The always helpful Father Z has posted a response to a reader who asked about how we can obtain a plenary indulgence for a deceased family member. I want to share what he wrote because many Catholics do not know what they can do and how to obtain an indulgence. Father Z explains a few of those that we can all do, even today or the next, efforts many are making already without knowing an indulgence may be gained. If you haven’t made Father Zuhlsdorf’s blog a regular place to visit, you really should.
ASK FATHER: How can I gain a plenary indulgence as fast as I can?
My grandfather just passed away after a long and painful sickness. He received last rites and Viaticum last Monday. How can I gain a plenary indulgence for him as fast as I can?
First, my condolences, I am sure that all the readers here will now stop and say a prayer for him:
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Second, I am pleased that you would think to obtain an indulgence for him. All of us should be aware of indulgences and seek to obtain them as often as we can. Think of how that might change our lives and how much benefit that would have for poor souls.
Third, if your grandfather received last rites, including Viaticum, I suspect he is in pretty good shape.
That said, off the top of my head I can think of five ways to obtain a plenary indulgence at any time of the year.
From the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (Handbook of Indulgences):
- Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Adoratio Ss.mi Sacramenti – EI 7 §1. 1°)
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament to adore it;
A plenary indulgence is granted, if the visit lasts for at least one half an hour.
- Recitation of the Rosary (Rosarii marialis recitatio – EI 17 §1. 1°)
A plenary indulgence is granted if the Rosary is recited in a church or public oratory or in a family group, a religious Community or pious Association;
A partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances.
- Reading Sacred Scripture (Sacrae Scripturae lectio – EI 30 §1. 1°)
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture.
A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour.
- Exercise of the Way of the Cross (Viae Crucis exercitium – EI 13 2°)A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who make the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross. The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:
The pious exercise must be made before stations of the Way of the Cross legitimately erected. For the erection of the Way of the Cross fourteen crosses are required, to which it is customary to add fourteen pictures or images, which represent the stations of Jerusalem. According to the more common practice, the pious exercise consists of fourteen pious readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
A movement from one station to the next is required. But if the pious exercise is made publicly and if it is not possible for all taking part to go in an orderly way from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their place. Those who are “impeded” can gain the same indulgence, if they spend at least one half an hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ. For those belonging to Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gaining of this indulgence.
- Recitation of the Akathistos hymn (EI – 17 § 1, 1° and 23 § 1)
A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who recites the hymn Akthistos in a church or oratory, in a religious community, in an association of the faithful and in a general way when more of the faithful gather for a honest motive.
In other circumstances the indulgence is partial.
We can obtain one plenary indulgence each day.
Indulgences can be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased. They cannot be applied to other living persons.
In addition to the described work, to obtain a plenary indulgence we must fulfill the following conditions:
1) GO TO CONFESSION! A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences, and Communion must be received.
2) Prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff must be recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence. This is satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. However, we are free to recite any other prayer according to our piety and devotion.
3) All attachment to sin, even venial sin, must be absent. If you are not free from attachment to sin, even venial, or if the prescribed conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only.
A confessor or the local ordinary can commute the work or conditions if a person is legitimately impeded.
The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work. However, it is fitting that Communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Pope be recited on the same day the work is performed. How many days is “several days”? Traditionally, it was said 8 days. However, in 2000 for the Jubilee, the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary said 20 days. Later, it was asked if that applied only to the Jubilee Year. The same SAP said that it applied to the general norms. So, the highest authority in the Church (apart from the Pope) on indulgences says “20 days”, though you are free to stick to getting everything done within 8, as we always did before.
Reverend Fathers, teach about indulgences. Everyone, strive to obtain them!