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Liturgy: Year-of-the-Eucharist Indulgence

2/16/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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ROME, FEB. 16, 2005 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: Is the special Year-of-the-Eucharist indulgence granted only for praying one of the offices of the Liturgy of the Hours, or both? The wording was not clear. The announcement also mentioned that the indulgence would be granted "each and every time they recite" the offices. Can one now receive two plenary indulgences on the same day? -- B.P.M., New York

A: The new indulgence (its decree was published Jan. 14) may be obtained in two ways. First, "each time the faithful participate attentively and piously in a sacred function or a devotional exercise undertaken in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, solemnly exposed or conserved in the tabernacle."

Second, it is granted "to the clergy, to members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, and to other faithful who are by law obliged to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as to those who customarily recite the Divine Office out of pure devotion, each and every time they recite -- at the end of the day, in company or private -- vespers and night prayers before the Lord present in the tabernacle."

This latter norm created some confusion as even the Latin text was not perfectly clear.

One of the advantages of living in Rome is that one can pick up a phone and ask for clarifications. This process resolved several doubts.

One regarded the expressions "at the end of the day." Did this mean that vespers (Evening Prayer) and Night Prayer had to be prayed together one after the other? Another was the doubt highlighted by our reader regarding two plenary indulgences.

The reply was that although both offices must be prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in order to gain the plenary indulgence, they may be prayed at different moments of the evening.

With this point clear, the other followed naturally: We are dealing with a single plenary indulgence that requires two distinct moments of prayer. Hence, the norm that one may obtain only one plenary indulgence a day, applicable to oneself or to a soul in purgatory, remains in force.

No. 1471 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: "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."

No. 1479 adds: "Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishment due for their sins may be remitted."

The decree reminds the faithful that to obtain a plenary indulgence it is necessary to observe the "usual conditions":

1. Sacramental confession, usually within a week before or after obtaining the indulgence. One sacramental confession is sufficient for several indulgences.

2. Eucharistic Communion. Unlike confession, only one indulgence may be obtained for each Communion. Although this Communion may be fulfilled several days before or after obtaining the indulgence, it is preferable that this condition be fulfilled the same day. Thus, those who practice regular confession and daily Mass may obtain a plenary indulgence practically every day.

3. Prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. Like Communion, prayer for the Pope's intentions must be recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence. Although there are no prescribed prayers the condition is satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary.

4. Having the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin. This is the most difficult condition as even attachment to venial sin precludes the possibility of obtaining the indulgence. However, note that the condition is not freedom from all venial sin, but from attachment to sin; that is, that there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce.

Apart from the above, here are some of the principal concessions of plenary indulgences within reach of most Catholics.

1. Remain in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at least half an hour.

2. The participation in the Adoration of the Cross, on Good Friday.

3. Spiritual exercises of at least three days.

4. Those who make their first Communion or who assist at another's first Communion.

5. Praying at least five decades of the rosary in a church or chapel, or else in family, a religious community or a ...

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