Q. Can I pray myself into heaven? Can others pray me into heaven? What about special novenas, apostolic blessings, nine first Fridays, etc? What does it mean to gain a plenary indulgence? How can I be sure I will go to heaven?
— John W.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that God’s grace, the gift by which we come to eternal life, “cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved” (No. 2005). However, the text repeats Jesus’ words, “You will know them by their fruits,” suggesting that if we place ourselves in God’s hands, allowing our lives and values to be changed by our prayers, we may bring ourselves closer to our eternal goal.
Devotional practices such as Nine First Fridays, novenas and praying the Rosary are designed to strengthen us to follow the example of Christ. Many have indulgences attached, which increase their attractiveness. An indulgence is a remission of part or all of the temporal punishment due a sin that has been confessed and forgiven. The source of indulgences is the infinite treasury of merit won by Jesus and the saints; the Church is their minister (see Catechism, No. 1471).
The Catechism remarks on the value of intercessory prayer, in which “he who prays looks not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others” (No. 2635). Our friends’ prayers for us are always availing, as are ours for them.