October 11, 2011
The ABC’s and D’s of indulgences
By Father Rocky Hoffman *

By Father Rocky Hoffman *

Does anyone remember the A-B-C-D indulgences that could be placed on rosaries when they were blessed?  This dates back to the fifties and I haven't heard of them since.  A, B, C, D stood for:  Apostolic, Benedictine, Carmelite and Dominican I believe.  Would love it if this practice was reinstated. 

I was born in 1959 and I never heard of it, but perhaps some of our readers have.  I do know that the practice and specification of indulgences was streamlined and simplified as a result of the Second Vatican Council (“Enchiridion Indulgentiarum,” June 29, 1968), but the fundamental strategy remains the same:  the Church wants to promote salutary spiritual practices and devotions, and for that reason she adds the ‘incentive’ of an indulgence to something we should be doing anyway.
The Church distinguishes between partial and plenary indulgences, which bear on the remission of temporal punishment due to our sins.  Four practices are specifically promoted for our own welfare:  recitation of the Rosary in family, a half hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Stations of the Cross, and a half hour of reading of Sacred Scripture.  Each practice merits a plenary indulgence.

As for the ABC and D’s you mention, here’s my take: “A” is for apostolic and an Apostolic indulgence is one conceded by the Holy See, especially when the Holy Father blesses the rosary during an audience; the Benedictine, Carmelite and Dominican indulgences (B,C,D), are special and unique to those religious orders and the lay faithful who are associated with those orders by way of third orders.
On Father Thompson, O.P’s website we read this claim:  “Until the promulgation of “Inter Oecumenici” in 1964, the blessing of rosaries was a reserved blessing, and only priests of the Dominican Order could bless them. That is why the older Roman Rituals did not contain a blessing for rosaries. Today any priest or deacon may bless a rosary using formulas in use from 1964 to 1984 or the formula found in the new “Liber Benedictionum” of 1984 (LB 506).”  That’s news to me.
While the plethora of categories of indulgences in vogue during the 50s may summon pious nostalgia, the graces and indulgences remain the same: plenary if you pray the rosary with two or more people, and partial if you pray it by yourself.  But then, in that case, you just might want to invite your guardian angel to pray it with you and ask our dear Lord if such angelic company qualifies for the plenary indulgence. 
Finally, remember, five conditions are required for gaining the plenary indulgence:  1. pray the rosary in family; 2.  Mass and Communion that week; 3.  Confession that week; 4.  pray for the Pope; and finally, the clincher is 5.  be completely detached from any desire to sin.
Have at it!  And please remember me in your daily rosary.

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio.  Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University.  His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.

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