Sunday, December 04, 2005

Clarification on Plenary Indulgence for December 8th
We earlier posted on the Plenary Indulgence that can be gained for oneself or for the souls in Purgatory on this December 8th. As I have been reading the comment box on that original post, I think some clarification is needed on what is required to obtain an indulgence.

Here are the conditions attached to the reception of an indulgence:
1. Completion of some prayer, good work, or devotion to which the Pope (and in some cases a bishop) grants an indulgence.
2. Reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (usually within a week (before or after) of the indulgenced action (#1 above).
3. Worthy reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
4. Prayer for the Pope's intentions as Pastor of the Universal Church.
5. Total detachment from the attraction to all sin.

These are the normal conditions for receiving an indulgence. Now, let's look at what is going on this year on December 8th.

It is true that Catholics already have an obligation to attend a December 8th Mass in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mere attendance at Mass does not fulfill the requirements for the indulgence offered this year. But I would suggest, in my reading of the Vatican-released text regarding this year's indulgence, that attendance at Mass does fulfill part of #1 above. I do not read in the Vatican text that one must attend some other function or attend some non-Mass prayer form in order to fulfill #1. The Vatican text states that the indulgence applies to the faithful who attend some sacred rite in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and who also fulfill the other conditions for the indulgence. So, if you attend a December 8th Mass (as is a Catholic's obligation) and fulfill the other conditions, a plenary indulgence is granted this year.

Using the numeration above, here is what I see in the Vatican declaration for one who is interested in receiving the indulgence under normal conditions (read: this is not necessarily meant to apply to those who are homebound and unable to get to church):

1. Attendance at some sacred rite in honor of the BVM on the solemnity (Mass would fulfill this; one could attend other functions in her honor too, but, it must be clear, that those would in no way replace the Mass) and praying the Creed, the Our Father, and some invocation/prayer in Mary's honor (Hail Mary, Salve Regina, Rosary, etc.).
2. Confession at some point before or after December 8th, within a week of the solemnity.
3. Worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist (the December 8th Mass would meet this nicely).
4. Saying prayers for the Pope's intentions.
5. Being detached from all attraction to sin.

My read is that the bottom line is that attendance at a December 8th Mass with the other prayers listed in #1, plus the other normal conditions listed in #s 2-4, would fulfill the requirements for this year's Plenary Indulgence.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion. Let's all go after this indulgence with pious devotion!

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