A few people were surprised to see that Pope Francis, as he did last year, is offering a plenary indulgence for those who visit the aged on the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, July 24:

Any Catholic who participates in the celebration July 24 of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly can receive a plenary indulgence, the Vatican announced.

“Grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity,” attend Mass or other prayer services for the occasion can receive the indulgence, which “can also be applied as a suffrage for the souls in purgatory,” said the announcement published May 30.

Pope Francis celebrated the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021 and decreed that it be observed each year on the Sunday closest to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents.

In his message for this year’s celebration, Pope Francis asked older people like himself to be “artisans of the revolution of tenderness.”

So what, exactly, does this mean?

Here’s a primer on indulgences: 

Even though confessed and forgiven sins will not send a person to hell, consequences remain to be paid on earth or in purgatory. An indulgence frees the recipient from those consequences. Reception of an indulgence always springs from sincere repentance, the desire to live a holy life, reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion as soon as possible and prayer for the Holy Father. An indulgence cannot be bought, nor can one be obtained by going through the motions without sincerity.

A partial indulgence covers part of the punishment due for sins; a plenary indulgence removes all of it. Both kinds of indulgence come from the merits of Jesus, the Blessed Mother and the saints. These “merits” are the opposite of “demerits.”  They are spiritual fruits accumulated through holy living.

And there are set requirements to receive these graces:

To obtain the indulgence, a faithful Christian must be completely detached from all sin and fulfill the ordinary conditions of an indulgence, which are sacramental confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer for the intentions of the pope.

What might surprise a few people is the lengthy list of acts/works/prayers that can offer indulgences — ranging from the brief to the very involved:

Obtainable any time any place

Reading of Sacred Scripture

Recitation of the Marian Rosary (Rosarii marialis recitatio)

Exercise of the Way of the Cross

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Obtainable on special occasions

Papal Blessing – even by radio

Closing Mass of a Eucharistic Congress

During a Diocesan Synod

During a Pastoral Visitation

Obtainable on special days

1st January

Each Friday of Lent and Passiontide after communion

Holy Thursday

Good Friday

Paschal Vigil

Feast of Pentecost [26 May in 1996]

Feast of Corpus Christi – 2nd Thursday after Pentecost

Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – 3rd Friday after Pentecost

Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul – 29 June

“Portiuncula” – 2 August

November 1-8

All Souls Day – November 2

Last Day of the Year

Visit to a Church or Oratory of Religious on the Feast of the Holy Founder

Titular Feast of the Parochial Church

Visit to a Church or an Altar on the day of its consecration

Obtainable on special days at special places

Visit to the Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome

Visit to the Stational Churches of Rome

Those are for starters.

Read more.

And you might want to check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject, too.