An indulgence is the remission granted by the Church of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. Only the Pope has the authority to grant plenary indulgences and indulgences for the universal Church and he has exercised that power in this latest Papal Bull. Archbishops and bishops have the authority to grant partial indulgences for their own dioceses, but not plenary indulgences. A Plenary Indulgence means one who dies immediately after gaining it through the requirements set down, is believed to go straight to Heaven without having to pass through Purgatory. The first Plenary Indulgence was granted by Our Lord on the cross when He forgave the good thief for his perfect contrition of heart as documented in Luke 23: 42-43. Jesus also affirmed the Church's authority for this when He said to Saint Peter in Matthew 16: 19, "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven." He also made the same solemn declaration to the Apostles collectively in the upper room. Since Jesus gave the Apostles the power and right to forgive sins, free men from hell, and lead them to Heaven, the syllogism follows that He also gave them the lesser power to free sinners from the temporal punishment due to sin, and save them from Purgatory. Just as a civil ruler, for instance a governor, has the right to pardon criminals and to choose in what manner he will grant the pardon, so also the Church exercises a similar right and power in granting indulgences. When, by means of an indulgence, the Church wipes out or lessens the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven, this action is accepted in Heaven as Jesus promised in Matthew 16: 19. The Church has determined that there is a spiritual treasury made up of the infinite merits of Jesus, and the superabundant merits of His Blessed Mother Mary and the saints. The passion and death of Christ and the penances and sufferings of Our Lady of Sorrows, who did not need to do penance for she was without original sin, and of the saints, have created this spiritual treasury, which Jesus left for the use of the Communion of Saints. In this way, a penitent who gains an indulgence receives from Holy Mother Church some of the wealth gathered in the spiritual treasury from the merits of Jesus, Mary and the Church Triumphant. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 2: 10 talks about how, having been granted an indulgence, now has the power to do the same through the One Who granted it to him. Throughout the history of the Church, martyrs and confessors interceded for sinners through their bishops who could grant partial indulgences in view of the superabundant merits of those who interceded for them. It must be remembered, and cannot be emphasized enough, that no one can receive an indulgence if they are not in the state of Sanctifying Grace. The guilt of sin must have already been taken away through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It also must be remembered that an indulgence applies to temporal punishment due to sins of the PAST and cannot be gained for future sins. In other words, it is not a "license to sin" as so many non-Catholics and even Catholics have misinterpreted.
Now the Holy Father is trying to clarify indulgences and giving all Catholics incentive to stay in the state of grace and to strive to wipe the slate clean of past sins. The Pope encourages all in Incarnationis Mysterium" to seek forgiveness for past historical blunders collectively and to individually attend Holy Mass in specially designated churches to be released, to perform such special devotions as praying the Rosary and/or the Stations of the Cross, not just during Lent. He also reminds all that by visiting the sick, imprisoned or helping those less fortunate or giving alms to the poor one can also gain an individual indulgence. He places special emphasis on penance and sacrifice, such as giving something up that would be a sacrifice from sweets to alcohol to smoking to television. But all of these are only exercises. The means must justify the end and Our Lady has been reminding us of this for the last seventeen plus years at Medjugorje when she emphasizes prayer, fasting, sacrifice and conversion of heart. An indulgence means nothing if we do not have conversion of heart and "staying power" for an indulgence is not a quick fix, but a life-long savings account that we build up from the spiritual treasury of the Church. It is an account that has been dormant for too long over the past thirty plus years, but thank God, as we near the new millennium, we can see the dividends are still there because the Pope is indulging us again!
At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Holy Roman Empire was breaking up as Germany and Italy were gaining power. The Teutonic Knights, a military religious order originally founded to protect the Holy Land, sought to convert Slavs to Christianity. To the victor goes the spoils, and after overcoming Prussia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and northern Poland, they kept control of those lands. In eastern Europe the Byzantine Church had broken with Rome in 1054 and was now trying to flex its political muscle through the Slavic kingdoms and Russia, but the Mongols, led by the notorious Ghengis Khan and later Kubla Khan, ravaged and pillaged Eastern Europe, conquering Poland and Hungary. In the aftermath the Serbs sought to recover the rich Byzantine Empire by recapturing Constantinople but were betrayed by the Ottoman Turks who aided the Byzantine Emperor, then turned on him and conquered Bulgaria, southern Serbia and all of the Byzantine Empire which the Turks have held onto to this day. It also illustrates the roots of the Croat-Serb hatred and why there is so much unrest in the former Yugoslavia. The great Charter Magna Carta, signed in England in 1215 was finally becoming the foundation for English liberty through the Model Parliament established by King Edward I. It was the beginning of the end of medieval England which set the stage for growing pains in the ensuing wars with France. And in France, the reign of the good and holy Saint Louis IX had given way to the treacherous reign of his grandson King Philip IV who had designs on extending the royal domain by renewing the Capetian effort and dispatching anyone who got in his way. He had no respect for the papacy, especially Pope Boniface VIII who led the Church at the beginning of the fourteenth century and whose feelings for Philip were mutual, so much so that both sovereigns misused their offices for personal vendetta. Yet, Boniface's widely discussed Papal Bull Unam Sanctam decreed that no country could tax the Church without the Holy See's permission. Also the fact Boniface decreed that every human person was subject to the Roman Pontiff did not sit well with many rulers who sought to control their subjects as well as increase their coffers by levying a tax on the Church which had grown in prosperity. Philip IV recoiled at this edict and tried to condemn Boniface, seizing him and imprisoning him at Aragni in Italy in 1303. Shortly after his incarceration he died. Blessed Pope Benedict XI succeeded Boniface on October 22, 1303 as the 194th successor of Peter, but lived less than a year, succumbing on July 7, 1304 to be followed by Pope Clement V who reigned until April 20, 1314. That was the beginning of the Avignon exile. The French, eager to dominate the papacy, moved the seat of the Holy See to Avignon in southern France. Thus began the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Roman Catholic Church. In order to influence the papacy, the French treated the Popes and cardinals like royalty, lavishing them with an opulent lifestyle. This basically weakened the Pope's resolve to be strong and make beneficial changes for the good of the people; rather they rubber-stamped almost everything the French rulers proposed, including building up an efficient system to tax the Church. Clement was followed by Pope John XXII who reigned from August 7, 1316 until December 4, 1334. He founded the supreme pontifical Order of knighthood - The Supreme Order of Christ which is conferred only on rare occasions.
