The Apostolic Penitentiary of the Vatican, which is the dicastery of the Roman Curia that oversees the practice of Indulgences, has issued a Decree granting different options to gain a Plenary Indulgence for the “Year of St. Joseph” that was proclaimed by Pope Francis on December 8, 2020 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The special Year in honor of the Guardian of the Redeemer will last from December 8, 2020 through December 8, 2021 and has been announced in honor of the 150th Anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s proclamation in 1870 of St. Joseph as the “Patron of the Universal Church” (Quemadmodum Deus).
In the Decree, specific and varying options for the granting of Plenary Indulgences for the duration of the Year have been announced to honor St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church and “to perpetuate the entrustment of the whole Church to the powerful patronage of the Custodian of Jesus.” During this “Year of St. Joseph” the faithful will have the opportunity to commit themselves “with prayer and good works, to obtain, with the help of St. Joseph, head of the Heavenly Family of Nazareth, comfort and relief from the serious human and social tribulations that besiege the contemporary world today.”
An Indulgence is “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. A properly disposed member of the Christian faithful can obtain an Indulgence under prescribed conditions through the help 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 if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or Plenary if it removes all punishment.” (CCC, 1471)
Conditions for the Plenary Indulgence
According to the Vatican Decree, the Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful under the three usual conditions. The three usual conditions for receiving a Plenary Indulgence are Sacramental Confession (which, under the “usual conditions,” means going to Confession within 20 days before or within 20 days after the day the Plenary Indulgence is sought); also, the reception of Eucharistic Communion on the day the Plenary Indulgence is sought; and prayer for the Pope’s needs and intentions on the day the Plenary Indulgence is sought (which, under the “usual conditions” is understood to be an Our Father and Hail Mary; or, one may also recite the Creed). Also required is a spirit that is sincerely and willfully detached from any sin, mortal and venial. Those who fulfill these conditions can participate in the varying Plenary Indulgence options during the “Year of St. Joseph” on the following occasions and manners indicated by the Apostolic Penitentiary:
- The Plenary Indulgence is granted to those who meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Our Father, or take part in a Spiritual Retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.
- The Plenary Indulgence can also be obtained by those who, following St. Joseph’s example, perform a Spiritual or Corporal Work of Mercy.
- The prayerful recitation of the Holy Rosary in families and among engaged couples is another way of obtaining the Plenary Indulgence, in order that “all Christian families may be stimulated to recreate the same atmosphere of intimate communion, love, and prayer that was in the Holy Family” of Nazareth.
- Also, everyone who entrusts their daily activity to the protection of St. Joseph, and every faithful who invokes the intercession of St. Joseph so that those seeking work can find dignifying work, can also obtain the Plenary Indulgence.
- The Plenary Indulgence is also granted to the faithful who will recite the Litany to St. Joseph (for the Latin tradition), or the Akathistosto St. Joseph (for the Byzantine tradition), or any other prayer to St. Joseph proper to the other liturgical traditions, for the relief of Christians persecuted both inside and outside of the Church.
- In addition to these options, the Apostolic Penitentiary also grants a Plenary Indulgence to the faithful who will recite any legitimately approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, for example:
“To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also.Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.O most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be propitious to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness; and, as once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die holily, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen."
- You are encouraged to pray particularly on the March 19 and May 1 feasts of St. Joseph, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Byzantine celebration of St. Joseph’s Sunday, on the 19th of each month, and every Wednesday, which have been dedicated to St. Joseph in the Latin rite.
To the elderly, sick, dying and those legitimately unable to leave the house, who recite an act of piety to St. Joseph under his title of Comfort of the Sick and Patron of a happy death, provided they offer their discomfort to God and fulfill the conditions for the indulgence “as soon as possible”.
*Adapted from the Vatican News article, Church Grants Plenary Indulgence for the Year of St. Joseph, Vatican City, December 8, 2020.
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