Indulgences and the Year of Faith

Deacon Scott Maentz Year of Faith

Bishop Stika provided the priests of the diocese with this short explanation of indulgences and how to obtain one during the Year of Faith. 

A Gift from the Holy Father.  At certain times in the history of the Church, popes have called upon the faithful to dedicate themselves to a deepening of their understanding in a particular area of the Catholic faith.  We are in just such a time now.  Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of Faith   that began on October 11, 2012 to mark the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and also the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He did so to encourage us to reflect upon the actual documents of Vatican II as well as the articles of the Catechism that represents the notes of a most beautiful “symphony of faith.”  It is also a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta fidei, 6)— to turn back to Jesus and to walk through the “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) first opened at our baptism, and to rediscover and renew our relationship with Christ and His Church—strengthened through the Sunday Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation—so as to renew also our witness of the Gospel in our marriage and family, community, and in our works of mercy.  And as a special blessing during this Year of Faith that concludes November 24, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI offers us the opportunity to obtain a Plenary Indulgence.   Visit

What are indulgences?  The Catechism reminds us that “the doctrine and practice of indulgences are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance” (CCC, 1471).  Perhaps it is easiest to think of Indulgences as the Church’s debit card for the medicine the soul needs to help it more quickly heal, either partially (partial indulgence) or completely (plenary indulgence), from the wounds of sin that still remain though our sins have been forgiven in the sacrament of Penance.  “Sin,” it is important to remember, “has a double consequence” (CCC,1472).  All sin wounds us and is in need of healing.  Some sin—that which is called mortal or grave sin—destroys the bond that unites us with God and deprives us of life-giving communion with Him, the privation of which after death is called “eternal punishment.”  But even with God’s pardoning of our sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the wounds from our sin must be properly treated to promote their healing, which uncared for like any wound, can become worse and spread its infection.  Traditionally, the Church has spoken of this healing as a purification or “temporal punishment.”  The penance we receive with absolution is not meant to be punitive, but restorative to help promote the healing of the soul.  This is why this sacrament is also called the sacrament of penance, as well as that of conversion, amongst others (see CCC, 1422-1424). The necessary and painful process that brings this healing and purification “can take place either in this life or in Purgatory, because whatever part of the process remains unfinished at death must be completed in Purgatory.” Indulgences then draw upon “an unfailing treasury” entrusted to the Church representing the infinite wealth of Christ’s sacrificial love, as well as the medicinal merits of the Blessed Mother, and of all the saints and martyrs.

A plenary indulgence is therefore a complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, specifically sin that has already been forgiven in sacramental confession. The indulgence may also be applied for the good of the souls of the deceased faithful. This remission is granted by the Church through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and the virtues and penances of the saints. The indulgence is granted after a sinner has confessed. An indulgence does not forgive sins. To gain a plenary indulgence: a person must reject sin of any kind; must perform the work of charity or say the prayer for which the indulgence is granted; and must also receive the sacrament of penance, receive the Eucharist and pray for the intentions of the Pope. Ideally, these actions should take place on the day of the work itself, but may also be completed a few days before or after the work has been completed. Noteworthy works to which a plenary indulgence is attached include adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or the devout reading or listening of Scripture, each for at least a half an hour, or the recitation of the Rosary in church, within the family or religious community, or with several of the faithful gathered for good purpose.

During the Year of Faith, a plenary indulgence is obtained:

1)              Every time one takes part in at least three instances of: preaching during the Sacred Missions, or on the Acts of Vatican Council II and on the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in any church or ideal place;

2)              Every time they visit by way of pilgrimage a Papal Basilica, a Christian catacomb, a Cathedral, Church, or a sacred place designated by the Ordinary of the place for the Year of Faith (within the Diocese of Knoxville this would include the Minor Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul Basilica in Chattanooga and the Virgin of the Poor Shrine in New Hope, TN), and take part there in some sacred function or at least pause for an apt time of recollection with pious meditations, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, according to the case, to Holy Apostles or Patrons;

3)              Every time, in days determined by the Ordinary of the place for the Year of Faith (for example on the solemnities of the Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the feasts of the Holy Apostles and Patrons, on the Chair of Saint Peter), in any sacred place they participate in a solemn Eucharistic celebration or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form;

4)              A day freely chosen, during the Year of Faith, for the pious visit of the baptistery or other place, in which they received the sacrament of Baptism, renewing the baptismal promises in any legitimate formula.