Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 26

detail of an engraving of Saint Mariana de Jesus of Quito; 1732 by Francisco Sylverio de Sotomayor; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Relief of the Holy Souls – Indulgences – Blessed Mary of Quito and the Heaps of Gold

Let us pass to those indulgences applicable to the dead. Here Divine Mercy reveals itself with a sort of prodigality. We know that an indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, granted by the power of the Keys, outside of the Sacrament of Penance.

In virtue of the power of the Keys, which she has received from Jesus Christ, the Church may free the faithful from every obstacle to their entrance into glory. She exercises this power in the Sacrament of Penance, where she absolves them from their sins; she exercises it also outside of the Sacrament, in remitting the debt of temporal punishment which remains after the absolution; in this second instance it is the indulgence. The remission of temporal punishment by indulgences is granted to the faithful in this life only; but the Church may authorize her children whilst still living to transfer to their departed friends the remission accorded to themselves; this is the indulgence applicable to the souls in Purgatory. To apply an indulgence to the dead is to offer it to God in the name of His Holy Church, that He may deign to employ it for the benefit of the suffering souls. The satisfactions thus offered to the Divine Justice in the name of Jesus Christ are always accepted, and God applies it either to some soul in particular or to certain souls which He Himself wishes to benefit, or to all in general. Indulgences are either plenary or partial. A plenary indulgence is, to such as gain it, a remission of all the temporal punishment which it deserves in the sight of God. Suppose that, in order to acquit ourselves of this debt, we should be obliged to perform a hundred years of canonical penance upon earth, or suffer for a still longer time in Purgatory, by the virtue of a plenary indulgence properly gained all this punishment is remitted, and the soul no longer retains in the sight of God any shadow of sin, which prevents it from seeing His Divine face.

The partial indulgence consists in the remission of a certain number of days or years. These days and years in no way represent days and years of suffering in Purgatory; it must be understood of days and years of public canonical penance, consisting principally in fasts, and such as were formerly imposed upon sinners, according to the ancient discipline of the Church. Thus, an indulgence of forty days or seven years is a remission such as was merited before God by forty days or seven years of canonical penance. What proportion exists between those days of penance and the duration of the sufferings of Purgatory? This is a secret which it has not pleased God to reveal to us.

Indulgences are, in the Church, a true spiritual treasure laid open to all the faithful; all are permitted to draw therefrom, to pay their own debts and those of others. It was under this figure that God was one day pleased to show them to Blessed Mary of Quito. One day, rapt in ecstasy, she saw in the midst of a large space an immense table covered with heaps of silver, gold, rubies, pearls, and diamonds, and at the same time she heard a voice saying, “These riches are public property; each one may approach and take as much as he pleases.” God made known to her that this was a symbol of indulgences. (Rossignoli, Merv., 29). We may say with the pious author of the Merveilles how culpable we are if in such abundance we remain poor and destitute ourselves and neglect to assist others. Alas! the souls in Purgatory are in such extreme necessity, they supplicate us with tears in the midst of their torments; we have the means of paying their debts by indulgences, and we make no endeavor to do so.

Does access to this treasury demand painful efforts on our parts, such as fastings, journeys, and privations insupportable to nature? “Even though such were the case,” says with reason the eloquent Father Segneri, “we should submit to them” Do we not see how men for love of gold, in order to preserve a work of art, to save a part of their fortune or a precious fabric, expose themselves to the flames of a fire? Ought we not then to do at least as much to save from expiatory flames those souls ransomed by the Blood of Jesus Christ? But Divine goodness asks nothing so painful: it requires only such works as are ordinary and easy – a Rosary, a Communion, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, an alms or the teaching of the elements of the Catechism to abandoned children. And we neglect to acquire the most precious treasures by such easy means, and have no desire to apply them to our poor relatives languishing in the flames of Purgatory.

MLA Citation