Tag: Indulgences

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. How can I get indulgences. As a former Protestant I’m still learning the Catholic faith. Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory? If I have to go there it’s apt to be a long sentence. I’ve got a lot of sin and I’ve done confessions but still sin. I’m a rough kind of guy, trying to get to Heaven. Needs LOTS of these indulgences. Please help.

A. Well, you’re also a very honest kind of guy. It’s good that you are aware of your sin, that’s the first step to receiving God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is Not Enough…The Grace of Indulgences

This seems like a strange subheading for this chapter, but it’s true. Forgiveness is not enough to grow holy. Here is a classic question that illustrates the point.

Often it is asked whether someone will go straight to Heaven if they go to confession, confess all their sins, and as they walk out of the church have a heart attack and die. They were just forgiven so this must mean they go straight to Heaven with no time in Purgatory! Right? Wrong.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation does in fact forgive all our sins. For that reason, someone who goes to confession and dies prior to committing an unrepented mortal sin will, indeed, go to Heaven. But getting into Heaven also requires something else. It requires complete freedom from all attachment to sin! And that’s a tall order.

Sin not only hurts our relationship with God, it also strengthens our “relationship” so to speak with sin itself. In other words, the more we sin, the more we are attached to sin. Confession forgives our past sins, and helps us overcome future sins, but we do need additional grace to be freed from the “attachment” we experience.

For example, say someone is a habitual liar. They have become so used to lying that they do it for no real reason. The habit is deep and strong and they practice it daily and throughout the day.

Now let’s say that person goes to confession and receives forgiveness for all past sins of lying. That’s excellent! But does this mean that as soon as the person walks out of the confessional they have also completely broken the habit they have formed? Certainly not. Most likely, within a few hours, they will be tempted to lie again simply because the habit is strong within them. This fact reveals to us that forgiveness is not enough, we also need a special grace to help us become detached from all tendencies toward sin. And this is where an indulgence comes in.

Catechism defines an indulgence in the following way:

“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” (Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1).

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; cf. Norm 3). The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead (CIC, can. 994). (#1471)

Now there is a lot packed into this statement which may be confusing. So let’s look at it one piece at a time.

Temporal Punishment:

First of all, punishment due to sin is either eternal or temporal. Eternal punishment (Hell) is removed in confession, but temporal punishment remains. This language can be misleading. This is not a punishment from God. It’s not as if God says, “Because you did this you deserve 10 years in purgatory unless you make up for it now.” The “punishment” is “due to sin.” In other words, sin itself imposes a punishment upon us. What is that punishment? It’s attachment to sin. By sinning we become attached to the sin through our habit and this attachment is a punishment from the sin itself. God wants to break that attachment. The grace of an indulgence is specifically for this purpose.

Prescribed Actions of the Church:

All grace comes from God, but the Church is given the authority to dispense the grace of God through certain means. An indulgence is one of those means. Therefore, when the Church says that certain actions open the warehouse of grace, we can be certain that this is true. For example, one of the indulgences offered by the Church requires the following: Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession within seven days of that holy hour, receive communion within seven days, and pray for the pope. Upon the completion of these requirements we can be certain that all the grace we need to completely detach from the sins we confess is given to us. That’s right. The grace is there.

Interior Disposition:

But there is one catch to the above explanation! We have to be open to that grace if it is going to have an effect in our lives. And this is the most important part to remember (and the most difficult to fulfill). To illustrate, let’s go back to our earlier example. Say a person went to confession, completed the requirements of a full indulgence, and THEN walked outside and was hit by a car and died. Does the indulgence mean the person went straight to Heaven? Maybe, but probably not. The person would go straight to Heaven, bypassing Purgatory, if, and only if, that person’s heart was ALSO perfectly open to the infinite grace given through this indulgence. Forgiveness of sin is certain. Therefore, Heaven will happen. But whether one goes to Purgatory or not depends on how open the person is to completely detaching from all sin and all tendency to sin. This is the grace the indulgence seeks to give if we are willing to receive it. And if we do fully open our heart to it, this means we have completely converted to God and are perfectly in His grace. This, of course, must be our goal!

