Fr Rene Camilleri explains what the Church is trying to say when she talks about a plenary indulgence.
I have to admit that this kind of “language” which might have been relevant in certain times, is not going to get across to today’s modern man and woman. However, what the Church is trying to say is that to receive God’s mercy it is imperative to prepare one’s heart and commit oneself. Today there are many ways to do this including being more self-aware, getting in touch with our true self and our false self in a prayerful spirit.
In olden times the Church used to tell you “say three Hail Maries, walk from here to there, say a rosary and then confess”. These conditions still make sense for some but do not make sense for many others. What we should really emphasise is being aware of what is happening within us, within our heart, striving to move towards love and authenticity.
What is a plenary indulgence?
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1471…
The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance.
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. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.