Thursday, September 2, 2010

How To Get An Indulgence?

Q - You were on the Sonrise Morning Show-EWTN and the subject was indulgences. What was not presented are the prayers and devotions that have indulgences attached. Can you list some of them? Thank you.

A - Thanks for the question and thanks for listening. I always have a good time with the people on The Sonrise Morning Show. We didn't have enough time to cover everything about indulgences, but we did talk about some of the basics. If any readers are unfamiliar with the background of indulgences and why we have them, you can read more about them here.

Before we get to some of the prayers and devotions which are done for having an indulgence granted to you, there are some conditions that must be met before one can have an indulgence granted.
the basics are:

  • There are two types of indulgences - partial and plenary (full).
  • Plenary indulgences can only be granted one a day, unless death is imminent.
  • To have a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions:
    1 - sacramental confession,
    2 - Eucharistic Communion and
    3 - prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
    It is further required that you must be free from all attachment to sin, even venial. If this is not the case, the plenary indulgence becomes a partial one.
  • The three conditions above must be met within a few days before or after the work done for the indulgence.
  • Indulgences may be done for yourself or those in purgatory, but not others who are still alive on earth.

The full list of norms can be found here.

Now, here are some prayers/devotions and whether it is a partial or plenary indulgence. If you want a complete list, you can find it here.


  • Teaching of studying Christian doctrine
  • Praying the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed
  • Act of Spiritual Communion
  • Prayer for the household
  • Reciting several approved litanies
  • Praying the Memorare
  • Reciting Psalm 51
  • Making devout use of a blessed holy object (e.g., a crucifix, rosary, scapular, etc)
  • Spending devout time in mental prayer
  • Prayer for the Pope


  • Half an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Papal blessing
  • Adoration of the Cross during Good Friday services
  • Attending the closing Mass of a Eucharistic Congress
  • Three days of retreat
  • Receiving 1st Communion or assisting at a 1st Communion
  • Being ordained a priest or devoutly participating in an ordination Mass of a priest
  • Reciting a rosary in a church or within the family or religious community. Other times it is partial.
  • Reading Sacred Scripture for 30 minutes or more. Partial if less.

I hope this helps.


Aquinas said...

Wait so when you say that indulgences are for only those in purgatory do you mean you cannot do an indulgence for yourself?

Marcel said...

Aquinas - we can have them for ourselves (or those in purgatory), but not others who are alive on earth. They have to get them themselves while they still can.

Sarah said...

The idea of indulgences is something that I struggle with. Doesn't it sound pretty made-up? I don't think God came up with these rules and I don't think he has to follow them. The idea that you "chose one option from Column A, one from Column B, and one from Column C, and do these things within 48 hours of each other" and you're forgiven the punishment for your sins, sounds fake, I have to say. Not to mention that some of the options are only good enough to get you a "partial" forgiveness, as if there is some score card with actual measurements on it. As a Catholic, do I have to accept the idea of indulgences? How can I reconcile this to myself?

Marcel said...

Sarah - try this:

deepoctave said...

Isn't Sarah's confusion partially revealed by her use of the word "forgiveness"? Sins are forgiven, but temporal punishment is remitted.

Here's an example. My mother used to assign us Saturday chores such as cleaning the toilet or washing a part of a wall. I can remember on one occasion simply refusing to do the chore she had given me. By doing so, I was incurring the mortal sin of disobedience to my parents because of an unhealthy attachment to laziness. Later, I went to her and apologized for refusing and received her forgiveness. But I still felt lazy! I did the chore, but not without tears and resentment toward her. This attitude could be called the natural consequence of my unhealthy attachment to my own comfort.

Much later, I recognized the need for this deeper level of change. and prayed a rosary asking for God to change my heart. If I truly fulfilled the conditions for an indulgence, the Church would be granting it in recognition of my readiness for heaven in that area my life. In other words, She would be remitting the temporal punishment I would otherwise have needed to make me ready for heaven.