It was during this time in history that the carbuncle of humanism was growing, beginning with the greed of many ecclesiastics for more power and wealth, the greed of many rulers who sought to exert their own power, the greed of barbarian hordes who were making their last stand, the greed of those who had less lusting after the possessions of those who had more. Yes, the world was playing right into satan's hands and, as we see, history does repeat itself...more often than not. And seldom do we learn. As you remember a few installments ago we delved into the meaning of the year 666 and what Our Lady indicated it signified. Today we deal with 666 times twice which computes to the year 1332 and the time we are covering in today's installment. Our Lady imparted to Fr. Gobbi the following,
This brings us back to the beginning of the Avignon exile and the time of weakening as Our Lady speaks of above. It would all come to a head two centuries later and come to the showdown between Heaven and hell in the equation of 666 times three times which can be calculated as 1998. That's right: the very year we are now in. Before we head back to the fourteenth century, it's important to realize what the Blessed Mother indicated to Fr. Gobbi regarding our present times:
Think about that and take a good look at history and we can see the accuracy of what the Blessed Virgin Mary has imparted. Because of Our Lady's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception next Tuesday, we will not have this series; however it will return with the 84th installment in two weeks (December 15) when we reconvene our journey through the fourteenth century and the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Popes and Church at Avignon.
I ask you to say now to my little ones that I urge each one to make good, holy use of this Holy Season of Lent. With your eyes fixed upon my Divine Son's Sorrowful Passion you will grow strong in faith and hope, and afire with love. Lose no opportunity in this time to practice mortification in your daily lives. Make every sacrifice. Be in prayer in all of your actions, beseeching God to bring to you the fullness of His Divine Will. I ask this that you might learn the great mystery of peace and supernatural joy that is present in and through the Way of the Cross.
My children, in each life the Way of the Cross must be walked if one is to be sanctified and saved through the Redemption of the Cross. But I do solemnly tell you that all the world ascends Calvary, and as God's Justice demanded the complete immolation of His Only Begotten Son on Calvary, so now that moment has come when all the world must choose - the Cross or the abyss.
This is truly a year of tears; my tears which fall upon your hearts. Truly my beloved holy priest-son Pope John Paul II has been in His exile already, surrounded by his enemies, and a constantly growing number of many shepherds around the world who refuse obedience to my Divine Son's Vicar.
The Year of Tears. The Time of Great Sorrow! The Way of the Cross. Embrace it, my little ones. It is your anchor.
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
On this Ash Wednesday be ever mindful that, as the blessed ashes are placed upon your forehead in the Sign of the Cross, you bear this mark of my Divine Son, and all of your Hope is in Him, the Redeemer. Remember that each soul must also walk the Way of the Cross, and the mortal body shall soon be but ashes. Will you not then labor to free your soul for its eternal joy with God?
I solemnly tell you that all material things which you covet, shall soon be but rubble and ashes. The world is cast into darkness, and the Just Wrath of God shall strike in an instant.
Use this Holy Season of Lent to become pure of heart. Let all whose hearts are open stand up and proclaim the Truth. Soon there will be chaos in every nation. These catastrophes shall come from man's evil, and these will be accompanied by natural disasters of every kind. Still many shall remain proud, unyielding.
Please, my little ones, with faith, hope and love offer yourselves also as victims united to my Divine Son's Passion, and the rays of Mercy shall save many of my little ones. It is not difficult to do this, if one loves in and through Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God.
I am the Mother of God, Queen of Peace, the New Eve. I announce by God's authority that the earth shall be bathed in tears because of the wickedness which covers all the earth.
Come, my little ones. My Son and I walk Calvary with you. Do not be afraid, nor doubt. That which Holy Scripture reveals shall be fulfilled, as I have warned for many years.
Peace, my little ones. I bless you. I love you! O! Pray! Pray! Pray! Thank you for responding to my Call!