Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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In announcing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote that “a Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. … The mercy of God … becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who through … his Church reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin.” What exactly does this mean: “the residue of sin”?

When we sin, as we all do, there are two consequences.

First, our communion with God is weakened, or lost altogether if the sin is serious enough to be “mortal.” When we repent and turn to God, he pardons our sins and grants the remission of whatever “eternal punishment” our sin deserves. This is what happens in the sacrament of penance.

Second, every sin, even less serious “venial” sin, is the result of our fallen nature’s attachment to things other than God. In his First Epistle, Saint John speaks of “human nature full of desire, eyes hungry for all they see, material life that inflates self-assurance.” To see God face-to-face in heaven, we must first be purified of our misguided attachments to all that is not God. We must undergo a form of what traditionally has been called “temporal punishment” due to sin, either now or in Purgatory after our death. The Latin word poena can be translated as “punishment,” but it can also mean “expiation,” and is to be understood here as a process of expiation or purification.

The theology of indulgences is really quite beautiful. It is based on the belief founded in Scripture (cf. Col 1:24; Rev 19:8) that the church possesses a spiritual treasury made up of the good works of the saints. Thanks to their merits, which are redemptive only in union with Christ, we need not bear “temporal” punishment, expiation or purification by ourselves nor rely solely on our own strength.

Pope Saint John Paul II describes it this way: “The Christian is not alone on the path of conversion. In Christ and through Christ, his life is linked by a mysterious bond to the lives of all other Christians in the supernatural union of [Christ’s] Mystical Body. This establishes among the faithful a marvelous exchange of spiritual gifts, in virtue of which the holiness of one benefits others in a way far exceeding the harm which the sin of one has inflicted upon others. There are people who leave in their wake a surfeit of love, of suffering borne well, of purity and truth, which involves and sustains others.”

The English Catholic laywoman, artist and writer Caryll Houselander (d. 1954) says this: “The whole meaning of the Mystical body, Christ on earth, is that we are all ‘good with others’ goodness and guilty with others’ guilt, praying with others’ prayers and so on.’” Houselander continues: “A soldier was talking to me the other day about a long march he had made between two prison camps; he said something to me to be the most wonderful unconscious description of the Mystical Body, from … the angle of the Passion: ‘[A]fter we had been marching a long time, I didn’t feel myself aching anymore, I felt the tiredness of the chap behind me aching in my bones.’”

The granting of an “indulgence” from this spiritual treasury has long been a part of Catholic piety. Its scandalous abuse at the time of the Reformation led the church to reform the practice, not abandon it. When Catholics fulfill certain appointed conditions, they can be granted an indulgence for themselves or for those in Purgatory. An indulgence is either plenary or partial; that is, it frees a person either from all or from some of the temporal punishment due to sins. The practice is not meant to create a mentality of trafficking in spiritual goods or buying one’s way into heaven. Eternal life is a gift of God’s grace. No indulgence can take the place of faith and repentance. The norms governing indulgences emphasize personal conversion of heart, prayer and works of piety, mercy, charity or penance on the part of those who seek an indulgence.

In the Catholic hierarchy of truths, indulgences are certainly not at the top of the list, but they are a legitimate custom and a spiritual gift to be received with faith, repentance and humility. Particularly now during the season of Lent, I invite you to avail yourself of the jubilee indulgence. For more information, you can turn to our archdiocesan jubilee website at http://archdioceseofhartford.org/year-of-mercy.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.