Applying Indulgences

Applying Indulgences.

Hi everyone, and Happy 4th for those of you who live in the US.

I think everyone can agree, that indulgences are a wonderful gift from our Lord and from the Church. As you may know, we have the option of applying these indulgences differently. We can split them, apply them to our own “debt” for lack of a better term, other people who have recently passed, those who we feel might benefit from spiritual help, and more.

We also have the wonderful choice of giving our indulgences to our true Mother Mary, who can apply them as she sees fit. It is said that when we do this, she will repay us, many time over through her Son.

My question for discussion, is it ok to take these indulgences for ourselves from time to time, or is it better and more efficacious to always offer them up to Our Lady, who will always care for us? Is this a faith issue?

I hope this thread can help others with the same question.

We can use them for ourselves, sure.


Nice post.

Normally, one would attain an indulgence for oneself (as far as I’m aware), although I think one can gain indulgences for other people.


Sorry for the bird walk here…

From a Recently unlapsed catholic…is there a single source to look at for what constitutes an indulgence? I do daily rosaries, but don’t think in terms of indulgences - I always thought indulging was bad! :slight_smile:

Returning control of this thread to the OP…

Background article:

Indulgences are granted by the Holy See. They are applied as God sees fit.

There used to be many prayers that carried indulgences, and may still. Praying the rosary does indeed gain an indulgence. More on this at:

You can also get a plenary indulgence for other things such as:

  • The stations of the cross
  • Joining an approved confraternity, observing the requirements and fulfilling conditions on different Marion feast days
  • visiting a graveyard and praying for the dead

This is not a complete list by any means.

Yes, we can use the indulgences for ourselves, but we also can turn them over to Mary, for her to distribute as she sees fit. I have heard that doing this returns graces to the person who does this, but the specifics escape me.

As far as indulgences being bad, there were abuses during the Middle Ages for a while. Pope Boniface IX outlawed the sale of indulgences by the religious. Martin Luther made a lot of hay out of that practice, which is why you hear of that long discarded practice from time to time.

For those who might not know, indulgences may reduce or eliminate time in purgatory or reduce or free others who are currently in purgatory. There may be other benefits, but I am not quite sure about that.

My understanding is that the “official list” is the Enchiridion of Indulgences. An online version is here:

Indulgences aren’t bad; the common thing that people associate is selling an indulgence, which is a sin.

And Esieffe too…


You can gain them for yourself or for deceased people in Purgatory, only. You cannot gain them for another person who is still living.

You can ask our Lord to apply the indulgence to a specific deceased person, such as a friend or relative, or to the poor souls in Purgatory. It’s usually understood that if you designate a deceased person and they are already in heaven or hell and thus can’t use the indulgence, our Lord will apply it to another soul in need, so it won’t go to waste.

I note that the link is a digest version of the Enchiridion and it leaves some stuff out. I was using it before but ultimately found it not too helpful due to the incompleteness.

I recommend the complete version of the 1999 Enchiridion posted online here. The substantive part of the book listing the rules for Indulgences and the indulgenced works is not very long so I don’t know why someone thought a Digest version was needed.

Edited to add, those wanting info about indulgences might also want to read through this thread someone started recently asking “technical questions”.

My husband is Presbyterian and he thought indulgences were bad too. I had to explain to him when we met that the Church hasn’t sold indulgences (which was a major cause of the original Protestant schism) for centuries and that indulgences we earn nowadays for free are a good thing :slight_smile:

Thanks muchly. Makes sense. :thumbsup:

Now, to get back to the OP’s question (and sorry for posting so many times in this thread, but indulgences are a particular interest of mine since I resumed actively practicing):

My personal viewpoint is that I’m not that interested in taking most of the indulgences for myself. I might take a plenary once in a while. Since I am trying to do some work to earn a plenary for every Holy Communion I do and trying to attend Mass a few times a week to get a few plenarys every week, plus trying to get partials for other prayers and things I do, then taking one or two for myself per year does not seem like too much. Mostly I want to give them to the deceased, including a lot of people I know who have passed. As it’s my understanding that if we pray for souls in purgatory, then they pray for us and their prayers are very efficacious, I am hoping if I can help enough of these other souls, live properly in other ways and be devoted to Mary, then I will receive enough help in that way that I don’t need to be taking a lot of indulgences for myself. Don’t want to be greedy and eat all the spiritual cookies.

