The White Lily Blog

How To Gain a Plenary Indulgence

(With thanks to for particulars)

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 prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. (1983 Catechism ¶ 1471)

In other words, an indulgence can take away some or all of the temporal punishment due to sin, either for ourselves or for others, as we choose. Temporal punishment is one of the consequences of sin, which does not go away even if the sinner truly repents of the sin in this life; the other is eternal punishment, which is due the unrepentant sinner.  The amount of punishment due a particular sin includes all the possible consequences of the sin, not only to the sinner but to the community in the present and the future. Temporal punishment can occur in this life (penance and mortification are two examples of voluntary acts that can count to reduce temporal punishment; suffering the consequences of the sin involuntarily can count as well) or in Purgatory in the hereafter. Indulgences both partial and plenary are two other ways to reduce temporal punishment. Partial indulgences take away some of the punishment, but plenary indulgences take away all of it!

Like all the best deals, there are rules. Plenary indulgences are not easy to obtain.

Plenary Indulgences can be acquired only once each day for the same work (unless one is at the moment before death, in which case the person may acquire another).  Notice that one might acquire additional plenary indulgences the same day as long as they are for different works. Another exception is on All Souls Day — November 2 — when the faithful may gain a plenary indulgence, only for the souls in Purgatory, as often as they want, each time they visit a cemetery.

On November 2, a partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

Plenary indulgences are much more demanding than partial indulgences, for they require one to do all the following. These are “the usual conditions” for receiving a plenary indulgence:

• have the intention of gaining the indulgence

• receive the Sacrament of Penance (within several days before or after the prescribed action of the indulgence, though the same day is best, if possible)

• receive the Eucharist (within several days before or after the prescribed action of the indulgence, though the same day is best, if possible)

• pray 6 Paters (Our Fathers), 6 Aves (Hail Marys), and 6 Glorias (Glory Be’s) for the intentions of the Holy Father (within several days before or after the prescribed action of the indulgence, though the same day is best, if possible). The most recent Enchiridion [Church’s official handbook on indulgences] prescribes at least one of each, but 6 is the traditional number.

• perform the prescribed action of the indulgence. If the prescribed action of the indulgence requires a visit to a church or oratory, one must visit devoutly and recite 1 Our Father and the Creed. This doesn’t refer to any visits to a church for Confession or the Eucharist in order to fulfill the requirements listed above; it refers to such indulgences as those granted to the faithful for visiting a church on the day of its consecration, visiting their parochial church on its titular feast day, visiting the stational churches of Rome, etc.

be free from all attachment to sin, including venial sin. This last is most difficult, but if it can’t be fulfilled, a partial indulgence at least will be gained.

Some examples of actions to gain a plenary indulgence:

• Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least one hour

• Making the Way of the Cross or, if unable to get to a church, the pious meditation and reading on the Passion and Death of Our Lord for a half an hour

• Private recitation of five decades of the Rosary. This must be done vocally, continuously, and while meditating on the Mysteries

• Public recitation of five decades of the Rosary. This must be done vocally, continuously, and with the Mysteries announced out loud and meditated on.

• A plenary indulgence is granted on each Friday of Lent to the faithful who after Communion piously recite before an image of Christ crucified the prayer: “Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus.” On the other days of the year the indulgence is partial. The prayer is written below.

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” (Ps 21, 17-18).

• A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who renew their baptismal promises in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil

• A plenary indulgence is granted when an Act of Consecration is publicly recited on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (go to end to see this prayer)

• A plenary indulgence is received by those who publicly make the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart on the Feast of Christ the King (last Sunday in October per the traditional calendar, last Sunday of Pentecost per the Novus Ordo calendar) (Go to end to see this prayer)

• A pious visit to a church, a public or chapel on All Souls’ Day (November 2) with the prayers of one Our Father and the Creed; this indulgence is applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

• A devout visit to a cemetery with a prayer, even if only mental, for the departed souls, from the first to the eighth day of November.

Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.

I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.

I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.

Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thy altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but to be more surely united with Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Thy most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known Thee; many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to to draw them all into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of that race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may It now descend upon them, a laver of redemption and of life. Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: “Praise be to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and honor for ever.” Amen.

21 Comments so far
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[…] How To Gain a Plenary Indulgence […]

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Please say a prayer for Sigrid Undset and Flannery O’Connor, two brilliant Catholic writers. May their souls and the souls of all the Faithful Departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, asi sea.

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Please pray for my sister who departed this life on 9/222012. Her name was Julie and I should have loved her better.

Comment by Hellena Winslow-Keane

I will pray for her this morning, and for you as well, Hellena.

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Can I have a list of the various indulgences offered by the Roman catholic Church?

Comment by Elizabeth Parackal

Dear Elizabeth, The US conference of Bishops has issued just such a resource, and it is available through Books-a-Million, both new and used. I’ll put the link below. Did you know that indulgences can be earned also for the holy souls in purgatory? Let me encourage you to read more about this aspect of indulgences, because it is believed that devotion to those in purgatory can bring many benefits. Thank you for visiting my blog, and may I ask for your prayers as well? Here’s the link:

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

why did it take me solong to go on line and be educated on how to save or release a soul in pugatory thank you TONY MALLON

Comment by tony mallon

Do it, Tony!! God will bless you so much for doing so!

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Thanks for the edifying information

Comment by elijah

is it fact that if i say 6 our fe 6 hail marys 6 glory be that the indulgence is mine i mean for my soul when i dye tony mallon

Comment by tony mallon

Hi, Tony! I went to and got the snip below, which indicates you are right, once a day if you say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be six times each and meet the other typical requirements, you can gain a plenary indulgence for yourself or others. The snip also refers to the special conditions applying to All Souls Day. I hope this is what you are looking for! If you scroll down the comments, you will find a resource that answers many indulgence questions from our US council of bishops. God bless you, Tony!

