Basic Catholic Rules On Indulgences

November 29, 2010

Bridegroom Press
November 2010

“I remember indulgences from when I was a kid!” Many people mention this, and the people who do always have questions.

Where Has The Time Gone?
When we learned about indulgences twenty, thirty, forty or more years ago, we remember how the nuns explained it to us: doing an indulgence got us time off purgatory. We didn’t know exactly what that meant, but it sounded like a good deal.

God bless the nuns, but they either deliberately misled us because they didn’t think we would understand the real explanation, or they didn’t know the real explanation themselves. Prior to Vatican II, all indulgences had a certain amount of time associated with them - saying this prayer or doing that deed was worth 300 days, or 10 years or somesuch. But the time listed was never meant to refer to time in Purgatory. It was a little more complicated than that.

Long, Long Ago…
You see, in the very early Church, the first 300 to 400 years, the sacrament of reconciliation was not celebrated as commonly as it is now. In fact, it was unusual to receive it as often as once every five or ten years. Everyone who entered the Church came in as adults - while the Church was happy to baptize children if the parents wanted, She spent most of her time teaching pagan adults the Faith.
If I were a pagan adult who was interested in becoming Christian, I would probably take between three and five solid years of instruction, being taught every day, practicing the Faith every day, having the community watch me practice every day. Everyone knew my name, and I would learn everyone’s name myself. Only after the whole community had seen me prepare and felt I was ready, only then would I be permitted to enter the Church.

The Church took this long because the bishop and the community wanted to make sure I really understood what I was getting into. They also wanted to make sure that I understood all the responsibilities I was undertaking. They wanted to see a real conversion in the way I approached the world, a real hunger for baptism and the washing away of sins.

Penance IS Purgation
What’s this got to do with indulgences? Well, once I was finally permitted to be baptized, the power of that baptism combined with the pre- and post-baptismal instruction was supposed to make me so solid in Christ Jesus that I would never commit another mortal sin.

Sure, I would be tempted - that went without saying. But I was not expected to commit any more mortal sins. I was an adult, I was giving my word to God that I had left that life of sin behind me, and God gave me His grace to empower me so that I would no longer succumb, so why would I sin?

And if I did commit a mortal sin, then I needed to show real remorse for it in order to demonstrate to the community that I had no plans to repeat the experience. So, if I had gone to confession in the early Church, this is the kind of penance I might receive: “Well, you’ve made a good confession,” the bishop might say, “so I will give you a light penance. For the next two years, you are not permitted to attend Mass or receive the Eucharist. Instead, you will spend every Sunday walking around the Church, praying the penitential Psalms while we are celebrating Mass.

Then, for the two years following that, you may attend Mass through the Gospel reading, but when all the unbaptized are ushered out of the Church after that Gospel reading, you will go with them and again walk about the courtyard praying the penitential Psalms.”

“If you do this faithfully, then for the two years following that, you are permitted to be present for the consecration, but you must be face down in front of the community, reciting the penitential Psalms.

And if all of this goes well and you continue to show true and deep remorse, then following this, you may be admitted to the Eucharist once again. Go in peace, my son.”

An eight or ten year penance was not at all uncommon. For certain sins, like murder or participation in abortion, you might be  told to perform penance for the rest of your life, not permitted to receive the Eucharist again until you lay dying.

A VERY Sweet Deal
So, the time periods associated with the indulgenced prayers were not meant to be time off purgatory after death, rather, they were indications that the Church had remitted the normal, early penance of 300 days or ten years in exchange for your saying this one prayer. She was promising to release to you the grace you would otherwise have had to spend a decade in prayer to win. Obviously, this was a pretty sweet deal. There was only one problem.

No one understood or seemed to remember the connection between the early penances and the current time values associated with indulgences. Instead, the faithful were getting a fairly silly understanding of how Purgatory and indulgences worked. Ultimately, after Vatican II, the Church threw up her hands and said, “Never mind the time periods. Every indulgence is just partial or plenary now. You can either win back for the world some of the grace you took out of it (partial) or all of the grace you took out of it.”

What Indulgences Count?
This leaves an obvious question. What do we do with all those old holy cards we have that say we get 300 days off? The Church also answered that question.
Since indulgences are matters of particular law, no prayer is indulgenced unless the Church says it is. Every generation or so, the Church releases a new handbook listing all the indulgences for which She opens the treasury of heaven.
These indulgences are listed in the Handbook of Indulgences, and that Handbook (aka Enchiridion) supercedes all previous rules. So, if you have an old holy card or book (like a Raccolta) that lists indulgences, none of those prayers carry the indulgence described unless that prayer also happens to be in the latest list from Rome.

And even if the prayer you are looking at is in the latest list, it no longer carries the indulgence the old list said it had. Now, it has only the indulgence - partial or plenary - that the Church has most recently assigned it. Don’t worry too much, though. All of the prayers have been retained with at least a partial indulgence. It’s only the plenary indulgences that may have been altered in a significant way.

So, if you want to do an indulgenced work or pray an indulgenced prayer, you have to have the latest handbook (currently, a translation of the 1999 edition) or you can use the prayers and acts conveniently described in the latest edition of the Beauty of Grace, Calendar of Indulgences 2010. We’ve gone through the book and laid out the rules in an easy-to-use calendar, so you don’t have to worry about all the details in the book. You can find it at www.bridegroompress.com

We hope you like it. We certainly enjoyed putting it together. Now, go and get some purgatory time out of the way.

Steve Kellmeyer
Bridegroom Press

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES, A SIGN OF HOPE FOR ALL ITALY

October 4, 2010

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - The evening of October 3rd, during the last event of his pastoral visit to Palermo, the Pope met with thousands of young people gathered in the city’s Piazza Politeama, to whom he spoke about Chiara Badano, beatified in Rome on 25 September.

Recalling how the blessed died young of an incurable disease, he said: “Nineteen years full of life, of love, of faith. Two years, the last two, also full of suffering but always in love and light, a light she irradiated around her and that came from within, from her heart full of God”.

After then highlighting how her parents “lit the flame of faith in their daughter’s heart, and helped Chiara keep it alight even in the difficult moments as she was growing up and especially in the long trial of suffering”, Benedict XVI noted how “the relationship between parents and children … is the torch of faith that is transmitted from generation to generation”.

“The family”, he went on, “is fundamental because it is here that the first perception of the meaning of life germinates in the human heart. It germinates in the relationship with the mother and father, who are responsible for their children’s life but also the first collaborators of God in transmitting the life of faith”.

In Sicily too “there are splendid testimonies of young people who [germinate and] grow like beautiful lush plants”, said the Holy Father. “Do not to be afraid to contrast evil”, he told his audience. “Do not give in to the lure of the mafia, which is the path of death, incompatible with the Gospel, as many of your bishops have said”.

Referring then to the theme of the next World Youth Day - “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” - the Pope said: “The image of the tree tells us that each of us needs a fertile soil in which to sink our roots, a terrain rich in nutritional substances which make the person grow”. These substances “are values, but above all they are love and faith, knowledge of the true face of God and awareness that He loves us infinitely, faithfully, patiently, to the point of giving His life for us.

“In this context”, he added, “the family is like a ‘little Church’, because it transmits God, it transmits the love of Christ by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage. … And the family, in order to be a ‘little Church’, must be well inserted into the ‘great Church’; in other words, into the family that Christ came to create”.

In closing Benedict XVI referred to the difficulties the people of Sicily have to face. “Where there are young people and families who chose the way of the Gospel, there is hope”, he said. “And you are a sign of hope, not only for Sicily but for all Italy.

“I have brought you a witness of sanctity and you have offered me yours: the faces of so many young people of this land who have loved Christ with evangelical radicality. … The greatest gift we have received is to be a Church, to be in Christ a sign and instrument of unity, peace and freedom. No-one can take this joy from us. No-one can take this power! Courage, dear young people and families of Sicily! Be saints!”

