Indulgences for the Year of the Priest
In honor of the jubilee Year of the Priest, which takes place from June 19, 2009 - June 19, 2010, the Church is offering the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence for all the faithful.
Priests will be able to gain this indulgence by praying lauds or vespers before the Blessed Sacrament - either in the tabernacle or exposed to public adoration. Priests are also to "offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of penance." This indulgence can also be applied to deceased priests.
Partial indulgences can be obtained by priests through "devotedly recit[ing] the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and carry[ing] out the duties entrusted to them."
The plenary indulgence available for the faithful can be obtained on the opening and closing days of the Year of the Priest, on August 4th – the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month throughout the jubilee year, or on other days as established by the ordinaries of particular places. The faithful on these days must attend Mass in an oratory or church and offer prayers to “Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to his heart.”
They must also have gone to confession and prayed for the intentions of the Pope, as is always the case with obtaining indulgences.
A partial indulgence is available for the faithful as well when they pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times, or any other approved prayer “in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life.”
The plenary indulgence is also available to those elderly, sick, or otherwise unable to leave their homes, provided that, “on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles,” with the intention of fulfilling the usual three conditions – going to confession, receiving the Holy Eucharist, and praying for the intentions of the Pope.
What are indulgences like this and what do they mean?
A partial indulgence is one that remits part of the punishment a person owes for his or her sins committed. These indulgences are relatively easy to obtain and one can do so as often as he or she wants. In order to receive a partial indulgence, the person must be baptized, be in the state of grace, have the intention of obtaining the indulgence, and perform the works or offer prayers correctly.
A plenary indulgence, which is more difficult to obtain and can usually only be obtained at most once per day, is one which accounts for all of the punishment a person would face for sins committed up to that point. In order to receive this type of indulgence, one must meet all the requirements for a partial indulgence, not be excommunicated, have no attachment to any kind of sin, and receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion and offer prayers for the Pope's intentions within the prescribed period of time. Obviously it is more difficult to receive a plenary indulgence, and many times those who strive for it might not obtain it – in which case it is believed that God grants at least a partial indulgence for the efforts and intentions of the faithful trying to obtain the indulgence.
More information about indulgences can be found in A Modern Guide to Indulgences by Edward Peters.