Between Noon of November 1 and Midnight tonight, a person who has been to confession and Communion can gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, for the poor souls each time he visits a church or public oratory and recites the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father six times. This is a special exception to the ordinary law of the Church according to which a plenary indulgence for the same work can be gained only once a day. Because of this, some of the customs described below may be begun on All Saints Day.

Comment by thewhitelilyblog


Comment by amaka


Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Well, thank you for your comment, Kev. I really regret that you took my statement about Flannery needing our prayers in purgatory as a jest, or as ironic. Catholics believe that although Christ died to win us the possibility again of salvation, we must, as St. Paul said, make up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ. We do that during life (you know, through our almsgiving, fasting, prayers) and if the debt is not paid before our death–which the saints have assured us most people’s is not–then we go to purgatory, which is as painful in all senses as hell. My statement was meant to say, Don’t canonize Flannery ahead of time and perhaps cost her the prayers of the faithful. I prayed for Flannery (and other writers) this morning at mass, after the consecration, and as I always do, asked that when she get to heaven, or if she already has gotten there, to help me with my own writing. I also pray for Sigrid Undset and for Roy Campbell and his wife Mary. I do not presume to pray for those who explicitly rejected the faith during their life (for example, for TS Eliot, who knew the theology behind the separation of the Anglican church, and chose to remain in it anyway) but I always mention to God that He will remember how their writing affected so many, so positively, in their lives. Writers really matter. They affect history, they affect the salvation of souls.

I am wondering if you yourself want to be a writer, and that’s part of your enthusiasm for Flannery O’Connor, and how you come to know and apply the word tone, in this case to my writing. I completely confess to it, a sarcastic one in this piece. It is directed, I don’t know if you got that, toward traditionalists who ought to know better than I how the philosophy of liberalism has subtly infected our Church and our good people, how delicately it inserts the poison into the apple. But fiction confuses us, apparently. I did not address liberalism in Flannery’s fiction, as I pointed out in the piece, but I do in another, about her short story Revelation. In any case, my tone–my anger–was not directed at the liberal Catholic. Their support of Flannery is perfectly justified–she stands for what they stand for. But there’s a huge disconnect for traditionalists–and I do admit, Kev, I cannot stand the toleration of contradiction. Words are sacred tools. God gave us them, a truly supernatural gift, there’s no explaining it in nature, I just watched a PBS special making that point. And why did God give us language? To seek the Truth. If traditionalists stand for X, Y, and Z, then would you please pick your heroes accordingly?

I must also disagree with your notion that age, somehow, youth or elderly, has anything whatsoever to do with the truth in any context. Bit of a media virus there. There are theses–statements explaining phenomena, pointing toward the solution of social problems. The speaker’s age is not relevant, the truth of the statement must rule. It’s a bit lazy to dismiss an idea based on the presumed age of the speaker. Deal with the content, in this case the thesis that Flannery O’Connor promoted liberal ideas in several prominent Catholic periodicals, which I believe you did not do in your comment. You got mad first. (Welcome to the club! So we’ll say the confiteor together, right?)

But Kev, I’m so glad you bleed for your Faith. I’m so truly glad. I am sorry to have caused you discomfort, I too am trying to do what I can for the truth, which is to do it for Christ, He loves Truth. I will try to watch the tone. I hope I did better in this reply to your comment.

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

I still don’t understand what plenary indulgence means please explain to me😢

Comment by Gloria Martinez

When we confess and are forgiven a sin, we still have to pay a penalty for it. Either we pay in life or we pay in purgatory. A plenary indulgence erases ALL the punishment we have coming (at the time). But it is not easy to get. You can read about the conditions for each kind, but the hardest one is to be really sincere that you never want to sin again. REALLY sincere. There seem to be little corners in us that just know we will repeat a certain sin, because we like it! Even saints had to work on this, I have read. Anyway, Gloria, that’s how I understand it. I am not an expert, I’m not trained in theology. You take my answer and run it by a priest, okay? Be well!

Comment by Janet Baker


Comment by Joseph Capobianco

Hi, I am confused because I thought that, as you rightly say, a Plenary indulgence can be acquired only once a day (unless at the moment of death, and on 2 Nov) and I know that is correct, but then you go on to say and I quote ‘Notice that one might acquire additional plenary indulgences the SAME day as long as they are for different works’ can you explain please! thanks molly

Comment by molly

The source I used says that you can only earn one plenary indulgence for the same work. So you can earn more than one for different works. You could say the rosary privately, then publicly, then make The Way of the Cross, and so forth, and earn an indulgence for each of them. I’m no expert, though. I used Fisheaters for my source. You could get that link for the manual from our bishops and get the scoop. : )

Comment by Janet Baker

I must stay home and care for my wife—-what is the best way ( at home ) to receive a plenary indulgence at home?


Comment by John Evanko

John, I’m afraid I don’t know this off the top of my head, but could you click on the link in the article to the bishops’ booklet? Perhaps there are certain prayers or actions you can do at home combined with the other usual conditions, and that booklet should list them all. Please get back to me if you are unable to get the booklet and I will take the time to research it with you. May I suggest saying the traditional morning prayer, but adding a phrase at the end–I’ll put the one I use:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of
this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all
my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.
I want to earn all the indulgence and merit I can this day for You to distribute to me and to
others in need as you choose.

By the way the ‘iontentions of the Holy Father’ are defined by the Church and are completely traditional. May God bless you in your care for your wife.

Comment by Janet Baker

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