(Editor’s note: Deacon Frank Agnoli presents the eighth in his series of articles on the healing sacraments. He is director of liturgy and of deacon formation for the Davenport Diocese.)
As mentioned two weeks ago, there are two kinds of indulgences: partial and plenary. The Church’s rules concerning indulgences are spelled out in the Manual of Indulgences (4th edition, 1999; English edition, 2006). The citations below (“norms”) refer to this document. What we will do here is go over some of the basics, but you should see that document for important details. The conditions for obtaining each type of indulgence are listed in the sidebar below.
In order to gain any indulgence, the recipient must be baptized, not excommunicated, have the intention of gaining the indulgence, and be in a state of grace at least by the time the indulgenced works are completed (norm No. 17). The acts or prescribed works should not be seen as “magical” (forcing God to do something in an automatic way), but as evidence of and aids in conversion of heart (Introduction, 4). If you do these works by yourself, do they help? Of course! But if you make them part of an indulgence, you are also helped by the prayer of the Church (norm No.4).
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