by Dr. Robert Stackpole | Source: http://thedivinemercy.org
(Apr 20, 2014)
A Mr. Dwyer asked: What is the
difference between that special graces promised by Jesus for devout
communicants on Mercy Sunday, and the plenary indulgence for Mercy
Sunday devotions that was instituted several years ago by Pope John Paul
II? Are they the same thing? Or are they different?
Simply put: They
are NOT the same thing!
The main difference, of course, is that an
"indulgence" is something offered to the faithful by the Church, as the
keeper of the keys of the kingdom, with authority to "bind and loose"
(see Mt 16:17-19). The special graces of Mercy Sunday, on the other
hand, were promised directly by our Lord, through a prophetic revelation
given to St. Faustina (see Diary of St. Faustina, 699). The Church has
not officially ruled that this particular promise was an authentic
supernatural revelation (and no Catholic is required to believe it as a
matter of faith), but the Church has discerned, in various ways, that
there is nothing that violates Catholic doctrine in this
Briefly, here are the other main differences between the
"special graces" promised by Jesus for Divine Mercy Sunday, and the
plenary indulgence offered by the Church for special devotions to The
Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday:
1) The special graces that our Lord
promised for Mercy Sunday come solely through the reception of Holy
Communion on that day, in a state of grace, with trust in The Divine
Mercy. Any plenary indulgence granted by the Church, on the other hand,
involves the fulfilment of a number of conditions, including prayer for
the pope's intentions, confession and Holy Eucharist, and the carrying
out of the special indulgenced work (in this case: participating in
public devotions to The Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday itself).
special graces promised by our Lord for Mercy Sunday can be received by a
soul in a state of grace, but with imperfect love for God, and
imperfect contrition for sin—as long as the soul merely trusts in the
Mercy of God, and clings to Him because of His promised benefits. A
plenary indulgence, however, can only be obtained through the
performance of an indulgenced work as an expression of pure love for
God. If the intentions of one's indulgenced work are not pure (say, the
work is done in part out of fear of hell or purgatory, and loathing for
oneself — or the desire to impress one's friends and relatives! — rather
than purely out of love for God) then the indulgence obtained will be
only partial, not plenary.
3) The special graces that our
Lord promised for Mercy Sunday can only be received for oneself, through
the devout reception of Holy Communion on Mercy Sunday (as stated in #1
above). A plenary indulgence, however, can be offered for oneself, or
for souls suffering in purgatory.
4) The most special grace promised by
our Lord for Mercy Sunday is nothing less than the equivalent of a
complete renewal of baptismal grace in the soul: "complete forgiveness
(remission) of sins and punishment." Such a measure of grace can only be
received otherwise through baptism itself, or through making a
sacramental confession as an act of perfect contrition for sin, out of
pure love for God.
As you can see, this is no easy topic. However, you
can find a more in-depth treatment of this same subject in the John Paul
II Institute of Divine Mercy section of this same website, in the
document entitled "Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday."
Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine
Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI
(Marian Press). Got a question?