Adoration of the Trinity in Heaven - by DÜRER, Albrecht - from Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna . . . . . . Dürer created this Altarpiece showing the Adoration of the Trinity, a Celestial Vision which forms an Iconographical Whole. The Trinity is depicted with Christ on the Cross being supported by Angels, the Focal Point of the Heavenly Gathering of Saints. The Role of the Father is Twofold. On the one hand, He is taking His Son back, thus accepting Jesus' Sacrifice for Mankind. Yet, the very same gesture serves to Present and Recommend this Offering. The Assembly of Martyrs on the Left is led by Mary, and the Group of Old Testament Prophets and Kings on the Right by Saint John the Baptist. Clergymen and Laypersons following the Heads of the State and Church, Form the lowest Horizontal Zone in Heaven.
In a Sense our Soul is like a Lens , when we Sin, we Cloud the Lens; it gets Dirty and we Lose the Focus of God in our Lives. Through Confession and Penance, God Cleanses the "Lens" of our Soul. When we Die, if we Live this Life fundamentally Loving God, Dying in His Grace and Friendship, and Free of Mortal Sin, we will have Eternal Salvation and attain the Beatific Vision, we will see God for Who He is. If we Die with Venial Sins or without having done sufficient Penance for our Sins, God in His Love, Mercy and Justice will Purify our Souls, "Cleanse the Lens" so to speak. After such Purification, the Soul will then be United with God in Heaven and Enjoy the Beatific Vision.
by Father William Saunders, President of Notre Dame Institute
An Indulgence is a Remission of the Temporal Punishment due to Sins that have already been Forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. This Temporal Punishment exists because every Sin, even Venial, entails an Unhealthy Attachment to Creatures, which must be Purified either here on Earth, or after Death in a State called Purgatory.
Indulgences are Traditionally Described as Partial or Total (Plenary) Remission - because of Prayers or Good Works Performed by a Christian - of Temporal Punishment due to our Sins. The Church is Cautious in Speaking of Indulgences today, because that Area of Faith has been Badly Misunderstood in the Past, with Tragic Consequences.
Indulgences are "a Delicate Theme, says Pope John Paul II, "about which there has been Historic Misunderstandings which Negatively left their Mark on Communion among Christians". Abuses in the Granting of Indulgences were among the Issues that Led-to the Protestant Reformation.
Traditional Catholic Teaching on this Subject is based on Two (2) Christian Truths. First, every Sin not only Disobeys God's Law; it Violates the Harmony-of-Creation Established-by the Creator and is, at least to some degree, a Rejection of His Love. Complete Conversion, therefore, includes a Reintegration of that Divine Order, a Process involving some Cleansing (Purgation), either in this Life or at Death.
Pope Paul VI, "The Doctrine of Indulgences" (1967), called for Reform-of the entire Indulgence Structure. Pope John Paul, picking up on that Theme before the recent Jubilee Year, pointed out that an Indulgence is not a 'Quick Ticket to Heaven', but is a Help for Real Conversion of Heart.
"Those who think they can Receive this Gift simply by Fulfilling a few Exterior Requirements, are Wrong", said the Pope. Receiving an Indulgence "is not Automatic, but depends on our Turning Away from Sin and Conversion to God".
In his 1967 Restructuring, Paul VI Reduced the Number-of Indulgenced Prayers and Good Works. "The Main Concern has been to attach Greater Importance to a Christian Way of Life, and lead Souls to Cultivate a Spirit of Prayer and Penance, and to Practice the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Love) rather than merely Repeat Certain Formulas and Acts" [Manual of Indulgences (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum), 1967].
Pope Paul VI listed Three (3) Categories of Daily Life as Deserving-of Indulgence:
A Revised Manual of Indulgences was Released in September 1999 in Anticipation-of the Jubilee. It continued the Prescriptions of the Earlier Manual, but Added a Fourth Indulgence Category:
Partial Indulgences are Granted using only those Words, with no Confusing Mention-of Days or Years as was common previously. Contrary to what many Catholics Thought, an Indulgence of One (1) Year, for example, did not mean One (1) Year off Purgatory. It meant, rather, whatever Alleviation of Purgative Suffering might be Achieved-by One (1) Year of Fasting or other Penance. Obviously, the Church today takes Great Pains to keep the Understanding of Indulgences in Harmony-with the Gospel and the Teachings of Vatican Council II.
