Monthly Archives: December 2015

Indulgences for the Year of Mercy: What are they? How do I obtain them?



One of the special gifts that the Lord Jesus gave to His Church is the gift of indulgences. This is gift is one that is, sadly, widely unknown and misunderstood, but which we should all strive to obtain during our lives as Christians. Indulgences are not free tickets to heaven, nor do they mean that we have personally made up for our sins. Well, what are they? Let’s look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about indulgences:

“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.” (CCC 1471)

So, what does this mean? As we know, any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession. However, even after Confession, there are still the remnants of our sins remaining. Think about it like this: When your child does something wrong, you want them to admit what they have done, and to apologize. This is what we do when we go to Confession, and God, like our earthly parents, happily forgives us as our loving Father. But when you have forgiven your child, there are also consequences for what they have done. You put them in time-out, you ground them, or you have them clean the kitchen! In a similar way, when God forgives us, there are still consequences for our actions. In the normal course of our Christian life, instead of time-out, we perform acts of penance. These can include spending extra time in prayer, doing works of charity, giving up things we like (fasting) for periods of time. In all of these ways, with the right intention, we can help to make up for the wrong that we have done. Of course, all of this is done with and through Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the Cross.

With indulgences, we have another opportunity from the Church to forgive the consequences of our actions. Indulgences can forgive either all of those consequences (plenary) or some of them (partial). And of course, as we Catholics believe strongly in praying for our deceased loved ones, the Church allows us to apply indulgences to the dead as well, in order to shorten their time of purification before they enjoy the Vision of God.

So, how do we obtain them? We have many opportunities for indulgences, and can gain one everyday. Things as simple as making the Stations of the Cross, praying a family Rosary, spending 30 minutes in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, or spending 30 minutes devoutly reading Sacred Scripture can
all be means for us to gain a plenary indulgence. In order to gain an indulgence, the particular work or prayer should be done in a spirit of faith. In addition, there are 4 requirements:

1) Prior Sacramental Confession (at least 20 days before or after)
2) Reception of Holy Communion
3) Freedom from all attachment to sin
4) Prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father (normally an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be)

All the indulgences regularly offered by the Church are contained in a little book called the Handbook of Indulgences, which can be easily purchased through Amazon, or you can find them at this website: For the coming Jubilee Year of Mercy (Dec. 8, 2015 – Nov. 20, 2016), Pope Francis has given us a special opportunity here at St Peter’s to gain indulgences. Here are the indulgences that the Church has granted in honor of the Year of Mercy:

Those who make a pilgrimage to and pass through the Holy Door at

1) St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome or any of the other Papal Basilicas in Rome
2) Any Shrine or Jubilee Church in which the Door of Mercy is open
3) The Holy Door in every Cathedral or church designated by the Diocesan Bishop

Of course, #3 applies to St Peter’s. So, with the proper dispositions, all of us here at St Peter’s can obtain a plenary indulgence simply by coming and praying here at your own parish church! On Sunday, Dec. 13, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, at the 11am Mass, we will inaugurate and open the Holy Door here at St Peter’s. Father Linsky and I urge all of you to take great advantage of the extraordinary opportunity offered by the Church this year, and be assured of our prayers for a blessed and joyful Year of Mercy for us all!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. West