Types of Indulgences:

An indulgence is either “partial”or “full.” “Partial” meaning some of the grace needed for the full conversion is given, and “full” meaning that all of the grace needed is made available if the person’s heart is fully open.

So this is the glorious and transforming Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness. It’s a gift so many fear, but a gift we ought to love. Examine your approach to this sacrament and let God speak to you, draw you to it and help you fall in love with it. If you do, you’ll find that this is one of the best ways available to encounter the love and mercy of our perfectly loving and merciful God!

Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory and make heaven?

Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory and make heaven?

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. How can I get indulgences. As a former Protestant I’m still learning the Catholic faith. Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory? If I have to go there it’s apt to be a long sentence. I’ve got a lot of sin and I’ve done confessions but still sin. I’m a rough kind of guy, trying to get to Heaven. Needs LOTS of these indulgences. Please help.

A. Well, you’re also a very honest kind of guy. It’s good that you are aware of your sin, that’s the first step to receiving God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is Not Enough…The Grace of Indulgences

This seems like a strange subheading for this chapter, but it’s true. Forgiveness is not enough to grow holy. Here is a classic question that illustrates the point.

Often it is asked whether someone will go straight to Heaven if they go to confession, confess all their sins, and as they walk out of the church have a heart attack and die. They were just forgiven so this must mean they go straight to Heaven with no time in Purgatory! Right? Wrong.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation does in fact forgive all our sins. For that reason, someone who goes to confession and dies prior to committing an unrepented mortal sin will, indeed, go to Heaven. But getting into Heaven also requires something else. It requires complete freedom from all attachment to sin! And that’s a tall order.

Sin not only hurts our relationship with God, it also strengthens our “relationship” so to speak with sin itself. In other words, the more we sin, the more we are attached to sin. Confession forgives our past sins, and helps us overcome future sins, but we do need additional grace to be freed from the “attachment” we experience.

For example, say someone is a habitual liar. They have become so used to lying that they do it for no real reason. The habit is deep and strong and they practice it daily and throughout the day.

Now let’s say that person goes to confession and receives forgiveness for all past sins of lying. That’s excellent! But does this mean that as soon as the person walks out of the confessional they have also completely broken the habit they have formed? Certainly not. Most likely, within a few hours, they will be tempted to lie again simply because the habit is strong within them. This fact reveals to us that forgiveness is not enough, we also need a special grace to help us become detached from all tendencies toward sin. And this is where an indulgence comes in.

Catechism defines an indulgence in the following way:

“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” (Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1).

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; cf. Norm 3). The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead (CIC, can. 994). (#1471)

Now there is a lot packed into this statement which may be confusing. So let’s look at it one piece at a time.

Temporal Punishment:

First of all, punishment due to sin is either eternal or temporal. Eternal punishment (Hell) is removed in confession, but temporal punishment remains. This language can be misleading. This is not a punishment from God. It’s not as if God says, “Because you did this you deserve 10 years in purgatory unless you make up for it now.” The “punishment” is “due to sin.” In other words, sin itself imposes a punishment upon us. What is that punishment? It’s attachment to sin. By sinning we become attached to the sin through our habit and this attachment is a punishment from the sin itself. God wants to break that attachment. The grace of an indulgence is specifically for this purpose.

Prescribed Actions of the Church:

All grace comes from God, but the Church is given the authority to dispense the grace of God through certain means. An indulgence is one of those means. Therefore, when the Church says that certain actions open the warehouse of grace, we can be certain that this is true. For example, one of the indulgences offered by the Church requires the following: Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession within seven days of that holy hour, receive communion within seven days, and pray for the pope. Upon the completion of these requirements we can be certain that all the grace we need to completely detach from the sins we confess is given to us. That’s right. The grace is there.

