Indulgences

The Year of St. Joseph comes with five new opportunities to obtain a plenary indulgence. These provide extra ways for the faithful to practice the devotions that build a strong spiritual life and that prepare for eternal life.

An indulgence removes temporal punishment for sins that have already been forgiven. Just as a parent of a misbehaving child both forgives and punishes, so does God the Father act toward his children. God forgives the sin in sacramental confession but may still punish the offense. An indulgence removes all or part of the punishment, and is therefore categorized as plenary or partial.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains indulgences in paragraphs 1471-1479. The Vatican’s Enchiridion of Indulgences gives a fuller treatment.

To obtain a plenary indulgence the faithful must complete several steps:

  • They must perform the work attached to the indulgence.
  • They must celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation within 20 days before or after the action.
  • They must receive holy communion.
  • They must pray for the intentions of the Pope.
  • They must remove all attachment to sin, even to venial sin. (Enchiridion 26).

Perhaps the last of these is the most difficult, but it shows that no devotional action occasions a plenary indulgence on its own. Indulgence requires one’s complete conversion of heart.

Here are the five ways to obtain a plenary indulgence during the Year of St. Joesph:

  • Contemplating the Lord’s Prayer for 30 minutes or participating in a retreat that includes a meditation on St. Joseph,
  • Fulfilling a corporal or spiritual work of mercy after the example of St. Joseph,
  • Reciting the rosary as a family or as an engaged couple,
  • Daily entrusting one’s life to the protection of St. Joseph or invoking his intercessions for those in search of a job or more dignified work, or
  • Reciting the litanies of St. Joseph or some other prayer to St. Joseph in favor of the Church persecuted and for the relief of all Christians who suffer persecution.

Fr. Paul Turner

Director, Office of Divine Worship
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph


Read the English translation of the Holy See’s decree on Year of St. Joseph Indulgences here.

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