Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Indulge me

If you, like me, have been brought up in the English-speaking world, all that you know about indulgences will have been cribbed from anti-Catholic propaganda. This is a great loss. The Church's authority to forgive sins, and forgive the temporal punishment of sin, has always been there, and remains a potent help in our growth towards holiness.

This excellent post by the Historical Christian sums up the practice of partial and plenary indulgences:

"The Church has granted three types of general indulgences, each extensively supported with scripture references in the Handbook, that may be done on a daily basis, several times a day or constantly throughout the day. The first is this:

"A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, while performing their duties and enduring the difficulties of life, raise their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation.

"This is so simple. It can be done everyday, and several times a day. In fact, if we are really striving to live for Christ, we’re already doing part of it: enduring the difficulties of life while trusting in God. We just need to add to it: the intention of receiving an indulgence, being aware of our littleness, our sinfulness and inadequacy before God, and making a “pious invocation,” such as “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner,” or “Jesus, I trust in you.” The Handbook has a whole list of invocations; or you can make up your own.

"If we just did this one thing on a regular, daily basis, several times a day as we went through our day, how our lives would change, and how we would grow and deepen in humility, prayer, and trust in God. Which of course is exactly the intention of indulgences, as the Church has spelled it out.

"If a majority of Catholics would do this, imagine how it would transform the life of the Church. As explained, sin affects the whole Body, for the worse. But holiness also affects the Body – for the better. If we receive the benefits of indulgences, we will not only improve our own spiritual health, we will improve the overall health of the whole Body, by aiding in removing the mystical, temporal effects of sin that weigh her down and disfigure her, and so lighten and uplift the whole Body, by our personal growth in holiness.

"Here is the second general indulgence:

"A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, prompted by a spirit of faith, devote themselves or their goods in compassionate service to their brothers and sisters in need.

"This can include both corporeal and spiritual works of mercy, helping with both material and spiritual needs, such as giving food or clothing to the poor, or counseling, teaching, or praying for those in need. And if we did this on a regular, daily basis, how it would help us grow in selflessness, and love and concern for others.

"The third general indulgence:

"A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a spirit of penitence, voluntarily abstain from something which is licit for and pleasing to them.

"If we did this on a daily basis, how we would grow in a spirit of poverty and simplicity, overcome gluttony and strong personal preferences, detach ourselves from sensuality and the world, and learn to focus so much more on God, our true happiness and providence.

"All three of these are so simple, and embody the Christian spirit of trusting in and loving God, and loving and serving others, in a spirit of poverty and detachment from the world. And if we do so with awareness of our own sinfulness, imploring God for His indulgence, how He will indulge us with the increasing grace of Christ! “Ask, and it will be given you. . . . How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:7, 11b)"

In other words: prayer, charity and self-denial. Not rocket science.

Read the whole thing to find out about "indulgences on steroids" i.e. plenary indulgences!

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