The Daily Plenary Indulgence
It seems that few Catholics have really understood (or are even aware of) this awesome privilege. The Plenary Indulgence: by obtaining one, a practicing Catholic is blessed with the ability to easily receive, each and every day, the complete remission of all temporal punishment (in other words, purgatory “time”) due to all of his sins (and to offer this up for the souls in Purgatory)!
Of course, let us not become scrupulous, superstitious, or legalistic. These indulgences have nothing to do with eternal salvation itself, and indeed depend upon a genuine disposition of heart. Nevertheless, let us be grateful sons and daughters of the Church by reacting with joy and zeal to this astounding gift. Let us all strive to receive, every day, this unfathomable blessing.
To receive a Plenary Indulgence, one must 1) Perform the Indulgenced act, 2) Go to Confession (applies to “several” Plenary Indulgences), 3) Receive Communion (applies to one Plenary Indulgence), 4) Pray for the intentions of the Pope, and 5) Be detached from all sin.
Simplest Plenary Indulgenced Acts that can be obtained any and every day:
- Praying the Rosary (5 decades) either
- In a Church (or a public oratory – for example, a chapel at a hospital, prison, seminary, etc.)
- With a religious Community
- With a pious Association of the Faithful, or
- Canon 299 permits “private Associations of the Faithful” merely by agreement among members, needing no ecclesial knowledge or approval. It is uncertain whether these qualify as “pious Associations,” under the terminology in the Enchiridion on Indulgences, but it appears that they do indeed qualify. (Meaning, for example, your local pro-life association’s communal Rosary outside Planned Parenthood would suffice for a Plenary Indulgence.)
- in a family group
- This prayer must involve pious meditation on the corresponding mysteries.
- Reading Sacred Scripture for 30 minutes
- Praying the Stations of the Cross
- Must involve physically moving from station to station (unless you are in a group and only the leader is doing that since for all to do so would be disorderly) and at least meditating on each station.
- The stations must be legitimately erected – 14 crosses with 14 pictures or images (e.g. statues). Some argue that “legitimately erected” means blessed by the Bishop; i.e. in an official Church, which of course would make an informally erected stations in your yard not count.
- Adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for at least 30 minutes
- Find a Perpetual Adoration Chapel near you
- It does not appear that the Blessed Sacrament must be exposed in the monstrance, but rather it seems that even if it is reposed in the tabernacle, this will still suffice for a plenary indulgence.
A State of Grace
If you have made a good confession, and since then have not returned to mortal sin, you are in a state of grace. To this end, please examine your conscience.
Prayers for the Pope
We must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary (and, usually also one Glory Be is said) and before doing so, announce “For the intentions of our Holy Father Pope ______…”
Receiving Holy Communion once suffices for one and only one Plenary Indulgence. Attending daily Mass then, of course, is ordinarily (i.e. excepting the sick who have Communion brought to them daily) required for obtaining the daily plenary indulgence.
One confession can apply to “several” Plenary Indulgences.
I do not know, nor can I find anyone who knows for certain, if there is a specific number attached to the word “several.” But in the year 2000, the Apostolic Penitentiary described “several” in the context of how many days before or after the indulgenced act one may receive sacramental confession; and the verdict was twenty. Therefore it seems most logical to interpret the same word as the same number here, and ensure that we go to confession at least once every twenty days, as this will ensure that we have accumulated no more than twenty plenary indulgenced acts seeking the benefit of one confession.
[Update 10/7/2019: I have heard from several authoritative voices on this matter that one Confession actually can apply to a whole month’s worth of indulgences and that one is thereby fully disposed to receive a plenary indulgence every day so long as he goes to Confession at least once a month.]
Detachment from all Sin
Needless to say, this is the hardest requirement; yet you need not actually have arrived at a life free from all committed venial sins to satisfy it! Plenary Indulgences are not reserved for those few perfected saints with which each age is blessed. Rather, you must not be content with any of your sins (even venial); you must not intend to commit them again; you must not have formally incorporated them into your life’s daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine; thereby implicitly carrying in your heart the intention to continue in them. You must strive to, and be willing to, give up each and every one of them, and earnestly beseech almighty God for the grace to do this. You must not obstinately refuse to avoid occasions of sin that you are perfectly capable of avoiding.
Therefore I recommend reading a thorough Examination of Conscience, and being honest with yourself as you examine your life and ponder what sins you may be in the habit of committing.
I recommend one more step. Immediately after receiving Communion (during those 15 minutes where His physical presence remains inside you), make an Act of Renunciation of All Attachment to Sin.
Act of Renunciation of All Attachment to Sin
Eternal Father; in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and by the power of His most Precious Blood, poured out from His most Sacred Heart, and now physically coursing through my very own veins,
and begging the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the angels and saints; especially St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel, my guardian angel and patron saint,
I hereby renounce, rebuke, and forever cast aside any and all attachment to sin; mortal and venial. I earnestly desire and intend to never once again offend you by the smallest violation of Your law.
I truly intend to never again, either in thought, word, or deed, commit even the slightest exhibition of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride; and not only that, but to replace them with prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope, and love.
I am heartily sorry for having ever offended Thee, and I detest all of my sins, not so much because of Thy just punishments; but because I have offended Thee, my God, who art all good and worthy of all my love. I love Thee above all things, and I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. I firmly believe all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed it, and I hope to obtain life everlasting through the merits of Jesus Christ, My Lord and Redeemer.
- The indulgence attached to a prayer may also be gained by following the prayer mentally as somebody else recites it out loud.
- Even if a plenary indulgence is carried out in such a way as to not have each requirement fully met, you will still usually at least gain a partial indulgence for your efforts.
- Only one plenary indulgence can be received each day, and may also be offered up for a soul in purgatory
- To gain an indulgence for oneself, one must have at least “a general intention to gain them…” Manual on Indulgences N17.2 (Meaning the requirements themselves, even if undertaken, may not result in the granting of the indulgence if the person undertaking them has no idea what an indulgence is and has no intention to receive one. This is why it is so important to spread knowledge about indulgences.)
- The current official document on Indulgences was published in the year 1999 by the Vatican, and can be found in its official Latin here. The USCCB released an English translation in 2006 which, unfortunately, I do not know of anywhere freely online. (The worldliness of certain Church bureaucrats insisting on charging the faithful money simply to have access to Church Documents baffles my mind). However you can simply use Google Translate on the above linked Vatican Document, which should be fairly useful.