Introduction to Indulgences

Indulgences have been widely misunderstood in the past and have at times been almost treated in a superstitious manner.   An example from ordinary life might help to illustrate the true meaning of indulgences:

Suppose you break your neighbours’ window.  If she comes out and you sincerely apologise to her and she accepts your apology, your relationship will be peacefully restored and you will be forgiven.  However, the fact remains that the window is still broken and it is a matter of justice that you take responsibility for restoring it and making up for the harm done.  Something similar happens when we commit sin.  Harm is done.  We can ask God’s forgiveness in Confession with a sincere heart and He will grant it abundantly, but we still need to, in justice, make up for it somehow.  God offers us one way to make up for the harm done through indulgences.

If we are truly sorry for our sins, and if with a sincere heart, we call on the treasury of merits of Christ, Our Lady and the saints, we can, by God’s power and mercy, draw on their store of goodness and love.

The texts of indulgences are necessarily quite technical, so it is important to remember that they have their origin in the abundant graciousness of God’s love.

What follows are some reflections and teaching on the doctrine of indulgences:

Pope John Paul ll
Writing about indulgences in preparation for the Great Jubilee 2000, John Paul ll said,

Reconciliation with God does not mean that there are no enduring consequences of sin from which we must be purified.  It is precisely in this context that the indulgence becomes important, since it is an expression of the “total gift of the mercy of God”.  With the indulgence, the repentant sinner receives a remission of the temporal punishment due for the sins already forgiven as regards the fault.

Listen to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says;

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 dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfaction of Christ and the saints. (No.1471)

What is this Treasury?

The treasury of the Church is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. The treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the prayers and good works of all
the saints. (No.1476/7)

Isn’t it like a spiritual bank where we can draw from in all our needs and it can never be exhausted.

We said ‘prescribed conditions’.  What are these?

– Sacramental Confession.
– Eucharistic Communion.
– Prayers for the intention of our Holy Father, Pope Francis,
– The indulgenced activity, whether it is prayer or good works
– Conclude with The Lord’s Prayer, and The Apostle’s Creed