Interior Disposition:

But there is one catch to the above explanation! We have to be open to that grace if it is going to have an effect in our lives. And this is the most important part to remember (and the most difficult to fulfill). To illustrate, let’s go back to our earlier example. Say a person went to confession, completed the requirements of a full indulgence, and THEN walked outside and was hit by a car and died. Does the indulgence mean the person went straight to Heaven? Maybe, but probably not. The person would go straight to Heaven, bypassing Purgatory, if, and only if, that person’s heart was ALSO perfectly open to the infinite grace given through this indulgence. Forgiveness of sin is certain. Therefore, Heaven will happen. But whether one goes to Purgatory or not depends on how open the person is to completely detaching from all sin and all tendency to sin. This is the grace the indulgence seeks to give if we are willing to receive it. And if we do fully open our heart to it, this means we have completely converted to God and are perfectly in His grace. This, of course, must be our goal!

Types of Indulgences:

An indulgence is either “partial”or “full.” “Partial” meaning some of the grace needed for the full conversion is given, and “full” meaning that all of the grace needed is made available if the person’s heart is fully open.

So this is the glorious and transforming Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness. It’s a gift so many fear, but a gift we ought to love. Examine your approach to this sacrament and let God speak to you, draw you to it and help you fall in love with it. If you do, you’ll find that this is one of the best ways available to encounter the love and mercy of our perfectly loving and merciful God!

Are they Same, Mercy Sunday Special Graces, Indulgences?

Are they Same, Mercy Sunday Special Graces, Indulgences?

Many are asking what is the difference between that special graces promised by Jesus for devout communicants on Mercy Sunday, and the plenary indulgence for Mercy Sunday devotions that was instituted several years ago by Pope John Paul II? Are they the same thing? Or are they different?

Simply put: They are NOT the same thing!

The main difference, of course, is that an “indulgence” is something offered to the faithful by the Church, as the keeper of the keys of the kingdom, with authority to “bind and loose” (see Mt 16:17-19). The special graces of Mercy Sunday, on the other hand, were promised directly by our Lord, through a prophetic revelation given to St. Faustina (see Diary of St. Faustina, 699). The Church has not officially ruled that this particular promise was an authentic supernatural revelation (and no Catholic is required to believe it as a matter of faith), but the Church has discerned, in various ways, that there is nothing that violates Catholic doctrine in this promise.

Briefly, here are the other main differences between the “special graces” promised by Jesus for Divine Mercy Sunday, and the plenary indulgence offered by the Church for special devotions to The Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday:

1) The special graces that our Lord promised for Mercy Sunday come solely through the reception of Holy Communion on that day, in a state of grace, with trust in The Divine Mercy. Any plenary indulgence granted by the Church, on the other hand, involves the fulfilment of a number of conditions, including prayer for the pope’s intentions, confession and Holy Eucharist, and the carrying out of the special indulgenced work (in this case: participating in public devotions to The Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday itself).

2) The special graces promised by our Lord for Mercy Sunday can be received by a soul in a state of grace, but with imperfect love for God, and imperfect contrition for sin—as long as the soul merely trusts in the Mercy of God, and clings to Him because of His promised benefits. A plenary indulgence, however, can only be obtained through the performance of an indulgenced work as an expression of pure love for God. If the intentions of one’s indulgenced work are not pure (say, the work is done in part out of fear of hell or purgatory, and loathing for oneself — or the desire to impress one’s friends and relatives! — rather than purely out of love for God) then the indulgence obtained will be only partial, not plenary.

3) The special graces that our Lord promised for Mercy Sunday can only be received for oneself, through the devout reception of Holy Communion on Mercy Sunday (as stated in #1 above). A plenary indulgence, however, can be offered for oneself, or for souls suffering in purgatory.

4) The most special grace promised by our Lord for Mercy Sunday is nothing less than the equivalent of a complete renewal of baptismal grace in the soul: “complete forgiveness (remission) of sins and punishment.” Such a measure of grace can only be received otherwise through baptism itself, or through making a sacramental confession as an act of perfect contrition for sin, out of pure love for God.

As you can see, this is no easy topic. However, you can find a more in-depth treatment of this same subject in the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy section of this same website, in the document entitled “Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday.”