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 which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the Saints” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1471). There are two types of indulgence: Partial indulgence and Plenary indulgence. A partial indulgence removes only part of the temporal punishment due to sin while a plenary indulgence removes all the temporal punishment due to sin. A partial indulgence can be acquired more than once a day, unless otherwise expressly indicated. A plenary indulgence may be gained once a day for oneself.
No one acquiring plenary indulgences can apply them to other living persons. Partial as well as plenary indulgence can always be applied to the departed by way of suffrage. In order to obtain a plenary indulgence one must observe the following necessary conditions (referred to hereafter as “the usual conditions” or “the prescribed conditions”): 1. Sacramental Confession (that is, go to Confession) usually within a week before or after performing the work to which the indulgence is attached. One sacramental confession is sufficient for several indulgences. 2. Eucharistic Communion (Receive Holy Communion). Unlike Confession only one indulgence may be obtained for each communion. 3. Prayer for the intentions of the Pope. Like Communion, prayer for the Pope’s intentions must be recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence. Although there are no prescribed prayers, the condition is satisfied by reciting one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary”. In addition to the above three prescribed conditions, the person who wishes to gain a plenary indulgence must be completely free from attachment to sin, including venial sin.
This is the most difficult condition as even attachment to venial sin precludes the possibility of obtaining the indulgence. However, as explained by Fr. Edward McNamara, Professor of Liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, the condition is not freedom from all venial sin, but from attachment to sin; that is, there is no sin (including venial sin) which the soul is unwilling to renounce. Norm 22(1) of the Enchiridion of Indulgences published by the Vatican, 1968 stipulates that: “To be capable of gaining an indulgence for oneself, it is required that one be baptized, not excommunicated, in the state of grace at least at the completion of the prescribed works, and a subject of the one granting indulgence”. Norm 22(2): “In order that one who is capable may actually gain indulgences, one must have at least a general intention to gain them and must in accordance with the tenor of the grant perform the enjoined works at the time and in the manner prescribed”. To acquire a plenary indulgence, therefore, it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfil the prescribed three conditions already stated and be free from all attachment to sin, including venial sin.
The three conditions may be fulfilled within a week before or after the performance of the prescribed work; it is, however, strongly recommended that Communion be received and the prayer for the Pope’s intention be said on the same day the work is performed. It is also highly recommended that the time one goes for the Confession be as close as possible to the time of performance of the prescribed WORK because if you fall into venial sin between the time of Confession and the time that you complete the work, then the indulgence granted becomes partial instead of plenary. On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis declared the beginning of a Year of St. Joseph. Along with the Pope’s announcement in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde (“Heart of the Father”) came a proclamation from the Apostolic Penitentiary about special plenary indulgences that are now available for this year of St. Joseph. In the Year of St. Joseph, we can gain a plenary indulgence if we participate in any of the several specific ways that the Apostolic Penitentiary has established for us to gain the plenary indulgence.
Here are the many opportunities and ways throughout this Year of St. Joseph, from December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021, for us to gain the plenary indulgence over and over.
• Meditate for at least 30 minutes on the “Our Father”, or be part of a “spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph”.
• Carry out a corporal or spiritual work of mercy.
• Pray the Holy Rosary “in families…”
• Those can gain a plenary indulgence “who daily entrust their activities to the protection of St. Joseph and all the faithful who invoke with prayer” the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker.
• We can gain a plenary indulgence if we recite the Litany to St. Joseph for the Church persecuted (from inside or outside) and for the relief of Christians who suffer every form of persecution.
• We can also gain a plenary indulgence if we recite any legitimately approved prayer or Act of Piety in honour of St. Joseph, for example, “To you O Blessed Joseph”, especially on his feast days on March 19 and May 1, on the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, on the 19th of each month and on every Wednesday, the day dedicated to St. Joseph. Under these prayers to St. Joseph, we can also get the indulgence by doing the Consecration to St. Joseph. The Apostolic Penitentiary has also taken into account the worldwide situation regarding the health crisis. The office stated the “gift of the plenary indulgence is particularly extended to the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house, who with a soul detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three usual conditions, in their own home or where the impediment holds them, they will recite an act of piety in honour of St. Joseph, trust in God [in] the pains and discomforts of their life”. • Prof. Michael Ogunu, President and Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa.