Today we have a post from a guest blogger: Anthony Lickteig is one of our seminarians from the Archdiocese of Washington. He is entering his fourth year of Theology and will be ordained a transitional deacon in the Fall.
Today is the 150 Anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests. Since this is the year the Pope has dedicated for Priests, the Holy Father has offered Catholics the opportunity to earn a Plenary Indulgence on this feast day. In fact, during this whole “Year for Priests”, the Pope has declared that any lay Catholic may earn a Plenary Indulgence every first Thursday of the month from now until the close of the Year on June 19, 2010, as well as on the close of the Year itself. See the following link (especially Section B) for more information: Enchiridion of Indulgences
So what does this mean? Well, it means that contrary to popular belief, the Church still believes in indulgences. The practice of selling indulgences during part of the Church’s history was wrong, not the belief in indulgences. The Church’s understanding of indulgences is tied to the understanding of sin and the authority of the Church as the Body of Christ to forgive sin. If one doesn’t believe in either of these, then of course one will not believe in indulgences. Now God is all-Holy and through the gift of Jesus Christ, he has called us to that same Holiness, and has even given us the ability to reach that same Holiness. Sin is choosing to reject this gift and not respond to that call. This free choice has consequences. If this choice destroys our communion with God, it causes death to the soul (mortal sin). However, all sin, even venial sin, has consequences. “It disrupts our communion with God and the Church, weakens our ability to resist temptation, and hurts others. The necessity of healing these consequences, once the sin itself has been forgiven, is called temporal punishment. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other works of charity can take away entirely or diminish this temporal punishment.” (U.S. Catechism for Adults, p.244). God desires our ultimate perfection, but he wants us to cooperate with him to remove these imperfections of temporal punishment. It is still his grace in Christ working, but we are freely responding to it.
The bottom line is that prayer and works of charity really do change things; they help the one praying and the one for whom the prayers are offered. See Tobit 12:9 – “almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin” and James 5:16 – “pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” And Jesus himself said, But as to what is within [i.e. unrighteousness] give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 11:41)
If these temporal punishments are not removed before death, a final purification or Purgatory is needed. So in addition to prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other works of charity, the Church also “attaches to certain prayers and actions an indulgence or pardon, that is, the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin.” (p. 244). A Plenary Indulgence is the full remission of temporal punishment due to sin. These indulgences can be applied to ourselves or to a deceased person.
So go out today (and every first Thursday until June 19th) and cooperate with this great gift that God wants to give us and our deceased relatives and friends! However, certain conditions must be met to receive this indulgence today (and in the future). See the following link to know how you can meet them: Conditions for Plenary Indulgence