Happy New Year!
When I was looking for Midnight Masses nearby for Christmas Day, I noticed St. Dominic Savio had a midnight Mass on New Year's Eve/Day. I mentioned this to my pal Mark over at Rome of the West, and he was like it is probably for an indulgence. Say what? Wasn't that one of Martin Luther's complaints? Didn't indulgences go out with the Council of Trent? He's like no. You can't buy or sell them, but you can still get them. Really????
So what exactly is an indulgence? An indulgence is basically the remission or clemency of the temporal punishment due to sin. In other words, it's like a pardon. You satisfy some conditions (do some special praying or visiting) and some of your punishment (aka time in purgatory) is forgiven. There are 2 types: partial and plenary. A partial indulgence just removes some of the punishment, while a plenary indulgence removes it all! (Until you manage to sin again.) Needless to say, plenary indulgences are a little more challenging to get.
How do I get one of these snazzy indulgences to reduce the quality time spent in Purgatory? Well, since it is currently the Year for Priest, Pope Benedict XVI has granted special indulgences. Additionally, some places have special indulgences attached to them. I think the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis has an indulgence of some sort, as I seem to remember a plaque or something. Great you are saying to yourself, I'm not a priest and I don't live in St. Louis, how can I get an indulgence? Lucky for you, there is a big long list called the Enchiridion of Indulgences, with a special list for the plenary indulgences. Look at all the cool stuff you can do and at the same time reduce the time spent in Purgatory!
Now I know you are all thinking at this point: That's really great Snup and thanks for the catechism lesson. What does this have to do with your blog and you tripping around the Archdiocese??? I'm glad you asked!!!! It appears there is a plenary indulgence, with all the usual conditions (Confession, Communion, prayers) attached to visiting a parochial Church on its titular feast! So this means I'm highly motivated (well...) to visit a church on its feast day and that will be my plan for the rest of the year :) I'll also be sure to mention when other indulgences are available so we can all avoid Purgatory together!
Myths about Indulgences
Primer on Indulgences
From the Catholic Encyclopedia
What if I mess up (fail to meet all the requirements) my plenary indulgence?
Funny from Fr. Z
Some details from Fr. Z, or how many indulgences can I get using one Confession!
From the Apostolic Penitentiary: The Gift of the Indulgence
If you need anymore information, be sure to ask your favorite priest!