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1. Why They Are Important.

2. Indulgences In History.

Indulgences are a great gift; a treasure of the Church, and a great treasure for us. However, they are so often overlooked today, because many do not know about them. And our era means that many want to detract away from them!

Theological basis:

What is an indulgence? Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ has a "superabundance of merits;" His merits are infinite; limitless. And the Blessed Virgin Mary, being sinless, She gained a great abundance of merits. And the saints too, we can say of them that their merits outweighed whatever wrongdoing they did whilst they were on earth. Our heavenly family are alive and active in heaven, and they want to help us! And which they do!

It is the excess of merits that is the theological basis for indulgences. The merits are contained in what is known as the "treasury" of the Church and which the Church, as Minister of Redemption, draws upon under Her authority of "bounding and loosing;" the "Keys." (Mt 16:18-19.)

An indulgence draws on the treasury of these merits through an indulgence having been attached (this by Popes and also sometimes by others high ranking in the Church hierarchy, down through the centuries) to a good
work(s) i.e. prayers, sacrifices, devotions, vigils, pilgrimages, visiting a cemetery to pray for the dead etc.

Examples of Indulgences.

Many indulgences are long established. Particular examples of indulgences are the reading of scripture for half an hour daily, for which a partial indulgence is granted, the same is granted for visiting a cemetery with the intention of praying for the dead. Visiting a cemetery during the first eight days in November (the month of the Holy Souls) brings a plenary(full)indulgence. Other examples are the saying of the Rosary, publicly or privately, and the saying of the Stations of the Cross. Indulgences are attached to many prayers and actions.

Such good works must be undertaken to gain the full (plenary) indulgence (remission) or the partial indulgence (remission) of the punishment due for sin. Such punishment; the debt owed for sins that must be paid off to God's Justice either in this life or the next.

Gaining an indulgence:

To gain an indulgence one must be a baptized Catholic, must be in a state of grace; not in mortal sin, and must have confessed and received communion (the sin for which remission of punishment is sought must have been forgiven.) This is covered by regular confession and communion. There must be an intention to gain an indulgence. Indulgences cannot be bought, or transferred to another living person, but they can always be transferred to the dead.

The Church, as Minister of Redemption, grants an indulgence upon death to those who have prayed during their lifetime.

The Church, traditionally, attached a specific number of days to particular prayers/good works (they would attract a set number of days indulgence (remission.)The number of days related to days that would otherwise, at one time in the early Church, have been served as public penance for sins (publicly exhibited penance) and which in turn relates to an amount of time that would have been served in purgatory.

This also, of course, served the purpose of helping to ensure that lives were lived unto the goal of salvation; that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were sought in order to build a strong interior life; all focused on giving glory to God and living by His commandments. And all within a grace bringing sacramental environment; the “sacramental economy” of the Church.

The classification of years and days was abolished following on from Vatican II, in the Indulgentiarum Doctrina (Ist January1967.) Also excluded were a number of the prayers/good works previously included. Many Church groups were affected, for example, confraternities; pilgrimage sites etc. But more general prayers were now included.

The list of prayers and good works to which an indulgence(s) are attached are found in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum.

The prayers to go with an indulgence that is sought are: The Our Father, The Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. And said “for the intentions of the Holy Father.” In this last era of the world as we know it (and which we have been in for some considerable time) and with all of the complexities that go with this era, indulgence prayers (intentions of the Holy Father) should be said (as I understand it) for the intentions of the highest ranking human in the Church who is in the right ways of the Faith. And for St Peter's intentions.

Note that, because of that foretold in scripture (ii)Thessalonioans(ii) and The Apocalypse, the Church has always taught that She would experience a period of trial just before Our Lord's Second Coming in Judgement. And a very real trial it is!

Indulgences in history.

Much is made of Pope Leo X's actions as concerns indulgences: Pope Leo X (p.1513-21) had judged it acceptable to permit the granting of an indulgence for a financial sacrifice, in certain circumstances; the money raised at that time being for works to buildings in St Peter's Square in Rome.

Indulgences are a beautiful gift to the church; entirely legitimate, and, as Pope, it was for Pope Leo X (and no one else) to determine as to the indulgences he authorized. And Our Lord knows the intention of the giver/indulgence seeker!

And the Church did often need to raise funds. And especially since, whilst the Church was certainly helped, and at significant times, by Kings and Dukes, down through the centuries, She was also often raided so that the finances She needed for Her own extensive good works of giving, providing, and supporting, needed replenishment.

The 'raiding' of Her, by Kings, and/or by Dukes, and across Europe at different times, was often for the intent of funding their personal wars; part of the vicious circle of royal/aristo wars that they were tragically caught up in; as between themselves and/or between them and their own Dukes. All part of the legacy of Barbarian personal royalty that the Church was set amidst and tried to prevent (not neast for the mentality it engendered, and the great danger to souls, and the direction towards the secular) but was never able to have Europe overcome it; though She tried.

The Church at all times seeking to remind kings that their kingship was subject to Our Lord's Kingship; His ways, rules and commands; “O King of the ages” (Apoc.15:3.) We have the commandments, and as we say in the Our Father: “Thy will be done...” And Our Lord gave ALL authority to His Church; for all to be in and under; for the greater glory of God, and unto the goal of salvation!

Meanwhile, what did Pope Leo X himself say as to what was happening at this time? This is what he wrote in his Papal Bull; Exsurge Domine (Arise O Lord)15th June 1520 (Condemning The Errors of Martin Luther) and which begins with Pope Leo X saying:

Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it." Pope Leo X Exsurge Domine: Bull of Pope Leo X June 15, 1520

And indeed the Church is “the vineyard;” of good works, and good deeds, and with the focus on the first commandment and at all times seeking to please God during this short sujourn upon His earth. God has no need of us whatsoever, we exist for His service unto His greater glory.

Pope Leo goes on, in Exsurge Domine to call on the help of St Peter and St Paul. He bemoans the things happening, and recalls how, in the past, Germany had been the great protector and advocate of the Church.

And it having been the privilege of the Lord's Church to access Our Lord's teaching; unto Apostolic teaching,
at source, in the earliest grace filled times, and then build on this under the guidance of God the Holy Spirit;
the great Rock; the Church. The great Rock and Column of the True Faith.

The reformation, with its destruction, for so many, of the cognizance in the true faith, and its structures, and the destruction for so many of the one great unity of doctrine, and resulting in a gradual turning of societies into a mission for man and his wrong path excesses (and accompanied by much bullying of the Church) was not a minor theological disagreement during a stroll in the park between friends; it was a profound apostasy (though not intended as such by those involved) and from which mankind could not recover.

Angela A.M. St John.

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