The Great Jubilee: reaffirming the spiritual power of indulgences

The Great Jubilee: reaffirming the spiritual power of indulgences

Catherine Cavanagh

For those who have been trying to live the Great Jubilee, what a great gift of grace it has been so far. The joy almost outweighs the sadness of seeing so many Catholics either ignorant or slow to take hold of the gifts on offer.

Pope John Paul II places the gaining of a Jubilee Indulgence in the context of entering into the spiritual communion of the Body of Christ, knowing that in the spiritual realm, people do not live for themselves alone, each indulgence gained becoming a gift of grace for the whole Church.

Knowing this, obtaining an indulgence can never be a selfish act, indeed it can be made completely unselfish by offering it up for a Holy Soul in Purgatory. Since the Pope himself desires that abundant use be made of indulgences, the challenge for each one of us is to obtain as many of them as possible, particularly in the time of Jubilee left to us. It is a pity that many have fulfilled the conditions for one indulgence for themselves only to stop there.

Jubilee churches

For those who do not want to let an opportunity slip, daily Mass and communion and the grace of fortnightly confession mean that the two most important conditions are always fulfilled. Then what a joy to visit Jubilee churches - especially because they are open during the day - and be inspired by the faith of past generations: in Sydney, for example, St Mary's Cathedral with its new spires and the beautifully restored St Patrick's, Church Hill, with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and many times for confession during the day.

Elsewhere in Sydney are the convict sandstone church of Holy Cross, Kincumber - where Blessed Mary MacKillop is known to have worshipped, and the lovely chapel at Mount Street, North Sydney, where the body of Blessed Mary MacKillop rests. And for a shot of inspiring beauty, the church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Randwick is hard to beat. While there, travel to the next suburb of Coogee and experience the presence of Our Lady and Eileen O'Connor at Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor, not unfortunately a Jubilee site, but true joy for the soul.

Corpus Christi at St Ives, with its great crucifix above the tabernacle and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart at Hamilton, Newcastle, with its magnificent Stations of the Cross and stained glass windows, are other wonderful places.

These are only some of the Jubilee churches around Sydney.

It is the custom of the universal Church for Catholics to kneel on the threshold of the Holy Door in each place, praying for the grace of conversion, which this Jubilee Indulgence represents, before entering symbolically into a deeper life of union with Jesus.

The good news is that we do not have to travel far to obtain an indulgence. Another way is to visit the sick, imprisoned, elderly people living alone, the handicapped or anyone in need in our own area, as though making a pilgrimage to Jesus present in them. When this is done, praying either with these people, or when we return home, we truly meet Jesus in a special way.

Reading John Paul II's important document, Incarnationis Mysterium, was an eye-opener. It is my personal belief that studying it with an open heart would put people on the road to sainthood, were they to act on its contents.

This document tells us unequivocally that sin has serious consequences, and that all sin, even venial sin, attracts temporal punishment, leaving our souls in need of purification by repentance and penance.

But more than that, it reminds us that, because we are part of the Body of Christ, the holiness of one benefits others in a way far exceeding the harm the sin of one inflicts upon others. Therefore each good deed we do with the help of God's grace can have a positive impact on others. What better encouragement to carry out all possible good deeds. The great truth, restated, is that how we live, how we pray, how we act, can mean the difference between a soul being saved or a soul being eternally lost.

Spiritual pilgrimage

Another way for anyone unable to travel is to make a spiritual pilgrimage by uniting oneself spiritually with those making a pilgrimage in person and praying the prayers and fulfilling the conditions at home. If anyone would like to do this, email me on

I will send copies of Liturgies of the Word adjusted for some Australian churches, based on those in Pilgrim Prayers, the Official Vatican Prayerbook for the Jubilee Year 2000.

In union with Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Jubilee Indulgence requires an Our Father, a Creed, a prayer for the intentions of the Pope and a prayer to Our Lady, accompanied by a period of prayer of at least 15 minutes. We are encouraged to pray the rosary, recite the Liturgy of the Hours, attend Mass, pray the Stations of the Cross and spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration or other forms of Christian meditation.

Although only one plenary indulgence is obtainable each day, in the science of love, if we have more than one opportunity, we can always use this to obtain partial indulgences for the Holy Souls.

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