Friday, October 29, 2010

Indulgences for November

It's good to be reminded that in the first week of November the Church grants indulgences to those who pray for the faithful departed as follows:

1st - 8th Nov: Visit a cemetery
On any day of the year an indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. From 1st to 8th November the indulgence is plenary; on other days of the year it is partial.
2nd Nov, All Souls Day: Visit a church or oratory
A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, piously visit a church, a public oratory or -- for those entitled to use it -- a semipublic oratory. To gain the indulgence one must one Our Father and the Creed.

This indulgence can be acquired either on All Souls Day or, with the consent of the Ordinary, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. (This is the case in my native archdiocese of Southwark).
Some helpful facts about indulgences:
  • What is an indulgence?
An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.
  • Partial and plenary indulgences
An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due sin.
  • For ourselves or for the faithful departed?
We can gain indulgences for ourselves unless otherwise stated. The ones referred to above are specifically for the dead. Partial as well as plenary indulgences can however always be applied to the dead by way of suffrage. And this is a great act of charity towards our departed brethren, an expression of the communion of saints.
  • How much temporal punishment is remitted in the case of a partial indulgence?
The faithful who at least with a contrite heart perform an action to which a partial indulgence is attached obtain, in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church.
  • How many indulgences can we gain on any particular day?
A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once a day, unless one is at the point of death in which case one can gain a further plenary indulgence if one has already gained one that day. A partial indulgence can be acquired more than once a day, unless there is an explicit indication to the contrary.
  • What must one do to gain an indulgence?
To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached (i.e. make the visits and recite the prayers mentioned above) and to fulfill three conditions : sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.

If this disposition is in any way less than complete, or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will only be partial. Local Ordinaries can commute any of these requirements for those who are impeded from fulfilling them (e.g. by reason of age, or lack of access to confession, etc.)

The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; nevertheless it is fitting that Communion be received and the prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff be said the same day the work is performed.

A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences, but Communion must be received and prayers for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence.

The condition of praying for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary; nevertheless the individual faithful are free to recite any other prayer according to their own piety and devotion toward the Supreme Pontiff.


  1. Father, could you clarify what it means by partial indulgence? I keep rereading that sentence but I still do not understand it! Isn't confession the direct way to repair damage from sin, therefore the partial indulgence is confusing to me. Any thoughts or a way to explain it would help! Thank you Father.

  2. Finola, confession gives us forgiveness of our sins but does not make satisfaction for our sins. There is still reparation/satisfaction to be made. This is what is known as 'the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.' The penance imposed upon us by the priest is in some measure part of the satisfaction that needs to be made but we are encouraged by the Church to do further penance, or works of charity, or accept the hardships of our lives, or to offer additional prayers, as acts of purification. We can undergo this purification in this life or in Purgatory. Indulgences obtain partial or full remission of the 'temporal punishment' we would/will have to undergo in purgatory. We can always apply these indulgences to the souls in purgatory. On the occasions mentioned in my post, they may only be gained for the souls in purgatory. Hope this helps.

  3. Thank you Father! That is a most helpful explanation. I will share that with my teenagers as I now get it!
    Most grateful Father!


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