Purgatory and Indulgences


All of us would like very much to go straight to Heaven when we die. But let’s face it; the chances are slim that our souls will be in a perfect state of grace at the moment of our death. It is very likely that we will need to be purified before we can enter into the Heavenly Kingdom. We will probably have some Venial Sins on our soul or possibly some unpaid debt (Temporal Punishment) at the moment of our death. Purgatory is a place of purification, for those who die in the love of God, but who have not fully let go of whatever separates them from that love. Before we enter God’s presence in Heaven, we must be cleansed of every trace of sin. This cleansing can be very painful in the lower levels of Purgatory depending on how much purification the soul needs.  For this reason, and since the earliest days of the Church, Catholics pray for those who have died, to ease their transition.

It is very likely that our deceased loved ones, like us, will spend some time in Purgatory. If a soul does not reach the kind of holiness needed to enter Heaven in his or her lifetime, he or she will need to reach that holiness in Purgatory. It takes just as long to reach holiness in Purgatory as it does here on earth. Therefore, souls can spend several decades in Purgatory as they are slowly purified. You and I have the power to speed up that transition. We can help to move a loved one upward and out of Purgatory more quickly by praying for them. You see, the souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves. We have to pray for and offer Masses for our deceased family members so that they will be able to move upward and out of Purgatory much more quickly. The worse thing we can do is to assume that our deceased loved ones are in Heaven, when in fact they could very well be in Purgatory.

As a family, pray for deceased loved ones, that God will bring them into Heaven. Mention them by name and pray for them daily. Bring your children to the Church Office and schedule Masses to be offered for your deceased family members. Involve them in that process and show your children how this is done. It is customary of pay a stipend to the priest. We generally offer $10.00 for the Mass that is said for our deceased loved one.  Teach your children the traditional prayer for the deceased: “Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Help your children to see that we are concerned about our deceased loved ones and that we are responsible for helping them to reach Heaven. As Catholics we are happy to do this. We understand that the Church does not exist solely on earth. The Church exists in Heaven, in Purgatory and on earth. We are all connected as the Mass opens up the entire Church and allows all souls to worship together. 

When you grow old and pass on, you will have the comfort of knowing that you taught your children the Catholic Faith well. They will pray for you daily and have Masses said for you. Your children will help you to move upward and out of Purgatory so that you can reach Heaven more quickly. This will be true, because you taught them how to live their Catholic Faith well.


Definition of Indulgences:

An indulgence is the lessening, in the eyes of God, of the Temporal Punishment due to sins that have already been forgiven.

An Explanation of Indulgences:

            There are two consequences for every sin we commit. One is Guilt and the other is Temporal Punishment. When we confess a sin and are sorry for it, God forgives the guilt of that sin. We are no longer guilty. However, we still owe a debt for that sin. We are still required to repair the damage that sin caused in the world. We are therefore required to make reparation for that sin. This debt that we owe is called Temporal Punishment.

            Indulgences are gifts or pardons that the Church gives to us in order to lessen the Temporal Punishment that we owe in order to make up for the sins we have committed. The Church gives us a task to complete and some conditions to follow. If we follow the conditions and complete the task with reverence, we gain or obtain the Indulgence. This indulgence either wipes away all Temporal Punishment or part of it.

Two Types of Indulgences:

            There are two types of Indulgences, Plenary and Partial. Plenary Indulgences free us from all of the Temporal Punishment or all of the debt that we owe for all of the sins we have ever committed up until that time. Partial Indulgences free us from some of the Temporal Punishment or some of the debt that we owe for the sins we have committed.

            A person can gain or obtain one Plenary Indulgence per day. A person can gain many Partial Indulgences each day.

The Church has the Authority to Grant Indulgences:

            What Jesus has done for us is immeasurable. Jesus’ work of redemption on the cross has built a tremendous “Treasury of Graces”. Even his work of healing, preaching, and teaching during His time on earth helped to build this Treasury of Graces. To a lesser degree, the Blessed Virgin Mary has contributed to this Treasury of Graces by her good works throughout her life and the way she cooperated with God’s plan of salvation. The Saints, who came before us, have helped to contribute to this Treasury of Graces by their good works. Even we can contribute to this Treasury of Graces by offering our good works and sufferings to God each day.

So the Church possesses this Treasury of Graces filled with the works of Christ, filled with the works of Our Lady, and filled with the works of the saints. Our Holy Father, the Pope, who is the Vicar of Christ here on earth, who has been given the “Keys to the Kingdom” and the Power to “Bind and Loose,” can draw upon this Treasury of Graces and grant the tremendous privilege of a Plenary Indulgence to us.

