Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Saint Joseph from December 8, 2020 – December 8, 2021. He declared it so that “every member of the faithful, following his example, may strengthen their life of faith daily in the complete fulfillment of God’s will.” With this declaration, Pope Francis also granted some special indulgences for this year.

You might be asking what’s an indulgence anyway? Let’s start by looking at temporal punishment. A classic example to explain temporal punishment is a father who asks his child not to play baseball near the house. The child disobeys, plays baseball near the house, and ends up breaking a window.  We have the disobedience of the child to the father and the broken window to examine. The child asks forgiveness of the father and is truly sorry for disobeying. The father forgives the child freely. After the sin is forgiven and forgotten, there is still a broken window, the effect of the child’s disobedience. The child could work at different chores to earn money to pay for the window, the father could repair it, or the father could call in a glass company to do the work. That repair of the window, the thing that the disobedience produced, is like the temporal effects of our sin and we will have temporal punishment for that. Our sins are forgiven, but things must be right.

Our eternal punishment (hell) is erased with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and God’s forgiveness. Our temporal punishment is erased in purgatory after we die, or through some sort of good and holy works we do while still alive. These works and prayers then cancel the debt of the temporal effects of our sin. They repair the window so to speak.

The Catechism tells us that “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 defined conditions through the Church’s help when, as a minister of Redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions won by Christ and the saints.”

“An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishment due for their sins.” The Church does this not just to aid Christians, “but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity” (CCC 1478).

After our death, we can end up directly in heaven if die in a state of grace and we are without any remnant of the temporal effects of sin. We can end up in purgatory, where we are cleansed of the temporal effects of our sin and purified before we go to heaven. Lastly, we can end up in hell, by our own choice, if we refuse to accept God and love Him and others.

In His mercy, God gives us the ability to work on the effects of our sin while here on earth and to shorten our time of purifying after death through indulgences. There are some rules attached to indulgences that need to be followed. First, we need to be in a state of grace while we do the work of the indulgence, so we can’t be in a state of grave or mortal sin. Second, we need to have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin. That means we are trying actively and consciously to avoid sin. Third, we must have sacramentally confessed our sins (in the confessional, to the priest). Fourth, we need to receive the Eucharist at the time of our work and finally, we need to pray for the intentions of the Pope. Now we do get a bit of a grace period, because all those Sacraments aren’t always available to us on the same day and at the same time. We have what the Church calls a reasonable amount of time before or after our indulgenced work to go to Reconciliation and receive the Eucharist, but we should pray for the Pope’s intentions the same day. Praying for the Pope’s intentions can be as simple as praying an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.

There are two kinds of indulgences, partial and plenary. Partial indulgences do just what they sound like, they remit partially the temporal punishment attached to the sin. A Plenary indulgence remits all the temporal punishment for those sacramentally confessed sins.

As a bonus, we can give away our indulgences to benefit our loved ones that have died and are already in Purgatory. They can no longer help themselves with prayers or works, so we can do it for them.

Here is a link to the indulgence for the Year of Saint Joseph. http://bit.ly/3nACQyZ These are just a few of many more indulgences to be gained. Just check them all out in The Enchiridion of Indulgences, a copy of which can be seen at http://bit.ly/35yrJk1

Here’s a plan: go to Reconciliation on Saturday morning or Monday night, head to Sunday or any daily Mass and then afterward choose one of the indulgences like spending 30 minutes meditating on the Our Father or praying a family rosary and shorten your time in purgatory. You not only get that happy remittance of punishment, but here on earth, you are growing every closer to the Lord, building up your prayer life, helping those in need and becoming a more faithful disciple.

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