SANTUARIO de San Jose Parish, in Greenhills, is marking today’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ in a special way. SSJP is launching its 50 Indulgences Campaign for parishioners to earn 50 indulgences by the end of 2017, the 50th anniversary of the congregation in San Juan, Metro Manila.
What have indulgences got to do with the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating our Lord’s Real Presence at mass in the Consecration of bread and wine into His Body and Blood?
Well, communion is required to earn indulgences, which remove the temporal punishment and damage to the soul due to sin. And two common acts of indulgence are prayers after communion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
But there are deeper, more fundamental bonds between indulgences and the Eucharist. Both pour out the Mercy of God in our Lord giving Himself in communion, and removing sin’s harmful consequences through indulgences.
Moreover, the Eucharist and indulgences both sanctify and lift humble creation to the infinite heights of the Creator. Just as bread and wine become Christ at mass, we are brought closer to Him and His holiness through the acts and fruits of indulgences.
Patch the holes left by sin
Speaking on confession and communion at SSJP recently, Opus Dei Fr. Michael Millan explained indulgences. He likened the holiness of a newly baptized soul to an unblemished block of wood. Sin drives nails into the wood.
In confession, Christ’s redemptive sacrifice removes the nails—our sins and the eternal punishment we would have incurred. But holes are left in the wood—sinful tendencies and worldly attachments which sin implants and intensifies.
Indulgences then draw more of God’s mercy to patch the holes and bring the soul closer to its baptismal holiness, without undergoing the temporal punishment due to sin in this life or the next.
To hear it from John Paul II in his 1998 papal bull declaring 2000 a jubilee year of mercy, the saint said: “Reconciliation with God does not mean that there are no enduring consequences of sin from which we must be purified. … With the indulgence, the repentant sinner receives a remission of the temporal punishment due for the sins already forgiven as regards the fault.”
Confession, prayer, mercy, and communion
So how does one gain indulgences for oneself or the souls in Purgatory? (You may not do it for other living persons, who can earn their own indulgences, unlike the deceased who depend solely on our prayers.)
Dimas the repentant thief on Calvary showed how. First, he showed contrition for his sins: “We have been condemned justly.”
Second, he prayed to our Lord for salvation: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And third, Dimas showed compassion for another human being, Christ Himself: “This man has done nothing wrong.”
Of course, the robber expected to suffer for his sins: “we are getting what we deserve for what we have done.” But Jesus granted him an indulgence, removing any further punishment in the afterlife, and took him to Paradise straightaway.
Thus, Dimas became one of the first saints to be in communion with God in heaven.
That’s the indulgence drill: confession, prayer, mercy, and communion. Through these actions, one can gain partial or plenary indulgences, the latter removing all temporal punishment due to sin. If one gains a plenary indulgence for a deceased person, his or her soul immediately goes to heaven.
As the 50 Indulgences Campaign primer spells out, indulgences require that the believer be in a state of grace, having confessed any mortal sins he or she may have. Along with penance, one must also receive communion within a week of performing the act of indulgence, and say one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the Pope’s intentions.
Available at the Santuario de San Jose parish office, the primer lists many acts of indulgence, not just the widely publicized method of entering the holy doors in jubilee churches designated in each diocese during this Year of Mercy until the Solemnity of Christ The King on Nov. 20.
There are indulgenced prayers like the Holy Rosary, the Way of the Cross, prayers after communion like the Anima Christi, as well as popular devotions like Hail Holy Queen, Magnificat, To You Blessed Joseph, and Prayer to the Guardian Angel.
Praying the Way of the Cross confers a plenary indulgence; so does saying the Rosary in a group or in church. Ditto those who visit a parish church on its fiesta day, or renew their baptismal vows at the Easter vigil mass or on their baptism anniversaries.
Show mercy and gain mercy
Other acts conferring plenary indulgences include adoring the Blessed Sacrament or reading the Holy Bible for at least half an hour, attending a retreat lasting three days or longer, assisting in masses for first Holy Communion or on the 25th, 50th or 60th anniversary of the celebrant priest’s ordination.
There are other indulgenced acts lifting the soul to God and away from sin. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy gain indulgences, including sharing wealth with the needy. And they serve Christ Himself in the least of our brethren.
Fasting and other acts of sacrifice, giving up legitimate comforts that are not sinful, help us turn away from worldly attachments, which distract us from holy pursuits.
Such self-denial is also key to a special requirement for plenary indulgences: detachment from sin. The faithful must resolutely reject and turn away not just from sinful acts, but from occasions, objects, thoughts and tendencies leading to offenses.
Lewd media and conversations, wayward company, intoxicating substances, sacrilegious talk, corrupt environments, hateful, angry thoughts—these and similar temptations are avoided, along with entertaining sinful wishes, even if they are not carried out.
Can one do all that once every week or so, even for just a year and a half?
Being holy is never easy. But as our Lord said, “for God all things are possible.” Amen.