Pious tradition holds that Jesus promised St. Gertrude that a thousand souls would be released from purgatory each time the following prayer is said devoutly: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

In His revelation to St. Gertrude, Jesus did not attach conditions to the recitation of this prayer, and He did not specify added requirements. In fulfillment of His promise, the mercy shown to sinners in response to this intercessory prayer is a direct gift from God.

An indulgence, on the other hand, is an action of the Church in fulfillment of the promise of Jesus in Matthew 18:18: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” An indulgence is remission of the temporal punishment due to sins. According to Pope Paul VI in Indulgentiarum Doctrina (an apostolic constitution discussing indulgences), indulgences are either plenary or partial. There are four conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence: to have an interior disposition of complete detachment from sin; to have sacramentally confessed sins; to receive the holy Eucharist; and to have prayed for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. According to the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which has competence, or jurisdiction, regarding indulgences, these conditions must be met within a period of “about 20 days.”

Devout recitation of the above prayer does not convey an indulgence, but instead invokes the mercy of God directly, and therefore it does not require the fulfillment of conditions attached to an indulgence. The prayer, devoutly offered, is sufficient in itself.

Rev. Msgr. William J. King is a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg.