Friday, June 6, 2008

The God is Good Department

I always mean to follow as much of the Office as is humanly possible and have, to my own self-shock and awe, become someone who packs her prayer journal and copy of Magnificat in her purse or briefcase.

Sometimes I'm able to read silently while someone, somewhere is reading aloud. More often than I'd like to admit, these spiritual aids never get hauled out during the course of my busier days. Yesterday was one of those days, so I was very much looking forward to choir practice where I'd get the dual benefit of what St. Augustine once characterized as praying twice. I also desperately needed oxygenation after spending the entire day in either a conference room or car.

I arrived ten minutes early and settled into one of my favorite pews where I opted for some lectio divina. So enthralled was I with the luxury of being alone in a silent church, that I lost track of time. When I finally realized no one else was showing up for choir, I sat a bit longer and then left. Thirty minutes had elapsed, which has got to be some kind of record for me sitting still without adult supervision.

Having received exactly what I needed, I drove home thinking, "God is good!" Allelujah, amen.


  1. If you were there in church for at least 30 minutes, in front of the tabernacle with the Eucharist in it, you might have fulfilled the requirement for a plenary indulgence (assuming all the other conditions were met/will be met). Ditto for reading the Bible/scripture for 30 minutes.

    These are such easy, simple, and important indulgences that it amazes me more people don't take advantage of them. And even if a person can't meet the "free of attachment to all sin, even venial sin" requirement for a plenary indulgence, they still receive a partial indulgence (and one that might be substantial, although we won't know until much later).

    It's First Friday. Tomorrow is First Saturday. (Public Service Announcement)

  2. For those who don't know/have forgotten, to obtain a Plenary indulgence, one must:

    1. Intend to receive the indulgence (we don't get indulgences unintentionally or accidentally);
    2. Perform the indulgenced act with a contrite heart;
    3. Go to confession within several days before or after the indulgenced act ("several days" means within 20 days before or after the act -- we used to say "7 or 8 days" but John Paul II changed this for the Millennium Jubilee Year in 2000, and so it remains until a future Pope changes it -- also one confession may suffice for several Plenary indulgences);
    4. Receive Holy Communion (normally this is required on the same day as the indulgenced act);
    5. Pray for the Pope's intentions (an Our Father and a Hail Mary are sufficient, but you are free to substitute other prayers of your own choice);
    6. Be free from all attachment to sin, including venial sin.

    In general, you can obtain one plenary indulgence per day. The exceptions are the "in Articulo Mortis" Plenary indulgence granted by the church at the moment of death to those who are properly disposed (e.g., contrite, etc.), who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing, and who have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime; and the Plenary indulgence attached to the Apostolic Blessing given by a priest as part of the rites for the dying.

    A Plenary indulgence remits before God all temporal punishment (i.e., Purgatory) due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.

    An individual who attempts to receive a plenary indulgence, but is unable to meet all the conditions (especially freedom from attachment to all sin) receives a partial indulgence instead.

    All indulgences are applicable to the souls in Purgatory. So in your intention to receive the indulgence, you can ask that it be applied to a specific Holy Soul in Purgatory.

    References: The Catechism of the Catholic Church; Indulgentarium Doctrina; Enchidirion Indulgentarium. All of these are available on the Web (in English, if your Latin is rusty). A more readable reference may be the Handbook of Indulgences published by Catholic Book Publishing, New York: 1991.

  3. Almost forgot: In order to receive an indulgence (Plenary or partial), one must be Catholic, and one must be free of serious (mortal) sin. You'd think these things would go without saying, but ...

    I think it's also true that if one has an unconfessed venial sin, one can only receive a partial indulgence. Might check with a priest about that one.

    I have read (somewhere) that experts on indulgences are not in agreement as to whether someone in mortal sin can perform an indulgenced act for a Holy Soul in Purgatory. Personally, I don't know why there would be disagreement about that (how can someone in mortal sin meet the requirement to receive communion?), but that's what I read "somewhere." I say, why not just go to confession and receive absolution? If you're going to ask that a Plenary indulgence be applied to the soul of a loved one, there's no point taking the chance that they won't receive the immediate remission of all their temporal punishment. Or so it seems to me.

  4. (I wish we could edit comments!)

    Earlier, I said, "An individual who attempts to receive a plenary indulgence, but is unable to meet all the conditions (especially freedom from attachment to all sin) receives a partial indulgence instead."

    Of course this is nonsensical as written. What I should have said was, "An individual who attempts to receive a plenary indulgence, but is unable to meet the condition requiring freedom from attachment to all sin, even venial sin, receives a partial indulgence instead."

    Doh. Hope everyone reads this far.

  5. And sometimes it's just good to sit and be, with no ulterior motive.


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