This year is truly filled with grace. His Holiness Pope Francis declared the Year 2021 as the Jubilee Year of St. Joseph. For the Filipino Church, Year 2021 is also a Jubilee Year in celebration of the 500 Years of the Arrival of Christianity to the Philippines. As a fruit of these double jubilees, we are given various opportunities to gain plenary indulgences. For example, passing through the jubilee door in selected jubilee churches for the celebration of 500 Years of Christianity grants the faithful ones, who are detached from sin and who had fulfilled the necessary conditions, a plenary indulgence.
What then are indulgences?
At the split-second after death, we are judged (particular judgement) based on our actions and deeds throughout our life. Those who died with an unrepented mortal sin proceed to eternal damnation in Hell. While the faithful ones proceed – immediately or through a preceding purification – to eternal life in Heaven. In the same way that our Lord described this judgement in the parable of the poor Lazarus (Lk. 16:22) and his words to the repentant thief on the cross (Lk. 23:43).
The faithful ones proceed to eternal life in Heaven. However, no stain of uncleanliness may enter heaven (Rev. 21:27). Thus, those who died in God’s friendship but still are imperfectly purified need to undergo purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven (2 Cor. 5:8).
“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgement, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come (Mt. 12:31). From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” (St. Gregory the Great)
The biblical practice of praying for the dead implies the existence of this purification process. “Therefore, Judas made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Macc. 12:46).
Purgatory then, is the purification process of faithful ones assured of everlasting life but still has some stain of sin. Souls in Purgatory undergo temporal punishment to atone for the sins (venial sins) committed.
Q. Sins are already forgiven through the sacrament of Confession, would these still require purification in Purgatory?
A. Yes. In confession, our sins are forgiven, both mortal and venial (John 20:23). Mortal sins completely deprive us of communion with God (eternal punishment), while venial sins give us an unhealthy relation with God (temporal punishment). These punishments are consequences of sin. And so, Divine Justice implies that we need to face these punishments which satisfy sin and teaches the penitent the great evil of sin. In this way we are thoroughly converted to God (Acts 26:20). This means that although our sins are forgiven through confession, we need to pay for the consequences of these sins (temporal punishment) either in this life, or after death in Purgatory, in order to completely dissociate us from sin, and to put off completely the “old man” and put on the “new man” (Eph. 4:22-24). In this life, this may be achieved through prayer, penance, and works of mercy and charity.
The Church also intervenes in order to aid Christians in the remission of this punishment. The Holy Father, who is the successor of Peter, who was given by Christ the authority of “binding and loosing” in Matthew 16:19, opens for Christians the merits of heaven in order to obtain from God the COMPLETE REMISSION OF TEMPORAL PUNISHMENT so that there will be no need to pay this in Purgatory. (“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”).
This authority is practiced through the granting of indulgences (by the Pope). Indulgences are defined as “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church, which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” (Indulgentiarum doctrina 1)
The conditions prescribed by the Church in order to gain indulgences are the following:
1. sacramental Confession
2. reception of Holy Communion
3. praying for the intentions of the Holy Father (e.g. 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary)
4. complete rejection of the desire to commit sin
5. do the act which the Pope had an indulgence attached to it (e.g. visiting jubilee churches)
The above conditions should be met in order to obtain a plenary indulgence (complete remission of temporal punishment). If one fails to meet certain conditions, only a partial indulgence is obtained (partial remission of temporal punishment).
The Holy Father has granted a plenary indulgence to those who would visit jubilee churches for the 500 Years of Christianity from April 4, 2021 to April 22, 2022. During the visit to the jubilee churches, pass through the jubilee door, and take part in the solemn rites (e.g. Holy Mass) held in the church. You may also spend some time in prayer inside the jubilee church. Particularly pray for the following: (1) fidelity of the Filipino people to their Christian calling, (2) increase in priestly and religious vocations, and (3) defense of the family. Conclude your prayer with an Our Father, the Creed (Profession of Faith), and a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Doing these acts would grant you a plenary indulgence, provided that you had satisfied the prescribed conditions stated above.
Let us thank the merciful God for giving us this grace through His Church!
HAPPY 500 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY!