The actual 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in Portugal is not officially until the 13th of each month May-Oct of this year, but celebrations began November 27th, 2016 when Pope Francis announced an opportunity to obtain a special plenary indulgence during this celebratory occasion.
Now through November 26th, Catholics around the world can obtain a plenary indulgence by fulfilling the normal obligations and one of the three special conditions outlined in Tekton’s previous blog post. The normal conditions needed to obtain an indulgence are: receiving the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father within a few days before or after the special conditions. At the time of the additional condition, one must also be free from all detachment from sin.
What is a plenary indulgence?
To understand what is meant by a plenary indulgence, we must first define what an indulgence is. To fully understand what an indulgence is, we must first look at sin and its consequences. Serious (mortal) sin severs our relationship with God, as it is a complete turning away from Him and His love. Smaller (venial) sins still damage our relationship with the Lord as it reflects an unhealthy attachment to this world. Our relationship with God can be restored through conversion of heart, repentance, and receiving forgiveness. However, the attachment to sin and other effects of sin can remain and result in the need to make reparation for the choices one made.
This can be seen in the Bible after David repents of his sin of adultery. The prophet Nathan states: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die” (2 Sam 12:13-14). David’s sins were forgiven and the eternal punishment of his deed was gone, but there were still the lasting earthly (temporal) effects.
A practical example might be if a child throws a rock in anger and breaks a neighbor’s window. He can seek forgiveness from the neighbor. The neighbor can forgive him, but the window is still broken. This broken window is representative of the temporal effects of all of our sins. Somehow, the window must be repaired, just as somehow the temporal effects of our sin must be resolved. Without this resolution, we cannot enter the Beatific Vision of Heaven, because nothing impure can enter the presence of God.
We can purify ourselves to live face-to-face with God in the next world while we are still alive, through acts of charity and prayer, and growing in holiness and relationship with Him. But what if we don’t live long enough to reach this state? The Lord, in His Mercy and Love, offers a way to resolve the temporal effects that might persist beyond our death. In Matthew 12:32, Jesus states, “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come.” Jesus is alluding here to Purgatory, or the place where the final temporal punishments of our sins are purified, or wiped away.
Through God’s Mercy, we are sometimes given special opportunities of grace to remove or lessen the temporal punishments of our sins that we will suffer for in Purgatory. These are known as indulgences. If some of the effects are removed, it is known as a partial indulgence. If all of the effects are removed, it is a plenary (full) indulgence.
Indulgences do not forgive sins, and are not a free pass to sin repeatedly in the future. Indulgences only remove the temporal punishments for sins that have been forgiven and for those sinners who repent with a sincere desire to sin no more. This is what is known as “free from attachment to sin.” Other conditions for a plenary indulgence are: going to Confession, receiving the Eucharist, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. In addition, as in this year of the Fatima centennial, other conditions can be applied (see other blog post)
The ultimate purpose of an indulgence is to draw us into a closer, deeper, more loving relationship with our Heavenly Father, Who created us out of love to be with Him eternally.
For more information, please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1471-1479.
Read Tekton Ministries’ original blog post about the indulgence associated with the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima.