Tag Archives: liturgy

Forgiven by the grace of Christ, a homily for All Saints & All Souls in light of indulgences and the Reformation

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The following homily was delivered yesterday for the 31st Sunday Through the Year at the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis by a dear friend, R. Dom Ambrose Bennett, STL. Dom Ambrose (on the right in the photo) is a priest, monk and teacher at the Abbey.
Besides taking his turn in celebrating Mass for the Abbey, he also celebrates the Mass of Blessed John XXIII at the Oratory of Ss Gregory and Augustine.
At this time of year, as we approach the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, and when the Church calls upon us to meditate upon the Communion of Saints and prayer for the faithful departed, it is fitting that we should consider a much-neglected point of Catholic doctrine and practice: that is, indulgences. First, what is an indulgence?
First, let me say what indulgences are not: they are not permissions to commit sins or anything of that sort. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “an indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” (CCC 1471). Surely everyone is aware that being forgiven of sin does not make all the effects of past sin simply disappear: we can still have bad habits, damaged relationships, diminished love of God as a result of those sins. In other words, there are temporal effects of sin, even after absolution. Indulgences are still eminently helpful in impressing upon us two inseparable truths: that we are saved by grace and that in the process of penance and renewal, we are not alone but are assisted on the way of conversion by the entire Communion of Saints who have gone before us. In other words, we do not gain indulgences to be forgiven for our sins: we gain them because we have already been forgiven by the grace of Christ. Indulgences help us to bring forth the fruits of true repentance and to heal the after-effects of sin.
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To gain an indulgence, one must do three things: go to confession, do the particular penance or prayer or spiritual exercise to which the indulgence is promised, and also pray for the Pope’s intentions. An indulgence is called partial if it heals some of the after-effects of forgiven sin; an indulgence is called plenary if there is no real attachment to sin and a full conversion toward God. As important as the external practice of penance is, the Catechism itself teaches that indulgences are only means to an end: that is, metanoia or conversion of heart (CCC 1430). So there is nothing mechanical or legalistic about Catholic teaching or practice in granting indulgences for prayer, penance, and works of charity.
At this time of the year in particular, the Church calls upon us to be mindful of the holy souls in purgatory. To help us do this, there are special indulgences for the faithful departed during the next week.
On All Souls’ Day, which is on Nov. 2. On All Souls, we are encouraged to gain a plenary indulgence for the holy souls in purgatory. To do this, on All Souls’ Day, simply visit a church or public oratory and recite the Our Father and the Creed for the holy souls plus any prayer you wish for the Pope’s intentions. Then be sure to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion within a week. You may also gain a plenary indulgence from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8 if you visit a cemetery and pray for the holy souls in purgatory.
Why is this important? Aren’t the deceased who have died in the love of God in God’s hands? What more remains to be done? Well, the need for purgatory is based on the same truth as indulgences: there are lingering imperfections in us even when we are essentially right with God. The holy souls who have departed this life are justified by the Precious Blood of Jesus and therefore assured of salvation; and yet, they have lingering imperfections. The purifying pains they feel are not those of a torture chamber but of being delayed in their union with God whom they love above all things. In this life, we can do penance and almsgiving after we repent; the holy souls are no longer in a position to do those active works of penance. So the theologians have coined the term satispassion for their experience in purgatory: that is, the souls in purgatory experience a passive purification in the encounter with God’s perfect holiness.
Because the holy souls are no longer able to make new choices or do active penances, they have great need of our prayers and penances and Masses, offered on their behalf. These assist the souls in their final transformation that will make them fit to enjoy the Beatific Vision of God himself. These sanctified souls will in turn remember us and intercede for us before God when they have entered into heaven. Indulgences gained and offered on behalf of the faithful departed are simply an especially effective form of prayer for the dead; there is nothing “automatic” about indulgences for the faithful departed. Even though the Church’s power of the keys does not extend to those who have died, yet the bond of charity and mutual intercession endures even beyond death.

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Now on this very date, the 31st of October 1517, four hundred and ninety-three years ago, a German monk started a theological earthquake about indulgences that shattered the unity of Western Christendom. That monk’s name was Father Martin Luther. He suffered from terrible scruples, and especially from a paralyzing fear whenever he considered God’s justice and infinite holiness. In the depth of this spiritual crisis, Father Martin Luther came to the realization that our justification–that is, being put in a right relation with God–is a pure gift of grace that comes by self-surrendering faith in the Cross of Christ.
How tragic that Luther’s personal realization of a central Christian truth led to that destructive revolution known as the Protestant Reformation! After all, countless saints have come to the same realization, and led them to build up the Body of Christ with their holiness. St. Thérèse of Lisieux expressed that very truth so beautifully when she wrote:
After earth’s Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!
However, Martin Luther’s was the sort of man who can see one Christian truth clearly and other truths not at all. Soon he began to make the heretical claim that indulgences and belief in purgatory amounted to a denial of the grace of Christ, and finally incurred excommunication for his stubborn errors. Before he reached that point of no return, however, Luther wrote these touching words in a letter to Pope Leo X:

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I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity…. That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted. St. Peter and St. Paul, forty-six Popes, some hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have laid down their lives in its communion, having overcome Hell and the world; so that the eyes of God rest on the Roman Church with special favor. Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church. On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. We must not separate from God on account of any work of the devil, nor cease to have fellowship with the children of God who are still abiding in the pale of Rome on account of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body. For love can do all things, and nothing is difficult to those who are united (Martin Luther to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519).

Truer words were never spoken! How unspeakably sad that Luther finally decided not to send this letter to the Pope. How differently things might have turned out if Luther had sent it, and if the German princes had not gotten involved!

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In a sense, all of that is water under the bridge. To pass judgment over the rights and wrongs of that period is not a pressing issue at this time. However, many Catholics are under the impression that the Second Vatican Council did away with indulgences and purgatory and that Luther was right to reject them. This is a great and destructive error: what was true and holy before the Second Vatican Council remains true and holy now. Still in our time, one who gains an indulgence for himself or for the holy souls hears our Savior’s words spoken to the penitent Zachaeus, who did penance when he was already forgiven: “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19.10).
On All Souls Day priests have the privilege of celebrating the Mass three times according to Pope Benedict XV’s 1915 apostolic constitution, Incruentum altaris (or in Italian if you prefer). A note: it is a rare occurrence during the liturgical year when the priest celebrates three Masses on a given day without permission from his Ordinary or pastoral necessity. Here the Pope decrees that a priest may offer one Mass with a particular intention which carries with it the gift of a stipend and the remaining two Masses the intention would be for all the faithful departed and then for the Holy Father; no stipend is received for these two Masses.

When man seeks God, then is truly free… Pope recalls the teaching of Roman Guardini

H2O News has a short video clip on the Guardini Foundation meeting with the Pope.

Office of Compline, edited by Fr Samuel Weber

Edited by Fr. Samuel F. Weber, OSB

$18.95 USD

Foreword by Archbishop
Raymond L. Burke

From Ignatius Press:

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This volume contains the Office of
for every day of the year, in Latin and English, according to the
novus ordo of the Roman Catholic Church, with Gregorian Chant settings. On the
facing pages for the Latin, the official English text is also arranged for
chanting, using simple English tones. New translations have been made for the
official hymns of the Office, and all the hymns are given with the Gregorian
melodies proper for each season and feast of the liturgical year.

This book
will find a welcome in parishes, cathedrals, religious communities and
seminaries, as well as families, all who wish to pray together at the end of
the day.

Complete instructions are given for praying Compline. The Foreword by
Archbishop Raymond Burke explains the rich spiritual tradition of prayer at the
close of day, and provides an inspiring meditation on the texts and meaning of
the Office of Compline.

The scriptures give only one command concerning the
frequency of prayer: pray without ceasing (Lk 18:1; 1 Thess 5:17). This volume
will prove to be a welcome companion to all who are seeking to make a full
response to the Gospel, and persevere in unceasing prayer.

