Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Portiuncula

Today at Mass, Fr Rowe strove to make us appreciate the great value of indulgences. "He hath done all things well": not only did Our Lord work many miracles, and preach His saving Gospel, but He even died for us on the bitter Rood, and won for us every grace necessary for our access to heaven; for the saving of souls is an infinitely greater accomplishment even than raising the dead. One part of Christ's bounty is His granting, through His Church exercising the power of the Keys in His Name and by His Will, the remission of all or part of the temporal punishment due to sin, over and above His forgiving us, through His priests' Absolution, the dreadful penalty of eternal loss due to our sins, upon our making a true and contrite Confession. Since nothing impure may enter heaven, and after Baptism we accrue many stains and spots upon our souls through sins whose due penalties have not yet been atoned for, it is of the greatest use to Christian people to obtain the many indulgences dispensed from the treasury of merit by Our Holy Mother the Church Catholic.

Now, the coming Saturday falls on the 2nd of August, when the great Portiuncula Indulgence is available. Fr Rowe represented to us its origin: St Francis was bewailing the fate of poor sinners in his cell, when an angel bade him remove to the tiny Church of Portiuncula, given to the nascent Order of Friars Minor by the Benedictines. There he beheld a celestial vision: Jesus and Mary and a great company of angels assembled therein. Throwing himself upon his face, he heard Our Lord ask him what favour he would implore; St Francis boldly replied, that he wished that all entering that church on the anniversary - having made a good Confession, being truly contrite for their sins - should be able to gain a plenary indulgence, to fit them for heaven. Our Lord granted this favour, but commanded Francis to go to His Vicar, Pope Honorius III, and to obtain confirmation of this from him. The vision faded; Francis indeed obtained this same indulgence from the Pope, once he had told him of the vision and evidence had been tendered for its veracity. All this has been testified to by witnesses who knew disciples of St Francis, that Seraphic Patriarch, and this valuable indulgence, valid for all centuries, has again and again been reconfirmed by the Church. Indeed, over the ages, this indulgence has been extended from just the little Portiuncula, first to all Franciscan churches, and finally to all parish churches the wide world over.

This Portiuncula indulgence, then, is most special, because of its supernatural origins. It is to be obtained on the usual conditions: having received Communion and been shriven within the octave, and visiting a church, praying within a Creed and Our Father, plus the usual Our Father and Hail Mary for the Pope's intentions. Having made our Confession, we must be free from all attachment to sin, even venial; else how could we be granted an entire remission of sin's temporal deserts? We should be filled with joy and solace at having set before us so easy a means to cleanse our souls of rust and filth, and rejoice in the mercy and generosity of Christ, Who wills to draw us so sweetly unto Him.

How well does this accord with today's Collect, for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuæ et merita supplicum excedis et vota: effunde super nos misericordiam tuam; ut dimittas quæ conscientia metuit, et adjicias quod oratio non præsumit. Per...

Almighty everlasting God, Who dost exceed by the abundance of Thy piety both the deserts and the desires of (Thy) supplicants: pour forth upon us Thy mercy; that Thou mayest dismiss what our conscience fears, and grant what our prayer does not presume (to ask). Through...

Despite many being sick, we were still able to have sung Mass this morning: I psalm-toned the Propers, and with the ladies of the St Cecilia choir and all the cogregation sang that old favourite, Missa de Angelis, while for Credo III we alternated the verses between men and women, quite pleasingly. We preceded the Asperges with Newman's fine hymn "Firmly I believe and truly", sang Jesu dulcis memoria at Offertory, sang Ave verum at Communion, and ended with "Now thank we all our God". There's no reason why even the smallest church can't have a sung Mass.

No comments: