Today we have the rare chance to indulge ourselves in a couple of ways: eating meat on a Friday in Lent (because of the Solemnity of the Annunciation) and possibly gaining a plenary indulgence (by making the way of the Stations of the Cross on Fridays in Lent).
Plenary indulgences are difficult. Very, very difficult. This is not because the work assigned is difficult: the Stations of the Cross generally take about 20-30 minutes of time and are easily made by most everyone during Lent. Similarly, the requirements of confession and worthy reception of the Eucharist are very generous, allowing for a twenty day window to make a good confession and receive the Eucharist. Even praying for the Pope’s intentions is not too difficult – the standard manner is through the ‘Our Father’ and the Creed, though you are free to do so in any prayer.
Its the last requirement that is the hardest: “It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent”.
We’re not even talking having not sinned – we’re talking not being attached to any sin, mortal or venial!
Catholic.org’s introduction to indulgences relates how Saint Philip Neri, while preaching a jubilee indulgence – a ‘char-woman’ (someone who cleans a house or a building) and himself. Saint Philip was preaching to a crowded church.
The good news is that despite a failure to be completely detached from sin, you may still receive a partial indulgence. This alone makes it worth the effort, because it means we’re that much closer (quicker!) to heaven. And ultimately, its not how you get to heaven, but that you get there.
- Fr. Maurer