March 9, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Lenten Series Continues. Our Lenten Series on the “The Passion of the Lord…” continues this Thursday, March 12, at 7:00 pm. Fr. Richard Miserendino, will talk about: “Peter’s  Denial and Judas’ Suicide.”

I highly encourage all of you to attend, even if you missed last week. The half-hour talk takes place during a Holy Hour in the Church, which will also include Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and Benediction.

            Fr. Miserendino grew up in Burke and is a graduate of Lake Braddock Secondary School. He went on to earn Bachelors’ degrees from the University of Rochester in Physics and Applied Mathematics as well as a Bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music in Music Performance (Saxophone).  After college he worked for a defense contractor for 2 years before entering Seminary, first for 2 years at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, and then for 4 years at the North American College in Rome. In Rome he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB) degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 2015. He currently serves as Parochial Vicar at Saint Bernadette.

What is an indulgence? This is a question that comes up a lot during Lent. So, let’s look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471:

“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 action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.

“To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

            The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.””

            In sum, while confession remits the eternal punishment of sin (i.e., Hell), indulgences are a plenary (total) or partial remission of the temporal punishment after death (i.e., Purgatory). They are granted by the power of the Church as Christ’s chosen instrument of redemption. One gains an indulgence by doing a particular pious work specified by the Pope.

To gain the plenary indulgence the prescribed work must also be done in connection with certain other specific conditions: 1) you must be a baptized Christian in the state of grace, 2) have at least the intention of receiving the indulgence for the work, 3) “exclusion from all attachment to sin, even venial sin,” 4) & 5) reception of sacramental Penance and Holy Communion within several days before or after the work, and 6) prayer for the Pope’s intentions. If these are not met, the indulgence gained is only partial.

            The third of those conditions is the one that makes gaining plenary indulgences rather hard to gain: “exclusion from all attachment to sin, even venial sin.” It might even seem impossible to do this. But it is not. What is meant here is, as one theologian writes: “the intention, the desire, not to sin even when realistically we know that we are still poor sinners in need of graces and mercy.” Or as another puts it, “that there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce.”

            For further reading I suggest you look at pg. 34ff in the violet booklets we use in the church for Stations. Or you can read, “The Handbook of Indulgences: Norms and Grants, 4th Edition,”  an official Vatican publication that contains a list and explanation of most of the Church’s indulgences.

Finally, it’s important to remember what St. Pope John Paul II wrote about indulgences (General Audience, 29 September 1999):

“…indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin”…Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion…”

            Stations of the Cross. One excellent example of a “pious work” involved in gaining an indulgence is the praying the 14 Stations of the Cross “legitimately erected,” e.g., in a church, or our outside Stations on the back of the property. You (or if done communally, the priest or other leader) must move from one Station to the other while meditating on each of the individual 14 mysteries of the Stations. Of course, you can pray the Stations on your own (perhaps using the violet booklets found in the church), and I recommend it. Or you can pray it with the parish ­ every Friday in Lent at 6:30 pm. Last week we had about 150 people attend—why don’t you join us this Friday?

            Meeting of Law Enforcement Officers. I am inviting all law enforcement officers, (past, present, or retired; military or civilian; local, state or federal), to meet with me tomorrow, Monday, March 9, at 7:15 pm in the church, to discuss safety and security in the parish. Because of the nature of this subject, the meeting will be closed, and I ask that all those interested in attending please pre-register by calling (703-440-0535) or emailing Eva Radel ( at the parish office.

            CYO Basketball. Congratulations to St. Raymond’s 5th grade girls’ and 5th grade boys’ basketball teams, for winning their respective championships last Sunday. Thanks to all our kids who participated in our program. I’m especially proud of their reputation for perseverance and sportsmanship. Thanks too to all the dedicated coaches and parents.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles