Works that Merit a Plenary Indulgence

Have you ever wondered what kind of works would help you obtain a plenary indulgence? The Catholic Church has published an updated handbook (a.k.a. “enchiridion”) on indulgences and lists a number of works that can be performed, in addition to the other requirements (i.e. Confession, Communion, prayers for the Pope, etc.), that will merit a full plenary indulgence.

To save you time, here is a filtered list of works that would get you a plenary indulgence (30 out of 70):

  1. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes.
  2. Visit a Patriarchal Basilica in Rome, pray the Our Father, recite the Creed on either (a) the titular feast of that Basilica, (b) on any Holy Day of Obligation, or (c) once a year on any other day of one’s choice.
  3. Piously and devoutly receive — even by radio — the blessing of the Pope when imparted to Rome and the world (Urbi et Orbi).
  4. Visit to a cemetery and praying for the departed during November 1 – 8. Only applies to souls in Purgatory.
  5. Solemnly assist in the liturgical action of Good Friday at the adoration of the Cross and kiss it.
  6. Reciting “Look Down Upon Me, Good and Gentle Jesus” during Fridays of Lent and Passiontide before an image of Christ crucified.

    Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech you to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, while I contemplate with great love and tender pity your five wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David, your prophet, said of you, my good Jesus: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones.”

  7. Devoutly participate in the customary solemn Eucharistic Rite at the close of the Eucharistic Congress.
  8. Spend at least three whole days in the spiritual exercises of a retreat.
  9. Publicly recite “Most Sweet Jesus–Act of Reparation” on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  10. Publicly recite “Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer–Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King” on the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.
  11. At the moment of death. This is the only exception where the other three prerequisites are not required (Confession, Communion, Prayers for the Pope’s Intentions).
  12. Using an article of devotion (i.e. crucifix, rosary, scapular, etc.) on the feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter & Paul, that has been blessed either by the Pope or a bishop. Must also include a profession of faith according to any legitimate formula.
  13. Attending a mission, hear some of the sermons and are present for the solemn close of the mission.
  14. Receiving First Communion or those who assist at the sacred ceremonies of a First Communion.
  15. Devoutly assist at the first Mass of a newly ordained priest.
  16. Reciting the rosary in a Church, public oratory, a family group, a religious community or pious association. Regulated as follows: all five decades must be recited continuously, vocal recitation must be accompanied by pious meditation of the mysteries, and customary public recitation according to the place.
  17. During the jubilees of sacerdotal ordination. The priest and those who assist him at his jubilee Mass, celebrating the 25th, 50th and 60th anniversary of his ordination.
  18. Reading Sacred Scripture for 30 minutes.
  19. Assisting at the sacred functions celebrated in the morning or evening at the Stational Churches in Rome as indicated in the Roman Missal for that day.
  20. Reciting one Our Father and the Creed while visiting the Church where a Diocesan Synod is taking place.
  21. Reciting “Down in Adoration Falling” (Tantum Ergo) on Holy Thursday or during the Feast of Corpus Christi.
  22. Reciting “Te Deum” on the last day of the year.
  23. Reciting “Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest” on January 1st or during the Feast of Pentecost.
  24. Exercise the Way of the Cross. Regulated as follows: must be done before Stations of the Cross legitimately erected, all 14 stations required, fourteen pious readings/meditations where vocal prayers are added, and movement from one station to the next, (those who can’t walk the stations can fulfill by spending 30 minutes in pious reading/meditation).
  25. Visit to a parochial church on its titular feast or on August 2nd when the indulgence of “portiuncula” occurs. Recite one Our Father and the Creed.
  26. Visiting and reciting the Our Father and the Creed on the day of its consecration.
  27. Visit a Church or Oratory on All Souls Day, and recite the Our Father and the Creed. Applies only to souls in Purgatory.
  28. Visit the Church or Oratory on the feastday of its canonized founder. Recite one Our Father and the Creed.
  29. Assisting at a sacred function at which the Visitator presides during a pastoral visitation.
  30. Renewing baptismal promises during the Paschal Vigil or on the anniversary of one’s baptism.

Superstitious or Supernatural Outlook?

Do I have a superstitious or supernatural outlook? As a Catholic, I know I am not supposed to be superstitious (i.e., lucky rabbit’s foot, bad luck from broken mirrors, etc.) Yet, this article from the National Catholic Register was thought-provoking, especially this paragraph:

With superstition, or what might be called magic, the practitioner is always manipulating the material world in order to manipulate the supernatural world for his own benefit. The magician or shaman kills a black cat to kill the evil powers that threaten. The superstitious person wears a talisman to ward off the evil eye. The superstitious Catholic says prayers and does penance to get God to give him what we wants. [Emphasis mine.] The superstitious Catholic wears a scapular to escape hell—not as a sign of his constant life of prayer and faith.

The passage was thought-provoking because I wondered whether my seeking of plenary indulgences for victims who died from terrorist attacks might be superstitious. Am I doing the requirements for a plenary indulgence in order for God to give me what I want? How do I know whether I am doing my will or doing His will?

This is the challenge of the spiritual life. Do you find yourself with similar struggles? Do you find yourself praying, doing penance or some kind of mortification in order to bargain or manipulate God to give you what you want?

I wonder, in my case, whether it makes a difference that what I want is for the benefit of others. The plenary indulgences I seek are not even for people I know personally. And, I am seeking the help of St. Therese of Lisieux in order to make my indulgent work perfect. I hope that by making the indulgence less about me and more about souls I will one day meet in Heaven, I am conforming to God’s will and growing in supernatural love.

The article goes on to say this:

Supernaturalism, on the other hand, is God’s grace coming to us through the natural world. In superstition we try to impose our will. In Supernaturalism we try to conform to God’s will. In superstition we do something to get our way. In supernaturalism God does something to change us to his way. This is why when we do bring our prayer requests to God we always include the prayers, “According to your will.”

So, that is my hope: God’s grace coming to us through the natural world: bread & wine, acts of contrition, faith, hope and charity, verbal prayer for the Pope’s intentions. If some stain of self-interest remain, then I hope St. Therese will intercede for me and make my offering perfect. I pray that my actions conform to His will, not mine.

Dear Lord, thank you for the Enchiridion of Indulgences. Thank you for allowing us, your humble and useless children, to participate in Your Infinite Mercy. It’s not my actions that merit the plenary indulgences for souls, but the merit of Christ on the Cross. The infinite value of His Sacrifice is stored up in the Heavenly Treasury. In Your Divine Wisdom, we are allowed to participate in Your merciful action; by seeking plenary indulgences, we grow in love for our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Purgatory. We grow in hope that we will one day see them in Heaven and worship You together with them. Amen.

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