Enchiridion of Indulgences

“Enchiridion” means “handbook,” and the Enchiridion of Indulgences is the Church’s official handbook on what acts and prayers carry indulgences and what indulgences actually are. In 1967 Pope Paul VI greatly simplified the system and kept only the outstanding devotional prayers and practices (the Mass and Sacraments are of course not indulgenced) that are still relevant to our day and which, besides encouraging a penitential spirit, would particularly foster the fervor of charity.

The 1968 edition of the new Enchiridion is a remarkable fulfillment of the Holy Father’s injunction. It is especially noteworthy because of its evangelical simplicity, its emphasis on Holy Scripture and contemporary expression of Church teaching, and above all in its insistence on the supreme importance of the individual’s devout, loving acts.

An indulgence is defined as “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned.” The first thing to note is that forgiveness of a sin is separate from punishment for the sin. Through sacramental confession we obtain forgiveness, but we aren’t let off the hook as far as punishment goes.

Indulgences are two kinds: partial and plenary. A partial indulgence removes part of the temporal punishment due for sins. A plenary indulgence removes all of it. This punishment may come either in this life, in the form of various sufferings, or in the next life, in purgatory. What we don’t get rid of here we suffer there.

A plenary indulgence supposes that one’s soul is entirely free from affection for sin. Only one each day can be gained—the sole exception being the day one dies. There is constant stress on the Holy Father’s declaration that a partial indulgence is a “matching grant”. The Church uses her “power of the keys” and opens “the treasury of the Blood”—the merits of Christ, Our Lady and the Saints, to match whatever remission of the temporal punishment due to sin results from an individual’s careful, loving performance of an indulgenced work.

Everyday Plenary Indulgence

Why wait for a plenary indulgence on some special feast dates when we can receive plenary indulgence every day! Some of the simplest ways to receive a plenary indulgence every day is to do the following …

Pre-requisites (usual conditions) for each Plenary Indulgence: 

1) ​Sacramental Confession, usually within 20 days before or after obtaining the indulgence. (One confession, therefore, could be good for 40 plenary indulgences. This is a noteworthy change that was brought about by the late Holy Father, St. John Paul II, in the Great Jubilee Year 2000).
2) Sacramental Communiononly one indulgence may be obtained for each Communion, per day. (Get into the habit of going to Mass frequently if possible.)
3) Offer prayers for the intensions of the Holy Father (We pray that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, will be strengthened in the power of the Gospel. Include one Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Creed).
4) Be in a state of Grace – Free of mortal sins, AND free from attachment to any forms of sins. (To know that you are sinning and “not wanting” to give the habit up.) If anything is lacking a partial indulgence result. St. Catherine of Genoa said, “We seldom are as holy as we think we are, we often overlook our many attachments to venial sins.”

Practices (choose one): (Must have the intension of gaining the indulgence while performing these practices).

1) Go to Adoration for at least 30 minutes (The Eucharist does not need to be exposed for Adoration (Adoration without Exposition). We can adore the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.)
2) Pray the Rosary in the Church, or Chapel with others present.
3) Prayerfully read the Holy Scriptures with the devotion due to God’s Word for at least 30 minutes.

These are the simple ways of receiving an everyday plenary indulgence. For more options and detailed information, see Enchiridion of Indulgences.

Partial Indulgence

While we do well to obtain a plenary indulgence each day, we should not overlook the partial indulgences that are more easily obtained and far more numerous. Any Catholic in good standing, with a properly contrived heart, while performing an indulgenced work, may obtain a partial indulgence simply by being in a state of grace and having the general intention of obtaining an indulgence.


The following are ways to gain partial indulgences:

— Making the Sign of the cross

— Praying the Rosary (not in common with others)

— Adoring Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for a moment

— Pray any approved “Act of Contrition,” “Hail Holy Queen,” “Glory Be,” or          “Come, Holy Spirit.”

— Attending a First Holy Communion Mass

— Teaching a catechism class

— Attending a catechism class

— Reading the Bible

— Fasting from a pleasure or privilege

— Visiting a church or a cemetery on All Soul’s Day to pray for the dead

— Giving alms (helping the poor or the homeless, either directly to an individual or to a group through an agency)

While a partial indulgence is not as powerful as a plenary indulgence, amassing many of them could be enough to free a Holy Soul from Purgatory.

Think of partial indulgences as spiritual small bites, while a plenary indulgence is more like a multi-course feast. Given enough small bites, one can be satiated, and they have the potential of releasing a soul from purgatory!

God wants everyone to indulge at His banquet. Accept the invitation and make the commitment to get there.

All Soul’s Day