Indulgences

“The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the sacrament of Penance.
What is an indulgence?
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. The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.” – CCC 1471.

In short, an indulgence is to try to cut your time that you have gained in Purgatory.*

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” – CCC 1030.
“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the church, but reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgement, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” – CCC 1031.
“This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: ‘Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.’ From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” – CCC 1032.

Purgatory isn’t mentioned in the Bible, but from what the Church teaches, it is a place of purging, of cleansing. From what I’ve learned about it, if the soul goes there, it doesn’t speak. It’s quiet. It is a time to purify the soul before entering Heaven.
Indulgences, Purgatory, and the sacrament of confession all tie in with each other.

The difference between a plenary and a partial indulgence is that a partial indulgence partially cuts off your time in Purgatory, whereas a plenary fully cuts off your time in Purgatory. Now, back in the early 1500’s and possibly before that, people of the Catholic Church were selling indulgences, which is something that cannot happen anymore. You can’t buy your way out of Purgatory. The process of gaining an indulgence is for a plenary indulgence, you have to pray for the Pope, be free from sin and be free from the love of sin, go to confession, receive communion, and then recite the “Our Father”, “Hail Mary”, and the “Glory Be” three times each. A plenary indulgence can only be obtained on special occasions, like Divine Mercy Sunday, for example. You can gain a partial indulgence by doing Bible studies with a group of people or praying a rosary in a church, for example.

*A lot of people think that they will be 300 days or 5 years cut off their punishment while in Purgatory and that simply isn’t true since Purgatory is out of time. Refer back to CCC 1471 for clarification.

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