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Blake Andoro wrote:

Hi, guys —

  1. Can I:
    • receive several partial indulgences within a day, or
    • do indulgenced work like a plenary indulgence where you can only receive one a day?

  2. If I'm in a state of grace, do I still need to go to Confession before I can receive a plenary indulgence?
  3. Does a partial indulgence require sacramental Confession?

Blake

  { How many indulgences can I receive in a day and do I have to go to Confession to receive them? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Blake —

I found a really good piece by James Akin that I think answers your question. I've included the key text below. I've also gathered what the Catechism has to say on the issue.

Based on what James and the Catechism have said, the answers are:

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. No.

Hope this helps,

Mike

How To Gain An Indulgence

To gain any indulgence you must be a Catholic in a state of grace. You must be a Catholic in order to be under the Church's jurisdiction, and you must be in a state of grace because apart from God's grace none of your actions are fundamentally pleasing to God (meritorious). You also must have at least the habitual intention of gaining an indulgence by the act performed.

To gain a partial indulgence, you must perform with a contrite heart the act to which the indulgence is attached.

To gain a plenary indulgence you must perform the act with a contrite heart plus you must go to Confession (one Confession may suffice for several plenary indulgences), receive Holy Communion, and pray for the pope's intentions. (An Our Father and a Hail Mary said for the pope's intentions are sufficient, although you are free to substitute other prayers of your own choosing.) The final condition is that you must be free from all attachment to sin, including venial sin.

Because of the extreme difficulty in meeting the final condition, plenary indulgences are rarely obtained. If you attempt to receive a plenary indulgence, but are unable to meet the last condition, a partial indulgence is received instead.

Below are indulgences listed in the <Handbook of Indulgences> (New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1991). Note that there is an indulgence for Bible reading. So, rather than discouraging Bible reading, the Catholic Church promotes it by giving indulgences for it! (This was the case long before Vatican II.) An act of spiritual communion, expressed in any devout formula whatsoever, is endowed with a partial indulgence.

  1. A partial indulgence is granted the Christian faithful who devoutly spend time in mental prayer.
  2. A partial indulgence is granted the Christian faithful who read sacred Scripture with the veneration due God's word and as a form of spiritual reading. The indulgence will be a plenary one when such reading is done for at least one-half hour [provided the other conditions are met].
  3. A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who devoutly sign themselves with the cross while saying the customary formula: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
  4. Priests who administer the sacraments to the Christian faithful who are in a life-and- death situation should not neglect to impart to them the apostolic blessing, with its attached indulgence.

But if a priest cannot be present, Holy Mother Church lovingly grants such persons who are rightly disposed a plenary indulgence to be obtained in <articulo mortis>, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or a cross is recommended in obtaining this plenary indulgence. In such a situation the three usual conditions required in order to gain a plenary indulgence are substituted for by the condition "provided they regularly prayed in some way."

The Christian faithful can obtain the plenary indulgence mentioned here as death approaches (<in articulo mortis>) even if they had already obtained another plenary indulgence that same day.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Under III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "herefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin. From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

St. John Chrysostom (347 A.D. — 407 A.D.)

1471 The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.

What is an indulgence?

"An indulgence is a remission before 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."

"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.

Obtaining indulgence from God through the Church

1478 An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.

1479 Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.

1498 Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.

John replied:

Blake,

I'm going to address spirit of the question.

Indulgences aren't brownie points. Don't treat them as such. Don't get caught up in the paradigm which seeks to explain a mystery of faith in temporal terms.

Yes, there is a treasury of merit from which the Church dispenses grace in the form of indulgences but don't get caught up in recipes and formulas, lest you fall into a gospel of works or reduce the meriting of indulgences to reciting an incantation or some other superstitious practice.

John

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