The Catholic Catechism on
Detail from the 'Mystical Press' - by da Siena - from the Vatican Museum --- which
Depicts the Infinite (∞) Supply of Merits accumulated by the Sufferings of Jesus, for use by
His Church to Redeem Mankind.
CCC #1475: In the Communion of Saints, a Perennial link-of Charity, exists between the Faithful who have already Reached their Heavenly Home (Church Triumphant); those who are Expiating their Sins in Purgatory (Church Suffering); and those who are still Pilgrims on Earth (Church Militant). Between them there is, too, an Abundant Exchange of all Good Things ( Charity). In this Wonderful Exchange, the Holiness of One, Profits Others, well-beyond the Harm that the Sin of One could Cause Others. Thus, Recourse to the Communion of Saints lets the Contrite Sinner be more Promptly and Efficaciously Purified of the Punishments for Sin.
CCC #1476: We also call these Spiritual Goods of the Communion of Saints the Church's Treasury, which is not the Sum-Total of the Material Goods which have Accumulated during the Course of the Centuries. On the Contrary, the Treasury of the Church is the Infinite (∞) Value, which can never be Exhausted, which Christ's Merits have before God. They were Offered so that the Whole-of-Mankind could be set-free from Sin and Attain Communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer Himself, the Satisfactions and Merits of His Redemption Exist and find their Efficacy.
The Catholic Church has no Jurisdiction in Purgatory. The Pope could not empty Purgatory by
Granting an Indulgence.
CCC #1477: This Treasury includes as well the Prayers and Good Works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly Immense, Unfathomable, and even Pristine in their Value before God. In the Treasury, too, are the Prayers and Good Works of all the Saints, all those who have Followed-in the Footsteps of Christ the Lord and by His Grace have made their Lives Holy and Carried-out the Mission the Father Entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own Salvation and at the same-time cooperated-in Saving their Brothers in the Unity of the Mystical Body.
CCC #1478: An Indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by Virtue of the Power of Binding and Loosing, Granted her by Christ Jesus, Intervenes in Favor-of Individual Christians and Opens for them the Treasury of the Merits of Christ and the Saints, to obtain from the Father of Mercies the Remission-of the Temporal Punishments due for their Sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to-come-to the Aid of these Christians, but also to Spur them to Works of Devotion, Penance, and Charity.
CCC #1479: Since the Faithful Departed, now being Purified, are also Members of the same Communion of Saints, One-way we can Help them is to obtain Indulgences for them, so that the Temporal Punishments due for their Sins may be Remitted.
CCC #1498: Through Indulgences, the Faithful can obtain the Remission-of Temporal Punishment resulting from Sin for themselves and also for the Souls in Purgatory.
CCC #1032: This Teaching is also based upon the Practice of Prayer for the Dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made Atonement for the Dead, that they might be Delivered from their Sin". From the Beginning, the Church has Honored the Memory of the Dead and Offered Prayers in Suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that, thus Purified, they may attain the Beatific Vision of God. The Church also commends Almsgiving, Indulgences, and Works of Penance Undertaken-on Behalf-of the Dead.
The Roman Catholic Church also admits, "The Church has no certainty, nor do those who Pray have any Certainty that their Prayers will Infallibly Assist this or that Particular Soul for whom the Prayers are Offered, nor that they will Infallibly Achieve an Immediate Effect". The Catholic Truth Society writes, "The Church has no Jurisdiction in Purgatory. The Pope could not empty Purgatory by Granting an Indulgence" (Purgatory, D'Arcy, p. 14).
The Church has the Jurisdiction of dispensing-to Souls of the Living, (through Indulgences) the Superabundant Satisfaction or Expiation of Christ and the Saints, thus Lessening or Canceling (Loosing) the Penalty of Temporal Punishment for Sin. Note Well, the Church has no Jurisdiction over the Dead, and therefore She can Grant an Indulgence in their Favor only by-way-of Suffrage, i.e. only by-way-of Petitioning God to Accept these Works of Satisfaction on their Behalf. We can never Know how much Satisfaction God Accepts on their Behalf; for this Reason it is Worthwhile to seek to Gain a Number of Indulgences (Plenary and Partial) for an Individual Soul.