From a reader…


I don’t think I’ve seen the Pope’s January prayer intention listed on your blog.

He asked us to pray for victims of religious discrimination and persecution.

I saw this and thought I had misread it, then thought that I might have finally been driven insane by the pronouncements issuing from the Vatican like evil smelling smoke from Mt. Doom in Mordor. But no, this is his actual prayer intention.

I sent it to my TLM friends and they were speechless.

As always, thanks for everything you do for us, and may God bless you abundantly in the new year.

That’s rich irony, given that Francis is presently engaged in religious discrimination and persecution against people who desire traditional sacred liturgical worship.

Mind you, it is a good thing to pray for people who are being unjustly persecuted.   I believe we can all accept that.

It is, from time to time, hard to get one’s head around some of the intentions recently.  I make a kind of general good will effort to pray for whatever is good, true and beautiful in whatever intention I am considering and then move forward without fretting about it.

That said, I was recently in a conversation with a very smart and well-known Catholic commentator and writer who offered his… unease with the monthly intentions designated by Francis. I concurred and, being an Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist, pointed him to the classic intentions identified by writers such as Prümmer.

This is not a minor deal, by the way. We Catholics like to gain the indulgences which the Church has the authority to grant and we ought to be aware of opportunities and earnestly to perform the prescribed works with prayerful and grateful attitude. The works for gaining indulgences will generally include praying for the “Pope’s intentions”. That means to pray not for the Pope, though it is good go pray for Popes, but to pray for the intentions designated by Popes.

What, therefore, to do if we want to gain indulgences if a couple of difficult conditions apply? Let’s call them Obstacle One (physical impediment) and Obstacle Two (moral impediment).

In the first, case, what are we supposed to do in the case that there is no Pope? Usually, modern Popes will release a year’s worth of monthly intentions at a time, so unless there is a really long Sede Vacante period due to a dead-locked conclave or the inability of a conclave to take place, we are good to go for a while.

Obstacle Two is trickier because it involves certain measure of subjectivity. What if, just to create a mind exercise, the intentions that are designated are really challenging to embrace with any sincerity? This could be because they are not understood or it could be because they are, well, dumb or weird.

In either case, how to obtain the indulgence?

Back to Prümmer.

Prümmer says that the intentions of the Holy Father for which we are to pray have a tradition of five basic categories which were fixed:

1. Exaltatio S. Matris Ecclesiae (Triumph/elevation/stablity/growth of Holy Mother Church)
2. Extirpatio haeresum (Extirpation/rooting out of heresies),
3. Propagatio fidei (Propagation/expansion/spreading of the Faith)
4. Conversio peccatorum (Conversion of sinners),
5. Pax inter principes christianos (Peace between Christian rulers).

These five categories were also listed in the older, 1917 Code of Canon Law, which is now superseded by the 1983 Code.

They remain good intentions, all. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether or not the more recent intentions in any way resemble the classic intentions.

Also, for the sake of those who are legitimately impeded from performing some prescribed work (either imposed during sacramental confession or imposed in the concession of an indulgence), either a physical impediment or a moral impediment, confessors (priests who have faculties to receive sacramental confessions) are able to commute – change to something else – both the work prescribed and the conditions required except for, in the case of plenary indulgences in particular, the need for detachment from even venial sin.

Authors are divided somewhat on the question of whether any confessor can commute a work for any person outside of the confessional.  So, it is best to deal with this with one’s own regular confessor in the confessional.


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