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Indulgences. What they are and how to gain them.

Indulgences are a great treasure of the Church, and they are a great treasure for us. They are,
however, sadly overlooked today because many people do not know about them. Sad for us and sad for our heavenly family who seek for the Church on earth; the Church militant, to have access to the wealths of our heavenly family; the Church triumphant. Their knowing and seeing the punishments due for sin means we can scarcely imagine how much our heavenly family wants us to partake of their merits gained.
What is an indulgence? Our Lord Jesus Christ has a "superabundance of merits;" His merits are infinite; limitless. So too the Blessed Virgin, being sinless, She gained a great abundance of merits. And the saints too, we can say that their merits far outweighed any wrongdoing that they did whilst they were on earth.
This excess of merits is the theological basis for indulgences. The merits are contained in what is known as the "treasury"of the Church and which the Church, as Minister of Redemption, draws upon under Her authority of "bounding and loosing;" the "Keys":

"And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys
of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be
bound in heaven; and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven."[Mt 16:18-19]

An indulgence draws on the treasury of merits through an indulgence having been attached by Popes, and sometimes the Church hierarchy, to a good work(s) i.e. prayers, sacrifices, devotions, vigils, pilgrimages, visiting a cemetery to pray for the dead etc.
Examples of indulgences are the reading of scripture for half an hour daily, for which a partial indulgence is granted, the same is granted for visiting a cemetery with the intention of praying for the dead; the first eight days in November (the month of the Holy Souls) brings a plenary indulgence. Indulgences are granted for the saying of the rosary, publicly or privately, as is the saying of the Stations of the Cross. etc. etc. Indulgences are attached to many prayers and actions.
These and other such works must be undertaken to gain the full (plenary) indulgence (remission) or partial indulgence (remission) of the punishment due for sin. Such punishment; the debt owed for sin that must be paid off to God's Justice either in this life or the next!
To gain an indulgence one must be a baptized Catholic, must be in a state of grace, not in mortal sin (i..e the mortal sin must be confessed), and must have confessed (all sins mortal or venial) and received communion; and which is covered by regular confession and communion. There must be an intention to gain an indulgence. Confession is vital as the sin for which remission is sought must have been forgiven, through the sacrament of confession. Indulgences cannot be bought, they cannot be transferred to another living person but they can always be transferred to the dead.
The Church, traditionally, attached a specific number of days to particular prayers/ good works, the prayer to St Michael, for example, gained a 300 day indulgence. The number of days related to days that would otherwise, at one time in the earlier Church, have been served as public penance for sins, and which in turn related to an amount of time that would have been served in purgatory. The classification of years and days was abolished on Ist January 1967. Some say that this detracted away from the great significance of indulgences and even more so, the exclusion of many of the prayers/good works previously included for which an indulgence was granted, and which, in turn, affected many Church groups, for example, confraternities; pilgrimage sites etc. More general intentions were now included.

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