With respect to the Mary question, I think that is a personal decision, to put Mary more in control of your life by giving her the indulgences and trusting her, and if someone does not choose to do that I would not look askance at them or say they had less faith. It’s pretty cool in my book that someone would even try to get an indulgence anyway, most people do not bother anymore.

I wrestle with the issue of control, of putting God (or God-through-Mary) more in control of my life overall. For that reason I have been thinking that giving all my indulgences to Mary (or to Jesus if one prefers that; I love Mary and would be very comfortable going “through her” myself) might be a good thing for me to do as it would help me with my overall issue of putting my life into God’s hands. Where it already is, anyway, but my puny brain, like a toddler, has a hard time letting go. I am working up to this gradually, starting by giving Jesus and Mary all the partial indulgences. The plenaries, I designate for a specific deceased person usually at this point. I want to work up to giving Mary/ Jesus all the plenaries too, to distribute as they see fit. I understand I can still make “suggestions” and that our loving mother Mary is usually happy to honor such “suggestions” from her children though the final decision is up to her/ Jesus.

I also note that there are various devotions you can practice that specifically provide that Mary will come and help you at your time of death, also that there is a plenary you can get when you die if you’ve simply been in the habit of “reciting some prayers” during your lifetime (see bottom of page 27 of the Enchiridion that I linked) so no need to be keeping all indulgences for yourself, really, since if you pray for others and live a good life, it sounds like you get a plenary when you are dying anyway :slight_smile:

My 2 cents, thank you for the happy 4th wishes, I will be going off to see the fireworks soon.

We cannot apply indulgences to any other living person. Ever. The enchilidion on indulgences will state that. 'Tis bearself has a PDF link to it :ok_hand:

We can apply them to ourselves only, or to the dead.

It’s perfectly fine to earn an indulgence for ourselves. In gaining grace, we can better help the dead.

Please read the Vatican documents on indulgences, the current ones written in recent decades.

Click on and save the PDF basilica link of 'tis bearself

Our biggest indulgence day for ourselves is of course the day both Jesus and our Holy Father , the Pope , have granted us indulgence. That’s the first Sunday after Easter.

Apart from that, we can and should take advantage of indulgences for ourselves and for the dead. As often as possible!

I very much appreciate your remarks. The devotion you speak of that Mary comes to us at death I believe is the First Saturday devotion. Offering Communion the first Saturday of five months for reparations for blasphemies committed against the Sacred Heart of Mary. I am in my second month of that.

I offer most partial prayer indulgences to Our Lady or to the holy souls in purgatory. I mix it up just to keep things fresh you might say!:slight_smile:

I am a convert. I led such a wicked tomcat life when I was younger, that now I feel driven to do as much as I can for our Lady and for our Lord and his creatures. To be forgiven for our sins, to have the stain of debt removed by a plenary indulgence, to have a measure of peace, and stability in my life are blessings and graces far beyond what I deserve. It just does not seem like enough from me though. I feel I have to strive for holiness as much as possible, all the while making sure that I keep grounded in humility. As far as I have come, I still have a long way to go.

I hope these devotions will also help me rid myself of the self loathing that I feel as a result of a life badly lived. I’m sure it will. It isn’t all bad… as a matter of fact, I am ten times happier than I was just four years ago.

I hope you enjoy the fireworks!

Not trying to hijack the thread but I have a couple of questions. If I need to start a new thread for this let me know and I will.

  1. How/when does one state intentions for an indulgence?

  2. What is exactly meant by “praying for the intentions of the Holy Pontiff”? I know the pope has a list of monthly intentions. Do I pray for the particular month we are in or is it something else?

Just say mentally that you are asking for the indulgence for yourself, or for a specific deceased or those in purgatory.

The list of indulgences says pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the intentions of the Pope. You can include prayers for the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Francis too, if you wish


  1. There’s typically not a prescribed order.

  2. See this, particularly # 5:

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