (or internet) (Raccolta 695). This blessing is also given at the end of retreats, or at the hour of death.

Objects commonly indulgenced

    Indulgences may be attached to crucifixes, medals, Rosaries, statues, and similar objects, provided they are not made of very fragile material.

    1. The object must be blessed by the Pope, or by some priest posessing the powers. The indulgence is lost if the object is more than half destroyed, or if it is sold, but not if the object is lent or given away.

        All the members of a family may use the same rosary or crucifix, gaining indulgences attached.

    2. More than one indulgence may be attached to the same Rosary or crucifix. However, one and the same prayer will not avail to gain all the indulgences attached to any one object, unless expressly declared.

        All crosses for Rosaries brought from the Holy Land, which have touched the holy places, have the Apostolic indulgences attached to them.

Gaining Indulgences for Others

    We cannot gain indulgences for other living persons, but we can gain them for the souls in Purgatory, since the Church makes most indulgences applicable to them.

    "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be losed from sins" (2 Machabees 12: 41).

    1. An indulgence is granted for the living or for the dead. An indulgence for the living means for the person who performs the good work. We cannot gain an indulgence for another living person.

        All indulgences, unless otherwise stated, are applicable to the dead. The Holy See alone can grant indulgences applicable to the dead.

    2. The Church can grant indulgences for the dead, as an offering to God by way of suffrage, as an intercessory prayer for the departed souls. As we cannot know how much temporal punishment is remitted by any indulgence, still less can we know what value the indulgences we gain have, when applied to the souls in Purgatory.

        It is wrong, for instance, to say that we have freed a particular soul from Purgatory by the reciteal of a certain prayer with a plenary indulgence. The efficacy of such indulgences depends on God's response to the intercession offered. But can we doubt that He will listen to the entreaty of His Church, with the infinite treasury of merits that He Himself has made available?

For previous installments, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Archives

October 10, 2002
volume 13, no. 113
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