She explained to me what the Indulgence was and wanted to be sure I could take advantage of it in case I was ignorant of such a gift. Isn't she the best? *Grin*
Anyway, for those of you who don't know what this particular gift is, here's a little backstory! I paraphrased most of it from the article written by Diana Serra Cary for The Catholic Hearth magazine back in 1994.
St. Francis of Assisi (father of Franciscans), when not preaching to the birds or stopping traffic for a colony of ants, spent some of his free time restoring old, abandoned chapels and churches. One of the chapels he rebuilt became known as "the Porziuncola" (meaning small portion of land). This is where St. Francis would build up his order, live and die.
It is also where he obtained for us the Portiuncula Indulgence. In 1216, St. Francis was praying in this little chapel, almost swallowed up by the sorrow he felt for the pain inflicted by poor sinners. He was praying intently for the conversion of these sinners when he suddenly felt his interior become engulfed in light. He then saw Christ and His Blessed Mother. Jesus asked him, "What do you wish me to do to help poor sinners?" St. Francis answered that he wished Jesus to grant sinners a full pardon if they came to his chapel and make a good confession. Jesus approved this wish through His Blessed Mother who smiled and nodded at St. Francis.
Happy to have been given such a priceless and unheard of indulgence, he immediately set off for the Holy Father to have it approved. Pope Honorius III was presiding over the Church at the time, and he was absolutely dumbfounded by such a seemingly outrageous request. Plenary indulgences (like this) were VERY rarely approved, and even then, only under the strictest of circumstances, typically for those serving in the Crusades.
St. Francis, however, was not to be deterred and kept petitioning the Holy Father for his approval. Swayed, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit, Pope Honorius III granted St. Francis the indulgence. He then asked St. Francis if he wouldn't like a notice that this indulgence had been granted (since he was trying to leave without one). St. Francis replied, "I need nothing more than your word. Our Lady is the parchment, Christ the notary, and the angels our witnesses!"
He decided to set the date for this indulgence to coincide with the Feast of the Chains of St. Peter in order that all sinners may be freed from the bondage of sin. How beautiful is that?
He was so excited when the first August rolled around that he cried out to the overflowing crowds "I want to make all of you go to Heaven!"
I am so glad my wonderful friend called me up to let me know of this before flying across country! For those of you who wish to take advantage of so wonderous a blessing, here are the guidelines for the Portiuncula Indulgence.
CONDITIONS TO OBTAIN THE PLENARY INDULGENCE
(for oneself OR for a departed soul)
1. Sacramental Confession to be in God's grace (8 days before or after the 1st)
2. Participation in Holy Mass and Eucharist
3. Visit to a Catholic Church followed by a Profession of Faith (Apostle's or Nicene Creed) in order to reaffirm your Catholic Identity
4. Say an Our Father to reaffirm the dignity you recieve as a child of God through Baptism
5. A prayer for the Pope's intentions in order to reaffirm your membership in the Church of which the Holy Father is the sign of visible unity.