The Church helps every Catholic man build upon his spontaneous personal prayers by offering a rich treasury of prayers which have been prayed by the Saints across the ages and that draw a man into the communion of Saints. Prayers which have been deemed particularly powerful and helpful in growing in holiness are granted Indulgences. Indulgences are one of the most powerful blessings in the Church, but are rarely emphasized and often misunderstood.

Jesus gave the Church the power to grant Indulgences

Jesus Himself gave to St. Peter the supernatural power to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19, 18:18; CCC 1444-1445, 1478), giving St. Peter and his successors the power to forgive sin (Jn 20:22-23).

Through this power, the Church grants Indulgences (Latin, indulgentia, meaning “fondness, tenderness, affection, remission”; CCC 1471-1479, 1498) which are a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to a sin committed by a man for which his guilt has already been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance; a Catholic man can also offer Indulgences to be granted to faithfully departed Catholic souls who are currently being cleansed in the agonizing fires of Purgatory (CCC 1479, 1498).

A man can reduce the just punishment for his sins by Indulgences – To understand the astounding blessing of Indulgences, a man must first understand his accountability for the sins which he commits. In simple terms, when a man commits a sin, there is damage.

If a man confesses his sin to God and is forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance, his guilt for the committed sin is forgiven. What remains is the damage his sin has caused and for which he is liable, which is called “temporal punishment” (CCC 1472-1473). An analogy might be helpful: if a man purposefully throws a rock and breaks another man’s plate glass window, the man with the broken window may forgive the rock thrower, but justice requires that the rock-thrower pay for the repair of the window.

A repentant Catholic man can reduce his “temporal punishment” for the sins he has been forgiven of by having great sorrow and perfect contrition for his sins, striving to grow in holiness, accepting the sufferings in his life in penance for the glory of God, performing many acts of charity, evangelizing others, and taking on voluntary suffering through fasting and other mortifications in sorrow for his sins. Any “temporal punishment” a man has accumulated through the sins of his life that remains at the time of his death in a state of grace, will be cleansed in the fires of Purgatory in the Church Penitent (CCC 1030-1032, 1472).

Here is tremendous news: every Catholic man can reduce, or even eliminate, his coming just  “temporal punishment” by receiving Indulgences! 

The Church offers a man who wishes for help in reducing the “temporal punishment” he is due for the damage his sin has caused (or for other poor souls who are in Purgatory) the astounding blessing of Indulgences; by simply making holy prayers and taking other actions as the Church directs, a man can be granted remission for the just punishment he is due for his sins, or the sins of another who is suffering in Purgatory. 

Conditions for receiving Indulgences

Because of the great power and blessings of Indulgences and so the pursuit and granting of Indulgences are not misunderstood or abused, the Church has specific norms which guide the conditions which a man must meet to be able to receive an Indulgence (See The Manual of Indulgences for reference and consult with a priest); in the following discussion, Norms from The Manual of Indulgences are referenced (MOI N[umber]#).

Basic requirements to receive an Indulgence

To receive any Indulgence (MOI N17):

1) a man must be baptized,

2) not excommunicated,

3) in a state of grace at least at the completion of the Indulged prayer or act,

4) have the general intention of receiving the Indulgence, and

5) must carry out the act as prescribed in The Manual of Indulgences.

It is important to emphasize that a man must be in a state of grace to receive any Indulgence; if a man is in a state of mortal sin his effort to receive any Indulgence is futile. Every Catholic man who seeks to gain any Indulgence should receive the Sacrament of Penance often.

A man can receive Indulgences for himself or a soul in Purgatory

A man can obtain Indulgences for themselves or can choose to apply an indulgence he has been granted for an indulged holy act to the poor souls in Purgatory (MOI N3). 

There are two types of Indulgences

Indulgences are either “Partial” or “Plenary” (MOI N2). A Partial indulgence is the most common kind and removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin. A Plenary (Latin, plenarius, meaning “entire, complete”) indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

Because Plenary Indulgences remove all temporal punishment due to sin, a man who receives a Plenary Indulgence at any time of his life, is granted a pardon from any time in Purgatory which he justly deserved up to that point in his life. There are stringent requirements for receiving a Plenary Indulgence (MOI N20) which a man must understand and adhere to, the most challenging is that a man must be completely free from the attachment to even the smallest of venial sins; what this means on a practical basis, is that Plenary Indulgences are difficult for the average man to acquire. If a man has a desire to seek Plenary Indulgences, he should consult his priest. 

The Every Catholic Man Prayer Routine highlights prayers which can receive Partial Indulgences

The Every Catholic Man Daily Prayer Routine focuses upon helping men receive Partial Indulgences which can be acquired multiple times a day (MOP 18.1). This is a great and powerful blessing for a man can be confident that his attempts to pray more consistently is guaranteed by the Church to have a powerful supernatural impact on his own life after death by reducing his own time of purification in Purgatory, or by reducing the time another soul’s time of purification in Purgatory; the more often a man who is in a state of grace prays prayers which are Indulged by the Church, the less time he or a soul in Purgatory will spend in Purgatory. 

To gain a Partial Indulgence attached to a prayer, a man must simply recite the Indulged Prayer himself or follow the prayer mentally when it is recited by another (MOI N23). 

Other ways to gain Partial Indulgences

In addition to reciting prayers which have Indulgences attached to them, in The Manual of Indulgences, the Church makes general grants for holy acts and offers Indulgences for acts. By doing so, the Church encourages acts which lead a man to grow in holiness and allows him through his holy and diligent efforts to reduce the temporal punishment he has accumulated for the sins he has committed or to reduce the suffering of souls in Purgatory for their accumulated temporal punishment. 

“The Four General Concessions” (The Manual of Prayer, pages 21-36) should be reviewed in detail and discussed with a priest, but are summarized below: 

I – “A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, while carrying out their duties and enduring the hardships of life, raise their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation.”

II – “A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, led by the spirit of faith, give compassionately of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need.”

III – “A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a spirit of penance, voluntarily abstain from something that is licit for [sic] and pleasing to them.”

IV – “A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in the particular circumstances of daily life, voluntarily give explicit witness to their faith before peers.”

Prayers for which the Church grants Indulgences

In recent years, the Church has updated and simplified the approach to receiving Indulgences which are taught in The Manual of Indulgences. The Manual of Indulgences confirms a list of powerful prayers which can enrich a Catholic man’s prayer life, help him grow in his understanding and love of the Catholic faith, unite him in prayer with the Communion of Saints, and grant the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for himself and for the souls in Purgatory.