Year of Consecrated Life indulgence available to all

| Father John Paul Erickson | February 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

We are already nearly three months into the Year of Consecrated Life, declared by Pope Francis as a special time of prayer and reflection on the vocation and dignity of consecrated religious.

During this “year” — which began with Advent and will run 14 months — Pope Francis has extended the spiritual graces of a plenary indulgence to all members of the institutes of religious life and all “other truly repentant faithful moved by a spirit of charity.”

Indulgences are a special exercise of “the power of the keys,” the ministry by which the successor of St. Peter administers the saving power of Jesus Christ, a gift that is always free but must be received with contrition, faith and gratitude. By means of indulgences, the merits of Christ and his saints are applied to members of the Church’s mystical body, many of whom are still undergoing purification for sin in what we call “purgatory.”

No sin is private, as every single one of our deliberate moral failings brings division, hurt and weakness to our lives and those of others. Indulgences are all about healing these wounds, a healing that is required even when forgiveness has been granted.

It is simply not enough to say “I am sorry” for deliberate moral failures. We must also somehow make up for what we have done, or failed to do. An indulgence helps us, or others, to do just that by appealing and clinging to the action of Jesus Christ.

Indulgences are realities rooted in both the mercy and justice of Almighty God, who has manifested both in his Son, Jesus Christ. Indulgences are not magic, and still less are they a kind of “get out of jail free” card. However, they are a part of our tradition as Catholics that we shouldn’t be ashamed of, but rather embrace and use well so that our loved ones may soon experience the eternal embrace of Almighty God.

Pope Francis’ declaration of the special indulgence for the Year of Consecrated Life follows the tradition of previous pontiffs, who also declared special graces and spiritual favors available to those who actively commemorated and participated in the theme of the given year.

The indulgence can be received with the usual conditions: sacramental confession, eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father — which may be satisfied through the recitation of one Our Father and one Hail Mary — and a detachment from sin.

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the indulgence may be attained by visiting the Cathedral of St. Paul or the Basilica of St. Mary, and publicly reciting the Liturgy of the Hours or, for an appropriate time in these same spaces, dedicating oneself to prayer and meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith (such as the Nicene or Apostles Creed), and a pious invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This same indulgence may be gained in any of the chapels that are found within the houses and convents of the many local religious communities.

Through decree of Archbishop John Nienstedt, the indulgence may be obtained locally on any memorial, feast or solemnity observed on the general Roman calendar and dedicated to Mary, such as the upcoming Feast of the Annunciation March 25.

Marian feasts are appropriately marked as special days of prayer for consecrated religious and for an increase in vocations.

In addition, the graces of the indulgence may be gained on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Feb. 2, 2016 -— the final day of the Year of Consecrated Life and the final day of the indulgence’s availability.

The graces of the indulgence may be applied to oneself or to the poor souls in purgatory.

The full text declaring Pope Francis’ intention of imparting the plenary indulgence during the Year of Consecrated Life may be found at the Vatican website, vatican.va, under the subheading “Apostolic Penitentiary.”

Father Erickson is director of the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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