Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Heroic Act of Charity for the Suffering Souls. § 65. Indulgences and Privileges of the Heroic Act of Charity.

531. The Heroic Act of Charity for the Suffering Souls, as was remarked before, consists in the offering up to God, by the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of all the meritorious acts of our whole life, together with the works of atonement offered up for us after our death, for the relief and ransom of the souls in Purgatory. This pious practice owes its origin to a religious of the Theatine Order, Father Caspar Oliden. He devoted his life to its propagation ; and on the 23d of August, 1728, he received for it the formal approval of Pope Benedict XIII. Later it were as confirmed by Pius VI., 1788, and by Pius IX., 1852 and 1854.

532. The last decree of approval, issued by the S. Congregation of Indulgences on the 20th of November, 1854, contains also a summary of the indulgences granted to this Act; and this is as follows:

"Whereas 'it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the, dead that they may be loosed from sins' the apostolic charity of the Roman Pontiffs never ceased to apply means, whereby the children of the Church militant might be enkindled with greater zeal for the benefit of the dead; for which purpose they have taken indulgences almost without number from the treasury of the Church, indulgences that are made applicable to the souls suffering in the expiatory flames of Purgatory, and which were granted for the recitation of certain prayers, and for the performance of certain good works, in order that the souls for which they are applied may be released more speedily from their punishment, and may -the sooner join the Blessed in the city of God. To aid these souls more effectively, Father Caspar Oliden, Priest of the Theatine Order, at the time of our Predecessor Benedict XIII., of happy memory, introduced, or at least propagated a pious practice, by which the faithful who pledged themselves to it, dedicate and cede to the souls of the faithful departed, in special charity, all the good works performed by themselves during their whole life-time, and all those performed for them after their death. The aforesaid Pontiff, Benedict XIII., granted to all who pledged themselves to this work, special indulgences, which were later confirmed at the instance of the above mentioned Theatines, by authority of Pope Pius VI., on the 12th of December, 1788, and which our Most Holy Father, Pius IX., on the 30th of September, 1852, not only again confirmed, at the instance of many priests, but also deigned to specify as follows:

1) The priests who make this votive pledge or promise, enjoy the privilege of the altar on all days of the year.

2) The faithful who do the same may gain a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in Purgatory, a) on every day they receive holy communion; b) on every Monday of the year, if they assist at Mass for the relief of the Suffering Souls, provided that in both cases they visit a church or public oratory, and there pray for some time for the intention of the Holy Father.

(N.B. 1. It is sufficient to say for instance five Our Fathers and Hail Marys.—N.B. 2. Priests gain the indulgence only a) when they receive the communion more laicorum ; b) when they assist at Mass.)

3) In like manner the faithful may apply to the Suffering Souls each and every indulgence hitherto granted, or to be granted in future.

4) That the Suffering Souls may receive effective relief, this indult is to be considered as extended to all the faithful in the whole world, that have made this votive promise or pledge.

Moreover, His Holiness, taking into consideration the condition of children who have not yet been admitted to their first communion, of the sick, the aged, prisoners, farmers and other faithful who are prevented from approaching the holy table, or of assisting at Mass on Mondays, ordained in parental solicitude for all Christians thus legitimately impeded, as follows :

5) That the Holy Mass at which they are bound by precept of the Church to assist on Sundays, shall suffice to gain the indulgence for the Mondays.

6) At the same time His Holiness permitted the Ordinaries of dioceses to appoint from among approved confessors those whom they delegate to change into other pious works, if they deem proper, the obligation of receiving communion for all those who are not yet admitted to it, or who are legitimately impeded from receiving it.

Given at Rome, November 20th, 1854.

Cardinal Asquini, Prefect.

533. Later, when serious doubts arose concerning the practice and the essential conditions of the indulgences and privileges, the S. Congregation of Indulgences, on the 18th of December, 1885, issued a decree which was approved by Pope Leo XIII. on the following day. Said decree reads as follows:

1) To the works of atonement offered for the relief of the Suffering Souls by the heroic act of charity must also be reckoned the indulgences declared by the Popes as applicable to the Suffering Souls.

2) Those who reserve for themselves the indulgences granted for the living do not satisfy the obligation entered into by this act. These indulgences too must be applied to the faithful departed in conformity with the indult.

3) It is not an essential condition, but solely a pious practice, to place the good works and indulgences * at the disposal of the Blessed Virgin Mary in favor of the Suffering Souls.

4) Hence the plenary indulgences granted for holy communion and for assisting at Mass on Mondays must not necessarily be offered to the Blessed Virgin for those souls whom she desires to release in particular, but they can be applied at will to any soul.

5) The plenary indulgences granted to priests in virtue of the heroic act of charity and in consequence of the privilege of the altar must be applied to the soul for whom the Mass is celebrated; for the privilege is granted in this sense. (Act. S. Sedis, xviii. 3317.

534. Christian soul! You have now been fully instructed concerning the heroic act of charity, this most beautiful offering of Christian. charity for the Suffering Souls, this crown of all devotions for their relief and ransom. Remember well: to gain all the above mentioned indulgences and privileges, it is sufficient to make the act merely by an interior expression of the will. Although it is not necessary to renew the act in order to gain the indulgences (provided we have not revoked the act, in which case the renewal of it would be necessary), yet it is most commendable to do so often, either by a certain formula of prayer, or at least when making the daily good intention.—As was explained before, we cede by this act only that fruit of our good works, which is our particular and personal gain, so that priests are not prevented thereby from celebrating Mass for the intention for which they have accepted a stipend. Nor does this act prevent us from praying for ourselves, our parents, etc., or from performing our usual pious exercises; for only the atoning value of all these good works is ceded in favor of the Suffering Souls.

535. You have learned from the contents of these treatises the terrible torments of the Suffering Souls, their ardent yearning to be united with their God and Savior, comparable to a consuming thirst which they are unable to quench. It is in your power, Christian soul, by the heroic act of charity not only to refresh them, but to pour out the full stream of the Most Precious Blood of our Redeemer on the flames in which they are suffering, and thereby to bring ineffable relief to these poor victims of Divine Justice. Remember : all your prayers and sufferings, every good action you perform is for their relief. If you do penance, you do it for them; if you weep, your tears are for their consolation, a refreshing dew for them in the expiating flames; your compassion comforts them. Remember the indulgences: by the heroic act all the indulgences ever granted and to be granted by the Church are applicable to the Suffering Souls. Otherwise only those specially designated may be applied to them.— Considering all this, will you refuse to join with the millions of Christians who belong to this army of intercessors for the Holy Souls?—Renew therefore this salutary act, devoutly saying:

O Heavenly Father! In union with the merits of Jesus and Mary I offer to Thee for the Suffering Souls in Purgatory all the satisfactory works of my whole life, as also those works that will be offered for me after my death. I deliver these works into the most pure hands of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, that she may distribute them amongst those souls whom she in her wisdom and maternal love desires to release first from Purgatory. Graciously accept, O Lord, this offering, and in return let me daily increase in Thy grace! Through Christ our Lord. Amen!