The editor, Fr. Samuel Weber, is a Benedictine priest and monk of the Archabbey of Saint Meinrad and is the Director of the Institute of Sacred Music in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis

27 Holy Apostles Seminarians take steps toward priesthood

Jesus says to his disciples, ask the Lord to send workers into his harvest (MT 9:38).

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Earlier today I attended the Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, Bishop of Norwich and Chancellor of Holy Apostles Seminary (Cromwell, CT),  where he also instituted 27 seminarians in the ministries of Lector and Acolyte. These men of various ages, life experience and affiliation, are preparing for service as priests.
This was the first time these rites were performed in the new seminary chapel.
These rites are minor, but essential in the life Church as she prepares men for service as priests. All of these men have been reading the sacred Scripture at Mass and serving and bringing Holy Communion to the people. But now, they are more official in their service for without these rites they can’t be advanced to the Order of Deacon.
The Church commissions those instituted as lector with these words:
Take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people.
And, for those instituted as acolytes:
Take these vessels with bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.
Bishop Cote reminded all the seminarians that as ministers of God and of the Church they are to read the signs of the times, to think with the Church, to share the Good News of the Lord and to signs of mercy for the faithful. He emphasized that priests and deacons and other ministers are to be gentle shepherds of the Gospel: nothing harsh, nothing repelling when it comes to teaching the faith and exercising the pastoral office.
My friend and neighbor, Ken Dagliere, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Hartford was one of the men given ministry of acolyte. His new ministry allows him to officially serve at the altar, expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament and cleanse the liturgical vessels if a deacon or priest is not available.

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Driving to and from the seminary there was a tangible experience holiness and the feeling of rightness of the event just lived: not only did I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit but also the graces of friendship and the beauty of the horizon revealed the face of God. New England color is particularly revealing of God’s interest in our lives. You know when something is “just right,” “just what it’s supposed to be.” Saint Catherine of Siena tells us that we know that grace is at work in our lives when we are who we are meant to be; in another vein: we are to strive to be what God has made us to be. It is an awareness of the Divine Plan in our lives. And so today, 27 seminarians, visiting priests and laity with the bishop asked the Holy Spirit once again make hallow the lives those called to priesthood. But lest we forget that all people have vocations: some it’s priesthood, for others it’s teaching, and others the lay life in its multiplicity of works; all are called to seek the face of Christ and to live the Gospel and the sacraments.
May Mary, Queen of the Apostles and seminarians, pray for Ken and the other seminarians as they continue their formation for priesthood.

The Cross of Christ prepares us for the final judgment

Heavenly Jerusalem Maronite.jpgAutumn is upon us with its mix of weather: recent days
there’s been warmth and coolness, rain, clouds and sun. The earth is adjusting and so are we, at least liturgically. Judging by the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church we are
near the end of the liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent only a few weeks away. Some churches, like the Maronites in
particular, mark this time of the liturgical year by counting weeks after the
Exaltation of the Cross in a time called the Season of the Cross. This particular season of the Maronite liturgical calendar prepares us to account for our lives by looking to our personal final victory through prayer, fasting, waiting, and conversion of life. The rich liturgical theology of the Maronite Church ought to draw us more closely to the glory of the Lord’s right side in an attitude of gratitude for all things in life.

You’ll hear Maronite liturgical theology speak of
Jesus’ Cross as “the Cross of Light,” the symbol -the reality– par excellence of
the victorious Son of Man and Son of God. The cross of is that primary sign by
which Jesus Christ, Our Lord, becomes for us the victor over death and opens
the gates of heaven for our entrance into blessedness with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The Maronite Church
prayed today: When you shall appear on the last day the sign of the cross shall
shine brighter than the sun, enable us, your worshipers, to enter your kingdom
of light, and glorify and thank you, O Christ, with your father, and your Holy
Spirit, now and forever.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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