Greedy For Grace
By Author Susan Tassone

St. Joseph Caffaso was called a "glutton for indulgences" as a means for both avoiding Purgatory himself and for helping the souls in purgatory speedily attain Heaven. We, too, must be greedy for grace for the holy souls. We must pray to live and die in the state of grace. We must become a "glutton" for spiritual sacrifices.

A new Plenary Indulgence to mark the Year of the Eucharist has been established to help the faithful grow in "Mystery of Faith." The late Pope John Paul II approved a special plenary indulgence to mark the Year of the Eucharist.

But first let us define what is an Indulgence?

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. The faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the actions of the Church dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.

An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. Indulgences cannot be applied to the living, but only to the one doing the work or to the dead. Catholics alone can gain indulgences fulfilling certain conditions for receiving a Plenary indulgence:

Reception of sacramental confession
Reception of Holy Communion

Performance of a work while in a state of grace i.e., (Stations of the Cross, Adoration, recitation of Rosary)
prayer for the Pope's intentions
All conditions must be met within eight days prior to or after the work Have no attachment to sin (even venial)

For a partial indulgence, the work must be done while in a state of grace and with the general intention of earning an indulgence. For additional information read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Another great resource is The Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants published by Catholic Book Publishing Co. in New York. Everything concerning indulgences and the numerous ways and means you can obtain them is listed.

We have a treasure house of indulgences to be gained for your soul and the souls of our beloved dead. Everything from Litanies, prayers, hymns, renewal of Baptismal vows that we are doing during Mass at Easter, visiting cemeteries, and the list goes on.

Why do we have indulgences?

The purpose of indulgences is to make up for penances omitted, or poorly done, or too light in comparison with the enormity of the sins. Indulgences arise from the mercy of Jesus; that is, with them we can satisfy our debts.

John Cardinal Newman said, "The smallest venial sin rocks the foundations of the created world." That is, even our smallest sins can cause devastating consequences in creation; famine, disease, natural disaster. However, through God's grace, the holiness even of the lowliest saint far exceeds the harm even the greatest sinner can do. The graces won by Christ and the saints are an infinite treasure that can be used to heal the wounds of the world. God intends to use this treasury.

An indulgence, then, applies the graces won by Christ and the saints to the world so as to heal the wounds we caused by our sins. When I perform an indulgenced act, I act in obedience to God through His Church. A plenary indulgence heals all of the effects of one person's sins. A partial indulgence heals part of the effects. I can win indulgences only for myself or those in Purgatory.

In granting indulgences the Church does a holy and wholesome thing:

She acts according to the merciful spirit of Jesus who was all compassion for poor sinners.
The Church fulfills a command for reconciling man with God.
It is dogma that the Church can grant indulgences.

We can do this repair work here on earth or in Purgatory. By going to confession regularly, one can obtain many plenary indulgences thereby healing all the effects of one's sins. So solicitous was St. Alphonsus about gaining indulgences that, after his death, several indulgenced articles were found on him. The saint had always carried them wherever he went in order to gain as many indulgences as possible.

We ourselves have many debts with God, and many souls in purgatory await our charity. What more do we need to motivate us? The supreme facility with which indulgences can be gained ought to make us solicitous as industrious bees.

With supreme charity, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi had assisted at the death of one of her sisters in the order. Not content to offer only the usual suffrages, the members of the community also applied to the departed soul the holy indulgences they had gained that day. St. Mary Magdalene saw the sister's soul ascending toward heaven to receive the crown of eternal glory.

"Farewell, Sister!" exclaimed the Saint. While she was speaking, Jesus appeared to console her, declaring it was because of the indulgences, that this soul had been so swiftly released from Purgatory and admitted into paradise. As a result, such a fervor for gaining indulgences was enkindled in that convent that the sisters became almost scrupulous about neglecting even one.

May a spark of that holy fervor be lit in our own breast and fanned into a bright flame.

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