Have you ever given a gift that was meaningless to you?
Does giving a meaningless gift give you more or less joy than giving a meaningful gift?
Have you ever found yourself giving gifts to others while neglecting to give gifts to yourself?
I open with these three questions because there seems to be a relatively unified human experience when it comes to giving gifts. That is, it seems that many people would like to give gifts but they struggle with finding meaningful gifts, and it seems that giving gifts that are meaningless bring about little/no joy, and it seems that many people feel, at some point or another, like they are not worthy of being given gifts even though they might still desire to give gifts to others.
Of course, not everyone’s “love-language” is gifts. However, giving heartfelt gifts is always impactful – if not to the receiver, then still definitely to the giver. It is, at the very least, a chance for the giver to express their appreciation and or love for someone. It draws a person to think outside of themselves and to become further rooted in the virtue of gratitude (which is a daughter virtue of the cardinal virtue of justice). Above and beyond this, and simply put, we as Christians are called to strive to live our lives as gifts to others, which is a fruit of striving to grow in the fullness of virtue and holiness overall.
God Knows What He is Doing
I love how God authored the gift-giving dynamic into humanity – and it is true; we see it across cultures, languages, and time itself! However, one of the reasons why I love this dynamic so much is because it takes into account the human heart. In particular, it seems to be relevant to how humans can fall into despair if they come to believe the lie that they are neither worthy of God’s love, nor worthy of receiving gifts from Him.
See, God knows that we can fall into varying degrees of darkness and or despair. He also knows that, while in such a state, many people embody a tendency to take better care of others than they do of themselves. In some cases, this is cited as being a reason for hope amidst a hopeless situation. Sure, at times, striving to give meaningful gifts may be rooted in “imperfect charity” – as in, still true charity but with the primary motivation being to strive to escape the darkness above striving to radiate the light of Christ. However, regardless of whether the charity is perfect or imperfect, striving to give meaningful gifts is something of a fundamental missionary call for all Christians. The meaningful gift can be our heart, and we can give it to Christ. The better we do that, the more joy we will experience and radiate, the greater impact we will have on others, and the greater we will desire to strive to grow in the fullness of virtue and holiness.
God knows all of this, and He has worked that into our ultimate Christian Mission, which is to strive to love others! And there are ways of loving people more profoundly that many people have yet to discover! One of those ways is through striving to gain indulgences.
Indulgences as Gifts of Love
According to the Enchiridion Of Indulgences, “[A]n 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.”
That is, indulgences can help shorten a person’s stay in Purgatory!
Note: Though Purgatory is a great place to be (as opposed to being in Hell), a shorter “stay” in Purgatory has its benefits. First, it would help a person enter into Heaven sooner, and thus also help them enter into their heavenly mission sooner, and secondly, the sooner they cross that threshold from Purgatory to Heaven, the sooner they are relieved of the suffering that they have been enduring on account of the intense purgatorial flames of God’s perfect love! Through that lens, we can also see how striving to gain plenary indulgences for souls in Purgatory is also a great act of Mercy! In fact, the Church recognizes that it is one of the seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy, under the broader topic of praying for the dead.
Regardless of purgatorial duration, and regardless of the degree of spiritual suffering, however, any soul in Purgatory would still experience the joy of knowing that they will one day enter into perfect union with God, and the joy of knowing the depths of God’s Mercy in a more intimate way.
Indulgences and the Virtue of Charity
Expressing our love for others (the whole of humanity, really) through striving to gain indulgences lends itself to developing the habit of looking outside of ourselves while hopefully practicing the virtue of charity. In fact, given the magnitude of the impact of indulgences on souls to whom they are applied, it may be said that striving to gain indulgences may be one of the greatest manifestations of charity that is humanly possible. And through the process of striving to love others through gaining indulgences for them, we are also helped, just like how when we strive to grow in the fullness of virtue and holiness to impact others, we too are positively impacted.
Above and beyond this, at our own entrance into Heaven, we will be greeted by all of those who we have helped get there! Now that’s the kind of party I want to go to!
The Heavenly Mission
Now, if more people knew/know that Heaven was not simply a place to “hang out with God,” but was/is also place where we will be fully actualized and activated with regard to the purpose that God authored for us (which includes becoming a nemesis of demons), then maybe people might see the need to gain indulgences for souls in Purgatory with a little more urgency! That is to say, helping people cross the threshold from Purgatory to Heaven is not simply about helping people reach the greatest joy of being in union with Christ (which will still be more amazing than what we could ever fully understand), but it is also about them entering into the maximal fulfillment of their mission as Saints in Heaven! Now that is something we ought to prioritize!
