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On Dec. 8, Pope Francis will lead the Church around the world into the Holy Year of Mercy, which will conclude on Nov. 20, 2016.
Catholics in central and southern Indiana will be able to experience the spiritual benefits of this extraordinary jubilee year in various ways, especially the sacrament of penance. They are also invited during the year to reach out with God’s mercy to people who experience all kinds of needs.
“The Holy Father has indicated that for us to be able to show mercy like the Father, we must encounter it for ourselves,” said Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship.
“The sacrament of penance connects us most profoundly with the sacramental mercy and grace of God, which enable us to not only be forgiven, but also to be people who show mercy more intentionally and consistently to others.”
A centerpiece of the observance of the Holy Year of Mercy is Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin’s designation of two churches in the archdiocese as pilgrimage sites which Catholics may visit to receive a plenary indulgence established by the Holy See for the jubilee year.
Those churches are:
“The Holy Year of Mercy allows us at the cathedral to be who we are,” said Father Beidelman, who also serves as rector of the cathedral. “That is, it allows us to be the community at the mother church of the archdiocese, a center of spiritual activity for Catholics in central and southern Indiana, as well as a place where our unity is expressed in the presence and ministry of our archbishop.”
A plenary indulgence is a full remission of the temporal punishment due for sins that have already been forgiven. Such an indulgence can be granted on behalf of the individual petitioner or for departed souls.
The temporal punishment due to sin helps free the person who sinned from an unhealthy attachment to created things, which is present in all sin. To enter the eternal life of heaven, a person needs to be purified of such unhealthy attachments, either during his or her life on Earth or after death in purgatory.
A plenary indulgence is a gift of the Church from the treasury of the infinite merits of Christ, and of the good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to free a person, either in this life or in purgatory, from all such temporal punishments due to sin.
A central part of the principal way to receive the plenary indulgence established for the Holy Year of Mercy is to pass through the designated “holy doors,” which are also called the “doors of mercy,” at one of the two pilgrimage churches in the archdiocese, recite a profession of faith (either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed), pray for the pope’s intentions and for the pope himself. (See accompanying article for specific conditions for the plenary indulgence of the Holy Year of Mercy.)
A general condition for receiving any plenary indulgence is to participate in the sacrament of penance sometime either 20 days before or after completing the specific work of the indulgence.
Only one plenary indulgence may be received per day. A single participation in the sacrament of penance can apply to any reception of a plenary indulgence 20 days before or after going to confession. However, reception of Communion and praying for the pope and his intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.
Rooted in the practice of the Israelites in the Old Testament of having a special period of forgiveness of sins, a jubilee year in the Church has in the past traditionally offered a plenary indulgence to pilgrims who visit the four major basilicas in Rome.
Each basilica has a designated holy door that remains closed except during jubilee years, which ordinarily occur every 25 years.
The last ordinary jubilee year was in 2000. Blessed Paul VI declared an extraordinary jubilee year in 1966, as did St. John Paul II in 1983. The upcoming Holy Year of Mercy is also an extraordinary jubilee year since it comes outside of the ordinary 25-year cycle.
For the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has allowed dioceses around the world to designate pilgrimage sites with their own holy doors.
He also designated other ways to receive a plenary indulgence during the jubilee year for people who are unable to visit the pilgrimage churches, such as the homebound and those who are incarcerated. (Related: Schedule of Holy Year of Mercy events in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis)
In a letter explaining the Holy Year of Mercy’s plenary indulgence, Pope Francis asked those who are unable to visit a pilgrimage church because of health challenges to live “with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial,” and either receive Communion or attend Mass “through the various means of communication,” including television or the Internet.
Pope Francis also extended the plenary indulgence to people incarcerated in correctional facilities, saying that they could receive it by visiting a chapel in their facility or by praying in one’s cell if a particular facility does not have a chapel.
Pope Francis wrote, “May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the holy door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”
If the sick and incarcerated are able to receive Communion and participate in the sacrament of penance, they should do so. But it is not absolutely required in order for them to receive the jubilee year’s plenary indulgence.
Father Beidelman noted that the Holy Year of Mercy can be a time for Catholics in central and southern Indiana to reach out with God’s mercy to people on the margins of society and the Church, such as the homebound and those in correctional facilities.
“By reflecting upon and putting into action the great gift of God’s mercy, I hope that this jubilee helps Catholics to be more interested and engaged in inviting others to know and feel the power of God’s presence in their lives,” Father Beidelman said. “In doing this, our joy and peace from having Jesus in our lives can help those who society neglects or forgets, those who are away from the practice of their faith, or those who do not have the solace and strength of a personal relationship with our Lord and lady.” (Related: Tell us how mercy and forgiveness have made a difference in your life)
Father Beidelman said that this is a good time in the life of the Church and the world for Pope Francis to open the doors of God’s mercy to the faithful and the whole world in an extraordinary jubilee year.
“His example and guidance have been challenging us to be even more committed to our conversion and to our service as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ,” said Father Beidelman.
“Receiving and giving God’s mercy more deeply and readily in our lives places God’s will and God’s ways at the center of our lives. If we do this, we are doing what Jesus commanded us to do. This enables us to grow in holiness, and the best version of ourselves emerges.”
(For more information on the Holy Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.archindy.org/holyyearofmercy.) †