If you’re trying to explain the Christian faith to someone, you really want to focus on the love of God, his mercy and kindness and forgiveness of our sins, the promise of heaven. I think the last thing you would want to bring up is indulgences. (the annulment process is probably a close second…. followed by the N.Y. Giants and the coronavirus.) With that said, I wanted to mention a few things about plenary indulgences. Oh boy, here we go.
A number of years ago, I became aware of the church’s teaching on Plenary Indulgences. This is how an indulgence is defined in the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471): “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”. In laymen’s terms, it’s a “get out of purgatory free card”.
To gain a plenary indulgence, one performs the charitable work or prayer for which the indulgence is granted, along with the prescribed conditions of…. detachment from all sin, even venial sin, going to confession, attending mass and receiving Holy Communion, and praying for the intentions of the Pope. It’s not easy, but possible.
It’s really another example of the incredible mercy of God. In a nutshell, through a “holy process” we are able to play a role in someone being freed from purgatory. When you think about it, Christ gave everything on the cross to save us from our sins and the effects of sin, so why can’t he offer to take away the “temporal punishment due to sin”.
Anyway, years ago I made a agreement with a friend of mine, that when one of us died the other would offer a plenary indulgence for the other. This friend died a couple of weeks ago, and I held up my end of the bargain. In essence, if done properly, the temporal punishment due to sin (what’s left after forgiveness has been given) is taken away. If you are in purgatory, you are now able to go right to heaven.
The requirements are pretty straight forward. I feel the real kicker is “being free from the attachment to sin, even venial sin”; only God knows if this is a reality in our life. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy goal and worth our effort. If anything, it should help us to get holy as we seek to offer this plenary indulgence for our self or someone who has died. I’ve tried to offer a plenary indulgence for my parents and other dear friends who have died over the years. I encourage you to look into this. I also encourage you to save this BLOG and when I pass away, offer a plenary indulgence for me…. and I promise to pray for you from heaven. And that will be very good news…. for me and for you.