The Catholic Teaching on Indulgences
All the sins we have committed, and which have been forgiven, must be sufficiently expiated, either in this life or in Purgatory. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this expiation is by gaining indulgences. An indulgence is the remission granted by the Church of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. It stems from the power given by Our Lord to St. Peter, the first Pope, and to all his successors: “And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
There are two kinds of indulgences, plenary and partial. A plenary indulgence is the remission of ALL the temporal punishment due to our sins. A partial indulgence is the remission of ALL the temporal punishment due to our sins. A partial indulgence is the remission of PART of the temporal punishment due to our sins. By means of indulgences, the Church remits the temporal punishment due to sin by applying to us from her spiritual treasury part of the infinite satisfaction of Jesus Christ and of the superabundant satisfaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints.
To gain an indulgence for ourselves we must:
- be in the state of grace at least a general intention of gaining the indulgence
- have at least a general intention o gaining the indulgence
- perform the works required by the Church (in the case of prayers, be sure to move your lips; ordinarily, a purely internal prayer will not gain the indulgence).
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.
“Toties Quoties” Indulgences
From noon on November 1st to midnight on November 2nd (a span of 36 hours), the Catholic faithful, as often as they visit a church to pray for the faithful departed, and recite six times during each visit the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the intentions of the Church, may gain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, under the usual conditions of:
- Confession (within a week before or after)
- Holy Communion (within the day before or up to a week after)
This plenary indulgence may also be gained from noon on the following Saturday to midnight on the following Sunday, but only by those who did not gain it on the preceding November 1st and 2nd.
(Note: When November 2nd falls on a Sunday, All Souls Day is transferred to November 3rd and the gaining of the “Toties Quoties” indulgence begins on Sunday, November 2nd at noon, last all through the day until midnight on November 3rd.)
Other Indulgences for the Month of November
Those who, within the octave of All Souls Day, visit the cemetery in a spirit of piety and devotion and pray, even only mentally, for the departed may gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions (confession, Holy Communion, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and prayers for the intentions of the Church, such as an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) on each day of the octave, applicable only to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Those who recite prayers or perform other devout exercises for the departed during this month may gain an indulgence of 3 years each day of the month, and a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions, if they perform these devotions daily for the entire month.
Those who during November take part in public services held in a church in intercession for the faithful departed may gain an indulgence of 7 years on each day of the month, and a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions if they do so at least 15 days.
Indulgences during Other Times of the Year
The Catholic faithful who devoutly offer daily prayers for the souls of the faithful departed for seven or nine consecutive days may gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions. An indulgence of 3 years may be gained each day that one recites these prayers.
Those who visit the cemetery and pray for the departed may gain an indulgence of 7 years on any day of the year, applicable only to the departed.
It was revealed to Pope St. Gregory the Great that the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on 30 consecutive days has a special efficacy in releasing a soul from Purgatory. Although each Mass in itself is infinite and hence capable of releasing all the souls from Purgatory, it is known only to God how much of that infinite amount of grace is actually applied. Hence, the more Masses offered for a soul in Purgatory, the greater likelihood of that person experiencing relief and a speedier release from its fiery punishment.
According to a January 14, 1889, decree of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences, the Gregorian Masses must be offered for one, and not for several deceased persons. The priest who accepts the stipend for the Gregorian Masses is strictly bound to make sure that there is no interruption in the 30-day series. If for some reason he cannot offer the Mass for that intention on a particular day, he must ask another priest to say the Mass so that the series remains continuous.
The customary stipend for the Gregorian Mass series is $650.
Lessons to be Learned from the Souls in Purgatory
To abhor sin: Especially willful, deliberate venial sin.
To shun the waste of time: Time is precious. It is given to us so that we may practice virtue and expiate sin. It should not be wasted in vain conversation, in fruitless reading, in aimless occupations.
To make satisfaction for sins: There is a temporary punishment attached to sin. Sin, even though forgiven, must be expiated. God’s justice must be satisfied. How much easier it is to satisfy God’s justice now by voluntary penance, than, later in the Purgatorial fires.
To be resigned to God’s Will: To murmur, to find fault, to complain, is a sign of self-love. Love of self must be supplanted by the love of God. To bear up cheerfully, resignedly, under the cross, is a true act of love of God and will serve as an efficacious Purgatory on earth.
To avoid sensuality in little things: To abhor little faults of vanity, of dress, of conversation, of little self-indulgences, little gratifications in eating and drinking, little manifestations of pride. The soul that constantly seeks its own ease, its own comfort, the soul that is lazy, indifferent, slothful, that shirks all painful duties and lives only for self, must be purified before it is fit to be received into the presence of God.
To abhor unkindness in thought, word or deed: The soul that speaks evil of others, that judges them harshly, that wounds the unnecessarily, that refuses to assist them, forgets the charity of Christ and prolongs the time of this separation from God.
The pious Catholic will permit the souls in Purgatory to teach him these truths and he will receive these teachings deep into the recess of his soul. (From Jesus Keep Me, a 1932 prayer book.)