Lent is a time where Catholics reflect on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus for our redemption. The penitential season is essential for Catholics to remain centered in Christ and draw nearer to Him through His suffering and death.
“The Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the ‘today’ of her liturgy.” (CCC 1095)
“The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.” (CCC 1438)
Lent is more than giving up chocolate or junk food for 40 days. It’s a season where we should be more focused on repentance, following Christ, and remembering all the Lord has done for each of us who are so unworthy. As we go through Lent, let’s look at a few ways we can obtain a plenary indulgence.
First, let’s take a brief look at indulgences. There are two types of indulgences an individual can receive: partial and plenary (full). An indulgence can be obtained for yourself or souls in purgatory. You cannot obtain an indulgence for any other living person other than yourself. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “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.” (CCC 1471)
There are 7 ways we can obtain a plenary indulgence during Lent:
1) Adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration for at least a half-hour
2) Pray the Way of the Cross at erected stations
3) Participate in the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday
4) Pray at least five decades of the rosary in a church, with family, a religious community, or a pious association.
5) Renew your baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil or on the anniversary of your baptism
6) Read Sacred Scripture (The Bible) with devotion for at least a half-hour
7) During the solemn reservation of the Blessed Sacrament following the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, recite or sing “Tantum Ergo.”
I want to also remind you that some of these actions provide plenary indulgences all year long and not just during Lent. We can obtain a plenary indulgence for Adoration, the Stations of the Cross, praying the rosary, and reading Sacred Scripture at any time during the year. Do not limit your indulgence opportunities to just Lent.
However, we must remember there are some stipulations provided which must be met in order for the indulgences to be plenary. If all the conditions are not met, we receive partial indulgences, but not plenary indulgences.
Conditions to be met:
1.) Sacramentally confess your sins in Confession within 20 days before or after the indulgent act. (one sacramental confession is sufficient for several indulgences)
2.) Be in a state of grace (which you receive from Confession) and have a complete detachment from sin. This does not mean that you are to be sinless, but you are to have a detachment from sin.
3.) Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. You can do this by simply reciting the Our Father and one Hail Mary for the intentions of the Holy Father.
4.) Reception of Holy Communion (must receive Holy Communion for each plenary indulgence sought) It is permissible that Holy Communion may be received several days before or after obtaining the indulgence, but it is preferable it is received the same day of the indulgent act.
5.) One must have a general intention of gaining an indulgence beforehand.
Lent, as a penitential season and often associated with what we “give up”, is a beautiful time when the people of God are brought back to the focus of the faith. It’s a time when we are reminded of the enormous suffering Christ endured for us. Lent is about how small even our “great” sacrifices are in comparison to what the Lord sacrificed for us. It’s a time to repent and be thankful. Repentance is beautiful.