In the heady days of the first documents of the Second Vatican Council, it was on reading them that I became aware that there were things in the Catholic Church that were not changing. It seemed to me that while there were lots of things under review and some changes, such as the privilege of communion under both species, there was much that was in fact confirmed and reinforced. Some of these are..
Before I talk about pilgrimage and pardon I want to say something about Satisfaction in the Sacrament of Penance. Formally there are four elements to the sacrament:
Confession, Contrition, Satisfaction and Absolution.
The Catholic Church, in the terms of the decisions of the Council of Trent, teaches that Satisfaction is a necessary part of the Sacrament of Confession, and that there is temporal punishment for sin as well as God's forgiveness of the sin. In addition it also teaches that purgatory is real.
Indulgences are an element in the satisfaction for sin. "An indulgence is a 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 actions of the Church which , as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints." Since the faithful departed in purgatory are now being purified, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishment due to their sins may be remitted.
Encouraged by the Sisters of Mercy in primary school, I have always prayed that any indulgences I may gain on any day be applied to the souls in purgatory, This does not mean that I do not fear that I shall do my time in purgatory. Rather I trust that I may have the opportunity to gain the indulgences reserved for the dying at my death and especially that the prayers of the living may minimize my time there. After Vatican II I held my peace but by January 1967 Pope Paul VI had issued new rules for indulgences in his Apostolic Constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina. Indulgences are alive and healthy but they have been smartened up somewhat. There are still partial and plenary indulgences but there is no measure of time placed on partial indulgences and only one plenary indulgence is available on any day.
Plenary indulgences are of course very much a Franciscan thing. St Francis presented himself one fine day, accompanied by Brother Masseo of Marignano, before honourius II and begged for the Porziuncula church the same indulgence granted to the Crusaders in the Holy Land, the first and at that time the only indulgence, and a plenary one at that.
Typically of St Francis he did not seek documentation, and it has been handed down by tradition. But the latest revised rules document the indulgence, available at the Porziuncula and in every church throughout the world on 2 August.
Pilgrimage and indulgences have been important aspects of Holy Years. In fact, it was all the visitors who came to Rome in the year 1300 and asked what they had to do to gain the indulgence that led Pope Bonifice VIII to inaugurate the first Jubilee in history.
As a sign of the "Year of the Lord's favour" in 2000, in the Papal Bull: The Mystery of the Incarnation, Pope John Paul II decrees "that throughout the entire Jubilee all the faithful, properly prepared, be able to make abundant use to the gift of the indulgence..."
Besides the exclusion of all attachments to sin, even venial sin, the requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are the performance of the indulgenced work and the fulfillment of three conditions, sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the Pope's intentions
Several plenary indulgences may be gained on the basis of a single sacramental confession; only one may be gained, however, on the basis of a single Eucharistic communion and prayer for the Pope's intentions.
The condition requiring prayer for the pope's intentions is satisfied by reciting once the Our Father and Hail Mary for his intentions; nevertheless all the faithful have the option of reciting any other prayer suited to their piety and devotion.
The special works to gain the Jubilee plenary indulgence are..
1.a -Sacred pilgrimage to the Cathedral Church or places designated by the Ordinary including liturgical celebration or other pious exercise.
1.b -if they visit, in a group or individually, the Cathedral Church or to a shrine designated by the Ordinary, and there spend some time in pious meditation, ending with the "Our Father", the profession of faith in any approved form, and prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
2. If they visit for a suitable time their brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty..
3.a -Abstaining for one whole day from unnecessary consumption, fasting or practicing abstinence and donating a proportionate sum of money to the poor.
3.b -Supporting by a significant contribution works of a religious of social nature.
3.c -Devoting a suitable portion of personal free time to activities benefiting the community.
There are some other works in the general provisions relating to plenary indulgences which continue to apply during the Holy Year. One of these is spending at least half an hour reading sacred scripture with the veneration due God's word and as a form of spiritual reading.
The Holy Year begins with the opening of the Holy Door at St Peter's on Christmas Eve 1999 and closes on the Epiphany, 6 January 2001.