Saturday, December 14, 2013

From the Rev. Ronald Check: Catechesis on Indulgences

Q. What exactly is an indulgence and could you provide some examples of how to obtain one?

A. The Compendium of the Current Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Indulgences are the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.  The faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains the indulgence under prescribed conditions for either himself or the departed.  Indulgences are granted through the ministry of the Church which, as the dispenser of the grace of redemption, distributes the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints.” (No. 312).  An indulgence can be either partial, which remits only some of the temporal punishment due to sin, or plenary, which remits all temporal punishment due to sin.  The usual conditions for obtaining a partial indulgence are: (1) be in a state of grace (free of mortal sin); (2) intend to receive the indulgence; (3) perform the prescribed action of the indulgence.  The usual conditions for obtaining a plenary indulgence are: (1) have the intention of gaining the indulgence; (2) be free from all attachment to venial sin; The following must be completed within a few days before or after the prescribed action of the indulgence, though the same day is best, if possible: (1) Receive the Sacrament of Penance; (2) Receive the Eucharist; (3) Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

The Norms guiding the obtaining of indulgences can be found in the Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina.

Some examples of partial indulgences are: recitation of certain prayers, saying the Creed, praying the rosary in private, teaching or studying Christian doctrine, the praying of litanies, the Magnificat, reading of Sacred Scripture, among others.

Some examples of plenary indulgences are: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least one hour.  Making the Way of the Cross or, if unable to get to a church, the pious meditation and reading on the Passion and Death of Our Lord for a half an hour.  Public recitation of five decades of the Rosary (this must be done vocally, continuously, and with the Mysteries announced out loud and meditated on).  A plenary indulgence is granted on each Friday of Lent to the faithful who after Communion piously recite before an image of Christ crucified the prayer: “Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,” (on the other days of the year the indulgence is partial).  A plenary indulgence is gained when an Act of Consecration is publicly recited on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  A plenary indulgence is received by those who publicly make the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart on the Feast of Christ the King (last Sunday in October per the traditional calendar).  A pious visit to a church, a public or chapel on All Souls' Day (November 2) with the prayers of one Our Father and the Creed; this indulgence is applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.  A devout visit to a cemetery with a prayer, even if only mental, for the departed souls, from the first to the eighth day of November.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

From the Rev. Ronald Check: Catechesis on the Immaculate Conception

The solemn definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception was proclaimed as an independent dogma by Blessed Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” (December 8, 1854).  Though the Holy Father was highlighting a privilege given to Blessed Mother, in fact he was also stressing the particular dignity and holiness that was required to become “Mother of God.”  Since Christ Himself is sinless, so also this privilege was according to His Mother so that the human nature, which Christ received from her would not be tainted by original sin.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was kept free of every stain of original sin.”  This teaching stresses that Mary’s freedom from original sin was a privilege afforded to her prior to the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, and yet this freedom was still dependent upon it. Christ suffered and died for the redemption of our sins.  This dogma says that Mary shared in the graces of the Paschal Mystery in an anticipated or retroactive way.

Although difficult to explain, original sin brings about disorder in thought and behavior.  While original sin is taken away with Baptism, the effects of this sin remain.  Our Lady was preserved from Original Sin and hence also from its effects.  Her human nature was preserved from any disorder or disintegration caused by sin. In declaring Our Lady “immaculately conceived," the Church sees in Mary one who never denied God the least sign of love.  Thus, the dogma declares that from her very beginning Mary was exceptionally holy and in constant union with the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us, that we may love the Lord as you have loved Him.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

From the Rev. Ronald Check: Catechesis on St. Nicholas

This coming Friday, December 6, is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Bishop and Confessor.  There are many wonderful family traditions that surround this wonderful feast day, so I wanted to speak about them in today’s catechesis.  Saint Nicholas is a wonderful character from the early centuries of the Church and for a variety of reasons has become a favorite saint of little children. This devotion is easily explained, because he was, and still is, a special patron saint of children.  In many parts of Europe, children are still visited by Saint Nicholas on the eve of his feast day.  His feast day comes at the beginning of Advent because he desires to teach us how to prepare our hearts to celebrate a holy Christmas.  In some countries, his main duty is to examine children to see if they know their prayers and catechism, and after teaching them to be good, he distributes fruit and candy and departs with a kindly farewell, leaving the little ones filled with holy awe.  This feast is a wonderful opportunity to meditate on the blessings and joys that God will give us at the intercession of St. Nicholas, through His Son, Jesus Christ, during this holy season of Advent.  St. Nicholas was a holy bishop when he lived on earth and he intercedes for us now in heaven.

Some Ideas to Help Keep this Feast of St. Nicholas in Catholic Homes:

1. On the night before his feast, the Saint has been known to leave bags or shoes filled with gifts and treats for the children as a small foretaste of the graces God desires to give His children while they are in this world to help them attain Heaven.

2. In the morning, after morning prayers, the family could read aloud an account of the life and works of St. Nicholas.

3. Copy the little prayer from the Collect of the Mass of St. Nicholas on to the top half of a 3x5 card.  Fold the card in half and stand one next to each person’s place at the meal table to be read with the grace before meals.

4. To keep the spirit of this feast in a special way, the evening meal could be a festive one.  The table can be covered with a beautiful white table cloth to coincide with the white vestments worn today at Mass.  The meal could be eaten by candlelight.

5. Fashion a pretty centerpiece of evergreen boughs symbolizing everlasting life.  Place a statue or picture of St. Nicholas in the center.  Adorn each side of this centerpiece with 2 red candles to be lit during the festive evening meal.  Note: be careful not to mistake statues and pictures of “Father Christmas” for St. Nicholas.

6. Say this prayer with your children or for children: “God our Father, we pray that through the intercession of St. Nicholas, you will protect our children.  Keep them safe from harm and help them grow and become worthy in Your sight.  Give them strength to keep their Faith in You; and keep alive their joy in your creation.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

7. Cook the Traditional St. Nicholas Day Dinner:  4-6 lb. pork shoulder roast -stuffed with: 1/2 cup diced fresh cranberries, 1 apple, diced, 2/3 cup prunes cut into bits, 1/2 -2/3 cup raisins.  Bake in oven for about 3 -3/12 hours at 350 degrees. Or cook in crock pot all day slowly. (Serves 8) Accompany with mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable, dinner rolls.