WHAT IS AN INDULGENCE:
1. According to Canon Law (can. 992) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n 1471), Plenary Indulgence is defined as "An remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".
2. Generally speaking, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions (See Section 3 and 4), and the performance of certain prescribed works (See Sections 8, 9, and 10).
3. To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at the time the indulgenced work is completed.
4. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once per day. In order to obtain it, along with being in the state of grace, the faithful must:
— Have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin
— Have sacramentally confessed their sins;
— Receive the Holy Eucharist during Mass
— Pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
5. It is appropriate that the sacramental Confession, Holy Communion, and a prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed. It is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before, or after, the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, and an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.
6. For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin).
7. Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself, or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.
The Portiuncula Indulgence of St Francis of Assisi:
The first written document we have in reference this indulgence is dated October 31, 1277, approximately sixty (60) years after the indulgence is said to have been granted.
The Portiuncula is an ancient church dedicated to Mary under the title “Our Lady of the Angels”, and is located in Assisi, Italy. It was a spot very dear to the heart of Saint Francis.
The Porziuncola is the place where “Franciscanism” developed, and where Saint Francis lived and died .
In 1216, in a vision, St Francis obtained from Jesus himself the Indulgence of the Pardon of Assisi that was approved by Pope Honorius III. This plenary indulgence may ordinarily be gained on August 2 and 15; pilgrims may gain it once a year on any day of the year.
Our Lady of the Angels Church, Assisi, Italy
Conditions to obtain the Plenary Indulgence of the forgiveness of St. Francis of Assisi (for oneself or for a departed soul)
Sacramental Confession to be in God's grace: (during the eight days before or after)
Participation in the Holy Mass and Eucharist.
Visit to a Catholic Church, followed by “Profession of Faith” (Apostles Creed), in order to reaffirm one's own Christian identity
Say the “Our Father”, in order to reaffirm the dignity as child of God that one received in Baptism
A prayer for the Pope's intention, in order to reaffirm one's membership in the Church, of which the Roman Pontiff is the foundation and sign of visible unity.
Italian Bishops' Conference, Adult Catechism, n. 710
Sin not only destroys communion with God, but also compromises the interior state of persons and their relationship with other creatures. For a total repentance, it is not enough to be sorry and to receive the remission of faults. It is also necessary that reparation be made for the disorder provoked by sin, a disorder that usually continues after the sin. In this process of purification the penitent is not alone. The penitent participates in a mystery of solidarity, for which Christ and the Saints rejoice with one. God communicates to one the grace merited by others with the immense value of their existence, in order to effect one's reparation rapidly and effectively.
The Church has always exhorted the faithful to offer prayers, good works and sufferings for the conversion of sinners and for the repose of the faithful departed. During the first centuries, bishops reduced the duration and the strictness of public punishment, through the intercession of the witnesses of faith who survived tortures.
Progressively the consciousness grew that the power to bind and unbind, received from the Lord, included the faculty to free penitents from the residue left by already forgiven sins, by applying to them the merits of Christ and the Saints, in order to obtain the grace of a fervent charity. Priests grant this privilege to those who have the right interior disposition and have adhered to the prescribed norms. Participation in this penitential rite is a prerequisite to the concession of an indulgence.