During his journey by car from Palermo to the city’s Falcone e Borsellino airport at Punta Raisi, the Pope paused at Capeci, where an attack in 1992 cost the lives of Judge Giovanni Falcone and his police escort. The Pope descended from his car and placed a bunch of flowers at one of the memorial plaques, then prayed in silence for all the victims of the mafia and of organised crime. He then returned to his car and continued his journey to the airport.

WE MUST ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE TOUCHED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

May 25, 2010

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - At 10 a.m. on Sunday in the Vatican Basilica, the Pope presided at Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

Commenting on the Pentecost narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Father explained how “from the Son of God - Who died, rose again then returned to the Father - the divine breath, the Holy Spirit, now descends on humankind with unprecedented energy. And what”, he asked, “does God’s new and powerful self-communication produce? Wherever there is rupture and estrangement, He brings unity and understanding.

“A process of reunification begins among the different and divided parts of the human family”, he added. “People, often reduced to competing and conflicting individuals, having been touched by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, which can envelop them to the point that they form a new organism, a new entity: the Church. The effect of God’s work is unity. Thus unity is the sign of recognition, the ‘calling card’ of the Church in the course of her universal history. Ever since the beginning, since the day of Pentecost, she has spoken all languages”.

“The Church”, Benedict XVI explained, “is never a prisoner of political, racial or cultural boundaries. She must not be confused with other States or with federations of States because hers is a different unity; it aspires to cross all human frontiers.

“From this, dear brothers and sisters derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: when a person or a community close themselves inside their own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign they have distanced themselves from the Holy Spirit. Christians and particular Churches must always compare themselves, and seek harmony, with the one Catholic Church”.

The Holy Father went on: “The unity of the Spirit is expressed in the plurality of understanding. The Church is by her nature one and multiple, being destined to live in all nations, with all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She fulfils her vocation of being a sign and instrument of unity of the entire human race, only if she remains independent of all States and all specific cultures. Always and everywhere the Church must be truly catholic and universal, a home with which everyone can identify”.

“At Pentecost the Holy Spirit appeared as a fire”, said the Pope, noting “how different this fire was from that of wars and bombs. How different is the immolation of Christ, as propagated by the Church, from the fires ignited by dictators of all ages, even last century, which left behind them only scorched earth”.

“The flame of the Holy Spirit burns but does not injure, and yet it achieves a transformation. … However this effect of the divine fire scares us, we are afraid of being ’scalded’ and would prefer to remain as we are. This depends on the fact that our lives often follow a logic of having, of possession and not of giving. … On the one hand we want to be with Jesus, to follow Him closely, on the other we are afraid of the consequences this brings”.

We must, Benedict XVI told the faithful, “be able to recognise that losing something, losing ourselves, for the true God, the God of love and life, is in fact a gain, it means rediscovering oneself more fully. Those who entrust themselves to Jesus experience peace and joy of heart already in this life, things the world cannot give, and cannot take away once God has given them to us. It is worthwhile, then, to allow ourselves to be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit. The pain this brings is necessary for our transformation”.

The Pope concluded by calling on the Holy Spirit “to ignite the flame of your love in us. We know this is an audacious payer, with which we ask to be touched by the flame of God; yet we know that this flame alone has the power to save us. We do not want, in order to defend our lives, to lose the eternal life God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems”.

Home | About | Archives | Advertising | Contact | Privacy Policy

MetroCatholic, Inc · 5604 Belton Ln. · Suite 400 · McKinney, TX 75070
Ph. (972) 400-2423 · Fax (888) 248-7696

The sites and respective links above offer additional information on the Catholic faith. Please note that DFW Catholic is not officially associated with any of these sites and is unable to effectively monitor all information contained therein. Please use your own judgement when visiting these or any websites. If you find information that is objectionable, contact us.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives License. You may republish an article without request provided the content is not altered and it is clearly attributed to "MetroCatholic". Any Internet re-publishing of original MetroCatholic articles MUST additionally include a live link to http://www.dfwcatholic.org. Republishing of articles on DFWCatholic.org that have come from other news sources as noted is subject to the conditions of those sources. MetroCatholic may at times publish content that is taken from the internet and thus considered to be in the public domain. Anyone contrary to the publication of said content need only to contact the editorial office which will immediately proceed to remove the content.