After reading what Rich Leonardi has shared on indulgences, I thought I'd put something in the parish bulletins.
Given a few inches of space in my weekly column and a complex and often misunderstood subject, this is what I came up with. Feel free to discuss, ask questions and suggest changes for the next time.
Plenary Indulgences available: (1) reciting Rosary in church, with family or in a religious community; (2) praying Stations of the Cross, at any time of the year, in church or chapel (or if unable to come, reflect 15 mins. on the suffering and death of Christ); (3) veneration of the cross in Good Friday’s liturgy. You obtain the indulgence by: (a) doing the work; (b) being free of attachment to all sin, by (c) going to confession; (d) going to communion; and (e) praying a Hail Mary and Our Father for the pope’s intentions.
Indulgences are misunderstood. An indulgence is a concrete form of God’s grace, granted through the mediation of the Church. It is not “magic.” We gain this gift only with a conversion of heart—which is their purpose. Also, we have a choice: to gain this grace for ourselves; or to give it away, applying it to souls in purgatory.
They are not for forgiveness of sins—rather, they presuppose we’ve already been forgiven—that’s why confession is included. Rather, they help heal the consequences or effects sin has on us. A mother forgives her child for walking in the house with muddy feet—but the carpet still needs cleaning. In ways we don’t understand, an indulgence applied to souls in purgatory assists them in their final purification. Thus, the custom of indulgences teaches us spiritual solidarity with each other.