Q&A: Indulgences in the Year of St. Joseph

Father Jordan Hainsey, Messenger Contributor.

The “Year of St. Joseph” was proclaimed by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, 2020 and extends to December 8, 2021. It honors the 150th anniversary of Pope Blessed Pius IX’s proclamation of St. Joseph as the “Patron of the Universal Church” (“Quemadmodum Deus”). Special plenary indulgences have been granted “to perpetuate the entrustment of the whole Church to the powerful patronage of the “Custodian of Jesus.”

Q: What is an indulgence?

A: An indulgence is the remission, in the eyes of God, of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. The English form of the word indulgence comes from the Latin word <<indulgentia>>, meaning an act of kindness or tenderness.

Q: Who can get it and how is it used?

A: A person seeking an indulgence must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace when performing the work of the indulgence. A person must formulate a sincere intention of gaining the indulgence before doing the work associated with it.

An indulgence can be applied to oneself or a deceased person (but not another living person). Gaining a plenary indulgence on behalf of a deceased person is a great act of mercy because it makes atonement for the punishment they are experiencing in purgatory, allowing them to be more quickly ushered into heaven. The atonement is only possible because of the merits of Christ’s salvific work of the Cross; in an indulgence, we are simply asking that those merits be applied to a loved one in need of them.

If the indulgence is for yourself, you are working toward the remission of the temporal punishment for sins that, if left unremitted in this life, you will have to work toward in purgatory.

Q: What are the Conditions required for an indulgence, particularly in the Year of St. Joseph?

A: A plenary indulgence is granted under these usual conditions: 1) sacramental confession; 2) Eucharistic communion; 3) praying for the intentions of the Holy Father.

In the Year of St. Joseph, the Apostolic Penitentiary (the Vatican tribunal responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Church) directs the faithful to participate in one of the devotions to St. Joseph in order to obtain the plenary indulgence:

— Meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Our Father.

— Participate in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.

— Perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy.

— Recite the holy rosary in families (engaged couples can also receive an indulgence from praying the rosary together).

— Entrustment of daily work to the protection of St. Joseph and to all believers who invoke, with their prayers, the intercession of St. Joseph.

— Pray the Litany of St. Joseph or some other prayer to St. Joseph, particularly for the persecuted Church and for the relief of all persecuted Christians.

— Pray any approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph especially on:

– March 19, Solemnity of St. Joseph;

– May 1, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker;

– Dec. 26, Feast of the Holy Family;

– The Sunday of St. Joseph (according to the Byzantine tradition);

– The 19th day of every month;

– Every Wednesday (the day dedicated to the memory of St. Joseph in the Latin tradition).

The elderly, the sick and the dying who are unable to leave their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic also have special permission to receive an indulgence by “offering with trust in God the pains and discomforts” of their lives with a prayer to St. Joseph, hope of the sick and patron of a happy death.

Q: What is the time frame for the indulgence requirements?

A: The three requirements of confession, Eucharist, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father must be met several days before or after the particular St. Joseph devotion is completed.