Key of Heaven – What An Indulgence Is

By an Indulgence is meant the remission of the temporal punishment due to us on account of our sins. Every sin, however grievous, is remitted through the sacrament of penance, or by an act of perfect contrition, as regards its guilt and the ternal punishment due to it. But the debt of temporal punishment is not always remitted at the same time. This latter is done away with by deep penitence, or by works of satisfaction, e.g. prayers, alms, fasting, etc.; or by the patient endurance of troubles and adversities sent us by God, etc.; or by the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ and the saints, applied to us through Indulgences by those who have the power to apply them. And although, in order to escape this temporal punishment, we must not rely on Indulgences alone, to the neglect of good works; yet, because, at the best, our own good works are very imperfect, and the debt of punishment due to us very great, we ought to endeavour, as frequently as possible, to avail ourselves of the benefits of Indulgences. Indulgences are of two kinds: 1st, a plenary Indulgence, when guly gained, is a full and entire remission of all the temporal punishment due to sin. The eight Indulgences granted to the faithful at the principal festivals in the year, are plenary Indulgences. A jubilee is also a plenary Indulgence occasionally granted by the POpe to the whole Church, in the most ample manner and with the greatest solemnity. There are many other plenary INdulgences granted to various good works. 2nd, a partial or limited Indulgence, as of ten years of a hundred days, etc., remits as much of the temporal punishment as would have been remitted by ten years, or a hundred days, etc., of the canonical penances formerly imposed on public penitents.

What Is Required to Obtain an Indulgence

1. A Plenary Indulgence: to approach to the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist; to perform the special work to which the Indulgence is attached. Most plenary indulgences have attached to them as a condition that we are to pray for the intention of the Holy Father. For this purpose, we may say a litany, a portion of the rosary, Jesus psalter, or five Paters and five Aves. One Communion suffices fo rseveral Indulgences, if they can be gained on the same day.

2. Partial Indulgence: to be in a state of grave; to perform the work to which the Indulgence is attached.

N.B.: Power is general given to confessors to change the works for some others, in the case of the sick, or persons who are confined, and who cannot therefore fulfill some of the cnditions, such as fasting or visiting certain churches.

The Disposal of our Indulgences

We may apply our Indulgences to ourselves, or we may in many cases apply them to the relief of the holy souls in purgatory. Those who embrace “The Heroic Act of Charity”, by which they renounce for themselves and apply to the relief of the holy souls the merits of all their good works, have the privilege of likewise being able to apply to them all the Indulgences they gain. Even if our devotion does not lead us to follow this, we must be most careful never to forget the holy suffering souls.

– from Key of Heaven: A Manual of Devout Prayers, Saint Joseph’s Shrine of Mount Royal, Montreal, Canada, 1915