Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions.
The Entire Baltimore Catechesis on Indulgences
Do Good Works Merit the Soul in Mortal Sin? And 10 Others Questions on Indulgences
To Deny Indulgences Is to Deny the Merit of Jesus Christ: 11 Questions on Merit and Grace
Q. 861. What works are generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences?
A. The works generally enjoined for the gaining of Indulgences are: The saying of certain prayers, fasting, and the use of certain articles of devotion; visits to Churches or altars, and the giving of alms. For the gaining of Plenary Indulgences it is generally required to go to confession and Holy Communion and pray for the intention of the Pope.
Q. 862. What does praying for a person’s intention mean?
A. Praying for a person’s intention means praying for whatever he prays for or desires to obtain through prayer — some spiritual or temporal favors.
Q. 863. What does an Indulgence of forty days mean?
A. An Indulgence of forty days means that for the prayer or work to which an Indulgence of forty days is attached, God remits as much of our temporal punishment as He remitted for forty days’ canonical penance. We do not know just how much temporal punishment God remitted for forty days’ public penance, but whatever it was, He remits the same now when we gain an Indulgence of forty days. The same rule applies to Indulgences of a year or any length of time.
Q. 864. Why did the Church moderate its severe penances?
A. The Church moderated its severe penances, because when Christians — terrified by persecution — grew weaker in their faith, there was danger of some abandoning their religion rather than submit to the penances imposed. The Church, therefore, wishing to save as many as possible, made the sinner’s penance as light as possible.
Q. 865. To what things may Indulgences be attached?
A. Plenary or Partial Indulgences may be attached to prayers and solid articles of devotion; to places such as churches, altars, shrines, etc., to be visited; and by a special privilege they are sometimes attached to the good works of certain persons.
Q. 866. When do things lose the Indulgences attached to them?
A. Things lose the Indulgences attached to them:
When they are so changed at once as to be no longer what they were; When they are sold. Rosaries and other indulgenced articles do not lose their indulgences, when they are loaned or given away, for the indulgence is not personal but attached to the article itself.
Q. 867. Will a weekly Confession suffice to gain during the week all Indulgences to which Confession is enjoined as one of the works?
A Weekly confession will suffice to gain during the week all Indulgences to which confession is enjoined as one of the works, provided we continue in a state of grace, perform the other works enjoined and have the intention of gaining these Indulgences.
Q. 868. How and when may we apply Indulgences for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory?
A. We may apply Indulgences for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory by way of intercession; whenever this application is mentioned and permitted by the Church in granting the Indulgence; that is, when the Church declares that the Indulgence granted is applicable to the souls of the living or the souls in Purgatory; so that we may gain it for the benefit of either.
The above list concludes the Baltimore Catechism’s treatment of Indulgences – please reference the lists in the introduction for the entirety of the lesson.