Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Anticipating an Extraordinary Jubilee

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given us a wonderful gift to begin the month of September in anticipation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 2015. This morning the Holy See released the letter written by the Pontiff to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who serves as President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. In the letter, which I find to be an amazing statement of our divine and Catholic faith, the Holy Father describes in beautiful detail how this Jubilee can be entered into fully by all the faithful. Additionally, as is so characteristic of Papa Bergoglio, there are some astonishing surprises in his letter, but ones that are wholly consonant with our Catholic faith, thus showing how far-reaching is the Father’s infinite mercy.

First and foremost Pope Francis describes how all the faithful may obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. In his letter the Holy Father expresses his “wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting the sin forgiven.” Indulgences are not a thing of past, but remain an important practice of Christian faith. Once again, I encourage everyone to read Bl Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina.

Pilgrims to Rome for the Jubilee can obtain the Jubilee Indulgence by making a pilgrimage to one of the four Papal Basilicas and churches “traditionally identified as Jubilee Churches” each of which will have a Door of Mercy. Every Cathedral in each diocese will have a Holy Door to which one can make a pilgrimage. Only a brief visit, made as expression of one’s “deep desire for true conversion,” is requested. I expect miracles.

The Holy Father makes provision for those who are ill and elderly. In a deeply moving passage in his letter, Pope Francis makes it possible for prisoners to obtain the Jubilee Indulgence by making prison chapels sites on par with Papal Basilicas, Jubilee Churches, and Cathedrals.

In his letter Pope Francis allows all priests, during the Jubilee Year, to absolve women who have had abortions of that sin. Since having an abortion incurs latae sententiae excommunication, under normal circumstances, absolving this sin is reserved to the bishop. However, some bishops have permitted some of their priests to grant absolution to women for this sin, which very often a source of deep regret, leaving a scar on their souls.

Stating that the “Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the Roman Pontiff, surprisingly, invoking his desire for full communion, grants priests of Fraternity of St Pius X the faculty to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation licitly and validly during the Jubilee to those faithful who approach them for this sacrament.

Commenting on the letter in Great Britain’s Catholic Herald magazine, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith rightly notes that the upcoming Jubilee provides all of us a great opportunity “to brush up on one’s Catholicism…brush up on your Purgatory, your Indulgences, your theology of the Church and of Grace, and your Canon Law.” But above all, with Fr Lucie-Smith, I urge you to “find out where your nearest church is where you can obtain the indulgence.” But first find out what is required, apart from the visit, to obtain the indulgence. Foremost among the conditions for obtaining an indulgence is making a good sacramental confession. A  good first start in preparing for the Jubilee would be reading this short letter.

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