Further, it is through their joyful entry into Heaven that they are able to embody the greatest manifestation of spiritual warriorhood, now being joined with the whole of Heaven’s army of holy angels and Saints (also known as Church Triumphant), from which they will joyfully and forever serve the Lord via being assigned by God to combat the fallen angels who prowl about this world seeking the ruin of souls.
Now that’s a pretty awesome duty to fulfill! And God authored things such that we could be a part of helping someone enter into it. And others can help us get there too!
Giving In the Darkness
Now, for those who might be in a place/time of darkness, or who may be feeling lost or in despair, please consider how even amidst your situation, there is still this amazing way through which you can give a gift of great love that will change the world! Truly, I hope that all people can become empowered with the knowledge that they have the ability to offer such a meaningful gift!
Also, through the resultant intensifyingly-beautiful relationship with God that will emerge (again, even amidst suffering), we can trust that in striving to give like this, people will come to know His love for them in more and more profound ways. Perhaps, for some, this will open their hearts to the truth that God is waiting and wanting to bestow more profound gifts upon them as well – gifts that people might not think they are even worthy of receiving!
I had to navigate this journey myself in my own life. However, through it, I began to find hope again. HOPE – as an after-effect of striving to help others get to Heaven! Today, as I look back upon my journey, I marvel at the greatness of God, especially when I think about how things have unfolded and how I am experiencing a greater degree of peace, joy, hope, love, and freedom than I ever before thought was imaginable!
So, HOW to Offer the Gift? HOW to Gain the Indulgences?
Well, there are plenary indulgences and partial indulgences. True, we could aim for partial indulgences, which shorten a person’s stay in Purgatory, or, we could aim for plenary indulgences, which complete their stay in Purgatory, bringing them from Purgatory into Heaven.
The thing is, if we fall short of obtaining a plenary indulgence, a partial indulgence may still be obtained. However, if we fall short of obtaining a partial indulgence, there is a possibility that no indulgence will be obtained. So let’s aim high! The plenary indulgence it is!
Step By Step Instructions
Again, from the Enchiridion Of Indulgences (although paraphrased), here is how to gain a plenary indulgence for a soul in Purgatory today and each and every day, in only seven easy steps:
1. Intend to gain the plenary indulgence for a soul in Purgatory. It could be for anyone, including “the most forgotten soul.”
3. Receive Sacramental confession. You may receive this Sacrament up to 20 days before or after today.
Note: If you go to confession once per month, you will meet this requirement.
4. Be in a state of grace. This is all the more reason to stay in a state of grace – because when you are, you can give this amazing gift to others!
5. Detach from sin. You must have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin. Think in terms of authentically renouncing, in your heart, all attachments to sin that you can possibly think of.
Note: This doesn’t imply that you are telling God you will never sin for the rest of your life, because we all surely will.
6. Receive Holy Communion. You must receive Communion on today’s date (between midnight to midnight, not in relation to sundown like a vigil Mass).
THEN, do ONE of the following three things:
7a. Pray a Rosary at a Church or with your family.
7b. Adore Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament for at least 30 minutes.
7c. Read Holy Scripture piously for at least 30 minutes.
There are actually many other ways to gain indulgences other than the three conditions described in number 7. Some have to do with Feast Days, some with Papal Blessings, and some with special times of the year, like the octave of November 1st to 8th. I encourage every Catholic to explore further and to really pray about the reality that each day we receive Holy Communion, we have the potential opportunity to maximize our gift of love to others through gaining a plenary indulgence which will impact the world for the rest of time! That could be the ripple-effect of our love if we choose to try to serve others in this way! Talk about a mission!
Can you imagine how this world might transform if people saw striving to gain a plenary indulgence every day to be not merely a prayer-life maximum but rather a prayer-life minimum?
Can you imagine how that re-framed approach to our prayer life might help transform the world?
Are you ready and willing to take on that challenge?
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Hudson Byblow is a Catholic speaker and writer who presents at conferences throughout Canada and the United States. He shares his personal testimony to clergy, schools, and parishes and consults for various Catholic agencies, speakers, and educators. He focuses on his story of overcoming trauma while pursuing greater self-honesty and truth. Today he strives to elevate the conversation through clear language while revealing the joy of living chastely in his newfound freedom in the Lord. His website is www.hudsonbyblow.com.