The New Enchiridion Indulgentiarum

Author: Fr. T.M. Sparks, O.P.


Fr. T. M. Sparks, O.P.

The revised Enchiridion Indulgentiarum ('Raccolta') is a delight. It is a masterpiece of renewal in the Spirit.

This thin, well bound volume, one sixth the size of its immediate predecessor, typographically attractive and very legible, is the product of the Vatican Press.

Pope Paul's Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina of January 1, 1967, among its concluding norms had enjoined that the redaction of the Enchiridion would keep only the outstanding devotional prayers and practices (the Mass and Sacraments are of course not indulgenced) that are still relevant to our day and which, besides encouraging a penitential spirit, would particularly foster the fervour of charity.

This 1968 edition entitled "Enchiridion Indulgentiarum-Normae et Concessiones" is a remarkable fulfillment of the Holy Father's injunction. It is especially noteworthy because of its evangelical simplicity, its emphasis on Holy Scripture and contemporary expression of Church teaching, and above all in its insistence on the supreme importance of the individual's devout, loving acts.

A plenary indulgence supposes that one's soul is entirely free from affection for sin. Only one each day can be gained—the sole exception being the day one dies. There is constant stress on the Holy Father's declaration that a partial indulgence is a "matching grant". The Church uses her "power of the keys" and opens "the treasury of the Blood"—the merits of Christ, Our Lady and the Saints, to match whatever remission of the temporal punishment due to sin results from an individual's careful, loving performance of an indulgenced work.

The Enchiridion deals, as did its predecessors, with indulgences for all the faithful. And this is literally true. There is special provision for the Oriental Churches, as for example with those that do not have the practice of the Rosary. The Patriarchs are empowered to indicate corresponding Oriental Marian devotions and to enrich them with the Rosary indulgences. All the indulgences are applicable to the souls in Purgatory.

The concessions are distributed into two categories. The first category contains three "more general concessions". Each of these is clearly set off in special type, simply and succinctly explained, and supported by scriptural and conciliar texts.

The first more general concession reads:

A partial indulgence is granted to that individual among the faithful who, in carrying out his duties and bearing with the trials of life, raises his mind in humble trust to God, adding—even mentally—some pious invocation.

The second more general concession has to do with works of mercy to the needy and reads:

A partial indulgence is granted to that individual among the faithful who, led by a spirit of faith, mercifully expends himself or his goods in the service of needy brethren.

A partial indulgence is granted to that individual among the faithful who, in a spirit of penance, freely abstains from something licit and pleasing to himself.

The second category of concessions lists seventy devotional and penitential prayers and practices. Even this listing is simple, "democratic", and "non-scientific". The first letter of the first Latin word of the prayer or pious practice determines its place. Thus Our Lord "must take His turn", and prayers in His honour beginning with "J" come in the place of that letter of the alphabet.

Some of the seventy are sweeping in content. For example "The Use of Pious Objects" reads this way: "That individual among the faithful who devoutly uses an object of piety (a crucifix or cross, a chaplet, a scapular, a medal) rightly blessed by any priest, is granted a partial indulgence."

Four of the seventy are singled out for special mention. To these are attached a plenary indulgence daily. They are:

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for at least a half-hour

Pious reading of Sacred Scripture for at least a half-hour

The Stations

The Rosary said in common.

One of the "longer" of these seventy declarations has to do with the Rosary. After giving the accurate notion of this devotion as described in the liturgy, that is, that the complete Rosary embraces "all" the Christian Mysteries (the Incarnation, Passion, and Exaltation of Christ), it is clearly stated that for "concessional" purposes a third part of the Rosary suffices. Thus five decades with meditation on the series of the Joyful, the Sorrowful, or the Glorious Mysteries are noted. The Rosary's communally structured nature is accentuated by the concession of the daily plenary indulgence (mentioned just above) for the Rosary said in common ("in church, in the family, in a religious institute, in a pious group").

Among others, there is an indulgence for hearing the Word of God; for prayers to the Angels, St. Joseph, the Saints; for the Souls in Purgatory; for the catechetical apostolate; for mental prayer; for prayers for Church unity; for the Sign of the Cross; for prayers to the Holy Spirit; for the acts of faith, hope, love and contrition; for the Miserere; for a spiritual communion; for a monthly day of recollection; for prayers for the Holy Father; for various episcopal and parochial acts; for prayers for vocations. There follows a two-page helpful appendix of examples of scriptural prayers.

Pope Paul's Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina is reprinted in the final portion. A useful Index closes the work.

This collection replaces all other general concessions, and at times adjusts the Code of Canon Law. The Decree opening the volume and making these declarations is fittingly dated the close of the Holy Year of Faith, June 29. 1968.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
12 December 1968, page 11

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