SPOKANE, Wash. — The Vatican announced that Catholics’ hours before the Eucharist now reap even more spiritual rewards — a plenary indulgence.
That’s good news for Catholics like the DiFuccia family in Coon Rapids, Minn. “Adoration was a treasured part of our prayer life before getting married and after we married, before the children came,” Mollie DiFuccia said. “Then we wanted to keep Eucharistic adoration as a central part of our family’s prayer life, despite the challenges of managing the little ones in church.”
Now when the whole family prays their weekly adoration hours at Epiphany Church, they will qualify for a plenary indulgence — a remittance of punishment due to sin that they can gain for the deceased. They hope it will encourage others to begin planned adoration, too.
Pope John Paul II has made a plenary indulgence available to those who participate in acts of worship and veneration of the most holy sacrament, or those who pray vespers and compline of the Divine Office before the tabernacle.
The indulgence was announced in a decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, dated Dec. 25 and published Jan. 14, signed by Cardinal James Stafford, the American cardinal who is point-man on indulgences for the Vatican (see story, page 4).
According to the document, the objective of the indulgence is to “exhort the faithful in the course of this year to a more profound knowledge and more intense love of the ineffable ‘mystery of faith,’ so that they will reap ever more abundant spiritual fruits.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “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” (No. 1471).
Poor Clare Sister Patricia Proctor compared the indulgence to owning a jewel that’s been polished.
“In our community, we pray before the Blessed Sacrament all the time,” said Sister Proctor, who belongs to the Poor Clare Sisters of Spokane, Wash., and is editor of the book 201 Inspirational Stories of the Eucharist. “My everyday prayer life can sometimes be kind of humdrum. Yet, the Pope has given us this enhancement for this Year of the Eucharist.”
Sister Proctor said she felt a “great surge of excitement” regarding the news.
“I feel this will be the birthing place for greater love for the Eucharist, even greater than the Pope can imagine,” Sister Proctor said. “It will ignite the Church.”
Catholic author Michael Brown encouraged the faithful to take advantage of the indulgence.
“In these times, God grants us peace from all turmoil, from the bad news, from television, from the everlasting noise around us,” Brown wrote on his website SpiritDaily.com. “When we spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we feel a power similar to that during elevation of the host. We encounter a holiness second only to Mass.”
Let Us Adore
The announcement comes on the heels of Pope John Paul’s other efforts to turn the Church’s attention to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. On Holy Thursday, 2003, the Pope released his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church). Late last year, he released his apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay With Us, O Lord) to commemorate the start of the Year of the Eucharist.
“During this year, Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should become a particular commitment for individual parish and religious communities,” Pope John Paul wrote in the apostolic letter. “Let us take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist, in order to make reparation by our faith and love for the acts of carelessness and neglect, and even the insults which our Savior must endure in many parts of the world.”
The decree for the plenary indulgence reiterated the Pope’s instruction for local churches to make their own plans for veneration of the Blessed Sacrament during the Year of the Eucharist.
“I hope that it will have the good effect that Pope John Paul intends it to have,” said Blessed Sacrament Father Bernard Camire, parochial vicar at St. Jean Baptiste Church in New York, N.Y., and former director of the Nocturnal Adoration Society, which works to promote Eucharistic living. Yet, Father Camire laments the lack of understanding regarding indulgences, particularly among young people.
“Overall, I would say that there is a lack of interest and understanding in the practice and gaining of indulgences among young Catholics,” Father Camire said. “That fact will perhaps impact the Pope’s wish that granting of the indulgence will promote prayer before the Eucharist.”
Father Camire said the indulgence might have more impact upon older Catholics.
“I think the greatest effect will be among an older generation that had a greater appreciation for indulgences, and among those who have a deeper devotion to the Eucharist and Eucharistic prayer,” Father Camire said.
According to the decree, the plenary indulgence may be obtained in two ways.
The first involves any time the “faithful participate attentively and piously in a sacred function or a devotional exercise undertaken in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, solemnly exposed or conserved in the tabernacle.”
The second is for religious or laity when they recite, in company or privately, vespers and night prayers before the Lord present in the tabernacle.
For those unable, due to illness or other just cause, to participate in an act of worship of the sacrament of the Eucharist, they may obtain the indulgence by making a spiritual visit with the Eucharistic Christ, praying the Lord’s Prayer and creed and adding a pious invocation to Jesus in the sacrament, such as “May the most holy sacrament be blessed and praised forever.”
Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota. Joseph Pronechen contributed to this article.
How to Receive the Plenary Indulgence
In order to receive the indulgence, the faithful must:
— Participate in a sacred function or devotion in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, exposed or conserved in the tabernacle, or recite vespers and night prayers before the Lord present in the tabernacle;
— Receive communion on the day of the act;
— Confession within a week before or after act;
— Complete detachment from all sin including venial;
— Prayer for the pope’s intentions.