Indulgences for the Year of Faith

Starting Thursday, the Year of Faith is in effect, and with it, an indulgence. Full news announcement here.

Some highlights, once the believer has celebrated the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist and prayed Pope Benedict’s monthly intentions, there are four opportunities:

Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

I like the inclusion of attending a mission. I wonder how many pastors and staffs are considering adding a parish mission in the coming year. Continuing adult formation, also a laudable idea.

Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

The easiest solution is to celebrate Mass or the Hours at such a pilgrimage location. I wonder if such locations will provide a program of “prayer and meditation” to assist visitors. If I were serving such a site, I certainly would make it available in print as well as online. I would also take care that such online availability extended only to actual pilgrimage visits, not cyberspace.

Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, … in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

Which dioceses already have such events posted, planned, or publicized?

On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

This I like. Very definite little blue thumb.

This is some of what is missing on the baptismal front:

For parents, an observation of each child’s anniversary of baptism in one or more of the following ways:

  • a Mass of personal thanksgiving celebrated by the family in the parish or other church
  • a home celebration of a liturgy of the Word or the Liturgy of the Hours, adapted for the inclusion of children, and including the godparents of the child(ren).
  • some home formation connected to the child’s baptismal patron, or a home liturgy, or a celebration of Mass.

For Catholic schools, through high school level, a recognition of Catholic students’ baptismal anniversaries instead of birthdays.

For adults, a personal rededication to their baptism anniversary:

  • a Mass of thanksgiving on the anniversary day of baptism, and/or on the patronal feast (one’s baptismal name(s))
  • a triduum or a novena at or around the time of one’s baptismal anniversary (I’ll have a post or two with some suggestions on these in a few days)

In addition, I wonder if the personal sharing of one’s baptism, faith, or conversion with a non-believer wouldn’t be a good addition to the list. I hesitate not because I doubt the spiritual fruitfulness, but because I don’t know quite how to phrase the idea in an accessible way.

The last omission on the baptismal front would be for people who are aged or ill and who cannot travel to pilgrimage sites. Some way of praying for their parish’s catechumens or baptism families would be great. Maybe some way of including a profession of faith with the celebration of anointing. Or with Communion and pastoral visits.

These indulgences strike me as being rather heavy on the promotion of the institution, from bishops on up. Praying for the pope’s intentions is great. But praying for the intentions of parents whose children are being baptized–that strikes me as a needful connection to make. Recognizing the universal church is also great. But other aspects of the Church are often ignored and overlooked: the domestic church, the sick and elderly at the parish margins. An emphasis on “doing” Year of Faith activities can unfortunately steer people away from the interior life, especially people who are not oriented to the life of the clergy.

Any other suggestions for what might have been good opportunities missed on the indulgence list? And by the way, let’s not get hung up on the offering of indulgences. I’d rather focus on ideas that can be encouraged among believers. Whether we bother with indulgences or not, we can agree that many activities can be encouraged among believers just because they have an innate value for deepening one’s faith, and not because something is promised.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Indulgences for the Year of Faith

  1. Liam says:

    Btw, the Enchiridion of Indulgences does provide a plenary indulgence for renewing our baptismal promises on the anniversary of our baptism (regardless of location) as well as the Easter Vigil, subject to the usual other conditions.

    What I found interesting here, and which I (correctly) thought you’d love was the revisiting of the place of our baptism.

    • Liam says:

      PS: for folks who are wigged out by indulgences or mistakenly thought the Church eliminated them, I would hasten to add that, in my (admittedly limited) experience, people who are moved to seek indulgences tend to be seeking them not so much for themselves as for the dead (one cannot seek them for another living person, though). So it’s best thought of as a spiritual work of mercy in that way: it’s a personally sacrificial form of prayer for the dead, that’s all.

      • Randolph Nichols says:

        How’s this for an oddity: the place of my baptism is my brother’s living room. His house is a former Episcopal church! I haven’t visited him in three years so this post has kindled a pledge to do so during this Year of Faith.

  2. crystal says:

    Indulgences, even ones that encourage good acts, still seem wrong to me. They suppose that it is the pope iwho decides a person’s fate in the afterlife.

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