Pope Francis grants plenary indulgence to Catholics marking Guadalupe feast at home

Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence to Catholics celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at home this Saturday. 

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes announced the pope’s decision following a Dec. 6 Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, reported ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“The situation of the pandemic forced us, for the sake of everyone’s life, to keep the Guadalupe complex closed from Dec. 10 to Dec. 13, and therefore the celebrations of Our Mother, instead of coming here to her house, she wants to go to your house,” he said.

The Primate of Mexico offered further details in a letter dated Dec. 7.

He explained that in order to receive the indulgence — which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” — Catholics must fulfill certain conditions.

First, they must prepare a home altar or other place of prayer in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Second, they must view a livestreamed or televised Mass from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on Dec. 12 “with devotion and with exclusive attention to the Eucharist.”

Third, they must meet the three usual conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence — sacramental confession, the reception of Holy Communion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions — once it is possible to do so.

Plenary indulgences remit all temporal punishment due to sin and must be accompanied by full detachment from sin. 

The cardinal emphasized that the indulgence was available to Catholics the world over.

“Aware of the fact that the devotion to the Virgen Morena goes beyond our borders, the Holy Father thought it appropriate to offer this indulgence to all the Catholic faithful of the world to join in our celebration by adhering to the requirements of the indulgence,” he wrote.

According to Vatican News, the cardinal’s letter was accompanied by a formal proclamation by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the dicastery of the Roman Curia that oversees indulgences.

Up 15 million pilgrims normally visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the first two weeks of December. But Church authorities decided to cancel this year’s pilgrimage because of the pandemic.

More than 1.2 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Mexico and 111,655 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pope Francis is expected to mark the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 by celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The feast day commemorates the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, in 1531. The apparition and its miraculous Marian image led to mass conversions of native American communities to Catholicism.

Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe has continued for native communities, Mexicans, and across the Americas and the world.

Concluding his letter, Aguiar said: “Let us allow Our Lady to visit us in our homes this year. Let us open our doors to her and lift up our hearts so that she may bless us and cover us with her mantle.” 

“May Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother, St. Mary of Guadalupe, continue to accompany us and bless us on this painful journey for all the people of God who wander in our archdiocese and throughout the world.”

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!