Catholic Indulgences

The Indulgences that are “given out” by the Catholic Church are greatly misunderstood by non-Catholics and Catholics alike.

As the Church handles indulgences today, they are defined by “The Handbook of Indulgences – Norms and Grants” as:

“An indulgence is the remission in the eyes of God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose culpable element has already been taken away.  The Christian faithful who are rightly disposed and observe the definite, prescribed conditions gain this remission through the effective assistance of the Church, which, as the minister of redemption, authoritatively distributes and applies the treasure of the expiatory works of Christ and the saints.”

The question is asked by many Protestant Christians as to where the Catholic Church thinks it has such power to do this.  The answer is in the Bible.  Let us look at this in some detail.

First we will go to Matthew 6:17-19:

17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 l will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

At this time Jesus gave Simon a new name Peter (the Rock), and then gave him the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close the gates as needed, as well as the power to bind our sins or release us of our sins.

At this point the contention is that Jesus died for our sins so we do not need to be bound or released by man, as Jesus already has.  Yes, Jesus died for our sins.  But this means that even though we are still sinners, if we follow His Commandments, have faith in Him, become Baptized by water in the Trinity and “eat His Body and drink His Blood” (John 6:53), our sins are forgiven and we MAY make it to Heaven.

At all times through the Bible, sins had to be “paid for”, often in suffering and hardship.  We are told that only the holy in spirit and body may go to Heaven, and that the gates are narrow.  So we must atone for our sins, and the Catholic Church teaches, through tradition and the Old Testament, that this is done through a cleansing process we call Purgatory for lack of another name.  This is a time of temporal punishment to remove the stain of sins we commit so as to allow us to go into Heaven and behold our Lord and Savior, as impure things  and beings may not enter into Heaven.

After Jesus is Crucified and came back to the Apostles and Disciples we hear Him tell all of His Apostles (John 20:21-23) “21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” ” Thus giving the Apostles the ability to bind and unbind us from our sins.  We are told that we are released from our sins with the Death of Jesus, and that is true, but we are not released from the effects of those sins, and that requires further pardoning by God or His Disciples, whom He has granted permission to do so.

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The Rosary

One of the “Sacramentals” Catholic use to help themselves to understand and communicate with Jesus is the Rosary.  Many non-Catholics have a problem of one sort or another with the Rosary, but I am betting it is because they are not sure what is happening when they see the Rosary, and they think we are “Idol Worshiping”.  This could not be further from the truth though!

So, what is the Rosary?  First let me describe the “beads” and how they are “put together”.  The “standard” Rosary will start with a Crucifix of some sort and have a short “space” before having one bead, followed by a space, followed by three beads in close secession, followed by a space and a single bead.  After the single bead is a space, and then a “splitter” of some sort.  This splitter is often a medal, brief of a Saint, or other special, to the creator (and presumably the buyer), item.  From here we have a space followed by ten beads close together.  This is “one Decade” of Beads, counting the last solo bead before the “splitter” (my word, not the official word for this piece!).  After the tenth bead, there is a space, then a load bead/space/ten beads.  This goes on until there are five “Decades” which terminates at the “splitter” again.

Ok, that is the Rosary Beads themselves.

Now, let me explain what the Rosary is all about.  The Rosary consist of 4 “Mysteries of Christ Jesus’ Life”.  They are:

  • Glorious (Sunday and Wednesday (more on this in a bit))
  • Joyful (Monday and Saturday (and Sunday during Christmas Season))
  • Sorrowful (Tuesday, Friday (and Sundays during Lent))
  • Luminous (Thursdays)

On Sundays and Wednesdays we focus on the Glorious Mysteries, which are:

  • The Resurrection
  • The Ascension
  • The Descent of the Holy Spirit
  • The Assumption
  • The Coronation

The Joyful Mysteries are focused on on Mondays and Saturdays, and they are:

  • The Annunciation
  • The Visitation
  • The Nativity
  • The Presentation
  • The Finding of  Jesus in the Temple

On Tuesdays, Fridays and during the Lenten Season on Sundays as well, we focus on:

  • The Agony in the Garden
  • The Scourging at the Pillar
  • The Crowning with the Thorns
  • The Carrying of the Cross
  • The Crucifixion

And lastly on Thursday we focus on the Luminous Mysteries (these have been added to the prayers within the last 30ish years, and some do not use these Mysteries):

  • The Baptism of the Lord
  • The Wedding of Cana
  • The Proclamation of the Kingdom
  • The Transfiguration
  • The Institution of the Eucharist

Ok, you have all that, but you are probably still wondering what that all means, and how it comes together right?

  1. Starting at the Rosary we begin by giving ourselves a blessing in the form of crossing ourselves and saying “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” while holding the Crucifix in the dominate hand.
  2. Staying on the Crucifix, we then say the Apostles Creed.
  3. Moving to the first “solo” bead we then say the Lords Prayer.
  4. We then say, once for each of the three close beads, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen. (Here we have some people get upset, because we say “Mother of God”.  If you believe in the Trinity, and that Jesus is God personified, and you believe that Mary was His mother on Earth, does that not by “default” make her the Mother of God?  The rest of the text, including “Mother of My Lord (God)” is in the Bible.)
  5. After the three Hail Mary’s we say on the space before the solo bead two short prayers:  “Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”  And “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have the most need of thy mercy.
  6. Now, moving to the first solo bead we “announce” the first Mystery (and for my example today we will be using the Glorious Mysteries” by saying ‘”The First Glorious Mystery” The Resurrection’ then say the Our Father.
  7. At this point, until we get to the next mystery we are to contemplate that  mystery, in this case the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.  What I do, as do many others is announce an event in that time of Jesus’ life, and here I say “The Body of Jesus is placed in the Tomb on the evening of Good Friday”.  Then say the Hail Mary (as above).
  8. I then move to the next of ten beads and say “His soul descends into the realm of the dead to announce to the Just the tidings of their redemption.” followed by the Hail Mary.
  9. This goes on for the remainder of the ten beads, and the Glory Be and O my Jesus.
  10. We then move to the next solo bead and Announce the Second Mystery and follow the same course through the remaining of five Mysteries.
  11. After the last Mystery and O My Jesus we ask our Mother Mary to intercede on our behalf by saying:  Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope!  To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.  Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.  Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worth of the promises of Christ.  Let us pray.  O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech they, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So, the Rosary is a “sacramental” that is used to bring to our mind, each day, the life of Christ, and to ask for the intercessory prayers of Mary, Jesus’ Mother, in obtaining the Life of Christ in our life.  As in all request for Intercessory Prayer, we end our prayer with a direct request to God Himself, in support of our request through Mary, our intercessor.  And the beads are just a means of keep track of where you are in the meditation/prayer!

This process, without the sentences I add between each Hail Mary during the “Decades”, takes about 15 to 20 minutes, and with the added “forced thoughts via verbalization of the added sentences” adds about 10 to 15 minutes to the meditation/prayer.

I hope this helps you understand the Rosary better!

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