In yesterday’s blog, I explained how a plenary indulgence can literally release a soul from Purgatory. In case you missed it, you can read about it here. Today I’d like to discuss how such a gift is possible.
Indulgences are possible because of the fact that as baptized members of Christ’s Mystical Body (The Church), we are all connected and each of us can benefit from the good works of others (including those that are in Heaven or Purgatory). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:
In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.” 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. (CCC1475)
These spiritual goods are referred to as The Church’s Treasury and include the works of Mary and the Saints. To put it in very simple terms, they did so much good that what they didn’t need to get into Heaven can be applied to our salvation! That’s a tremendous gift and shouldn’t be passed up.
“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 1477)
By now you’re probably wondering how to obtain an indulgence and what is the catch? There really is no catch, but an indulgence can only be obtained by following the laws of the Church, to whom Our Lord granted full authority. According to the Catechism:
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 1478)
Tomorrow, I’ll explain some of the ways to obtain an indulgence.