When our Holy Father grants an indulgence to us, he is acting on his Spiritual Authority to do it. He has the authority to grant these indulgences to us. When the Holy Father, the Pope, grants an Indulgence, it is also an act of charity and compassion toward us. He grants it to us because he loves us and he wants to encourage us to continue on our path toward heaven.

Five Conditions that Must be Met to Obtain an Indulgence:

In order to receive an Indulgence, the following five conditions must be fulfilled:

1)      The Catholic must be in a state of Grace—in other words, not guilty of any Mortal Sin.

2)      The Catholic must have no attachment to sin—the person feels in their heart that they do not want to sin anymore.

3)      The Catholic must make a good confession to a priest within 21 days before the Indulgence or within 21 days after the Indulgence.

4)      The Catholic must receive Holy Communion within 21 days before the Indulgence or within 21 days after the Indulgence.

5)      The Catholic must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (usually by praying one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be).

Plenary Indulgences Available Each Day:

A Plenary Indulgence is granted to Catholics each day who complete one of the following tasks and meet the Five Conditions:

v  Visit the Blessed Sacrament for at least a half an hour.

v  Pray the Stations of the Cross in a church.

v  Pray the Rosary in a church, in a family, or in a prayer group.

v  Read the Sacred Scriptures as spiritual reading from an approved Holy Bible with reverence for at least a half an hour.

Plenary Indulgences Available at Special Times of the Year:

These Plenary Indulgences are available at only special times of the year and granted to Catholics who complete one of the following tasks and meet the Five Conditions:

v  Devoutly participate in a solemn Eucharistic procession, held inside or outside the church, especially on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Feast of Corpus Christi).

v  Receive Holy Communion for the very first time as a First Communicant or devoutly attend the First Holy Communion Mass of others.

v  Spend at least three entire days in the spiritual exercises of a retreat.

v  Devoutly participate in the Adoration of the Cross in the solemn liturgical action of Good Friday. (Good Friday evening service)

v  Renew your baptismal vows in any legitimately approved formula at the celebration of the Easter Vigil or on the anniversary of your own Baptism.

Plenary Indulgence Available at the Point of Death:

This Plenary Indulgence is granted at the point of death to any Catholic. If the person cannot fulfill the usual conditions personally, the Church dispenses the person from that requirement.

v  Receive the Apostolic Pardon from a priest near the point of death.

If a priest is unavailable, Holy Mother Church generously grants this plenary Indulgence at the point of death provided the person has been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime and is in a state of grace.


Partial Indulgences Available Throughout the Year:

A Partial Indulgence is granted to Catholics each day who complete one of the following tasks and meet the Five Conditions:

v  While carrying out your duties and enduring the hardships of life, raise your mind in humble trust to God and make some sort of pious prayer such as “Jesus, I trust in you”, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” “Jesus, Mary, Joseph,” or “All for Jesus,” etc…

v  Led by the spirit of faith, give compassionately of yourself or of your goods to serve others in need.

v  In a spirit of penance, voluntarily abstain from something that is pleasurable. (Give up something)

v  Give clear and open witness of your faith before others.

v  Teach or study Christian doctrine.

v  Visit the Blessed Sacrament for adoration.

v  Make an act of thanksgiving after Communion using an approved Church prayer such as the “Anima Christi”.

v  Examine your conscience with the purpose of amendment—a purpose of changing your ways and sinning no more.

v  Recite the Act of Contrition before going to Confession.

v  Devoutly use articles of devotion that have been properly blessed by either a priest or deacon such as Rosaries, medals, and Scapulars.

v  For personal learning, devoutly spend time in mental prayer.

v  Either at dawn, noon, or evening devoutly recite the “Angelus” with its accompanying prayer.

v  Devoutly address the Blessed Virgin Mary with some approved prayer such as the “Hail Mary”, “Memorare,” or “Hail Holy Queen”.

v  Devoutly invoke the care of your guardian angel with a duly approved prayer such as “Angel of God, My Guardian Dear.”

v  Devoutly recite approved litanies such as the “Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus,” “The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,” or the “Blessed Virgin Mary.”

v  Devoutly offer grace before and after meals with prayers such as “Bless us, O Lord” prayer before meals and the “We Give you thanks, Almighty God” prayer afterwards.

v  Devoutly sign yourself with the Sign of the Cross using the customary words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

v  Recite an Act of Faith, Hope, and Love in any legitimate formula.

v  Recite the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed.

Indulgences Granted to Those in Purgatory:

Indulgences can be obtained for yourself or you can obtain them for someone who is in Purgatory. Any Indulgence can be given to those in Purgatory, but there is a Plenary and Partial Indulgence that can only be applied to those in Purgatory:

Plenary Indulgence only for those in Purgatory: On any or each day from November 1st to the 8th devoutly visit a cemetery and pray for the departed. Partial Indulgence: Visit a cemetery and pray for the deceased any day of the year.