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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Soul Candy


We've had some candy.

We should have just given it away. But we had a piece or two, or three or four. We had a total of four treat or treaters. Treat or treating is slowly fading. The truth is no kid has ever been poisoned by Halloween candy, let alone Halloween candy given out by nuns.

The terrorists win again. Or maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses won.

So from my candy stupor, I will try to answer this question:

Reading this post sparked another question about Jubilee and the Holy Door I entered during the last Jubilee year (can't recall the specific year--not because of hard livin' but rather because I have 3 young children). Was it 2000?

Anyway, I was in a state of Grace, entered the Door, attended Mass, and then exited the same Holy Door (at the Shrine of St. Francis in San Francisco, CA).

But that was seven years ago, and well, I fall in and out of Grace.

Have I lost my Jubilee Indulgence because of this? Or, as long as I die in having made a good confession (and I don't manage to mess that up before I kick the bucket) am I still worthy of this promise?

Thank you for reading this.

You seem to be all confused about indulgences. Did you dress as Martin Luther for Halloween?

Let's understand what an indulgence is all about.

Indulgences 101
(Having nothing to do with eating too much candy or any other luxury)

Jesus gave His church the power to bind and loose sins. "Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them." Jesus had that odd grammar. Anyhow, it sounds great but it's really not that simple for the priest who has to bind and loose. Not only does he have to forgive you on Jesus' behalf, he has to punish you for Jesus. Sins must have punishment attached. If you don't get that stain of sin off your soul here on earth while you're alive, you'll have to do it after you die, in Purgatory.

The Church has to decide, on behalf of Jesus, how to help you out.

An indulgence removes part of the punishment you have coming. I think of it as Purgatory parole, but some people take exception to that analogy. I think it's perfect. A parolee is paroled because he has fully reconciled his crime and his place in society.

A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment. woo hooo! Your sentence has been commuted! High fives to you and Scooter Libby.

Here's where the excess candy is going to slow me down...the Jubilee Door. It's history goes back to at least the 14th century and has it's roots in early Jewish customs.
The door is walled up and then the Pope knocks it down with three taps of his silver hammer. (The wall has already been loosened up pretty well so that the taps will knock a hole in it. It's all symbolic, you know.) Perhaps the same silver hammer they hit him in the head with when he dies. I'm not sure about that. I think they stopped hitting him in the head after he dies. I read all about that and forgot everything I read. What was I talking about?

The idea is to have a sort of party year every 25 years (give or take depending on what's going on, for example, there was on in 1925, but there was also one in 1933 to commemorate the death of Jesus), go through the party door, be jubilant, come out full of grace. You can't, as you mentioned, just stroll in. You have to prepare with confession and basilica visits and Mass and a charitable work or two.

And you used to have to actually go to Rome or the Holy Land and walk through the door. The Jubilee year of which you speak was a special year because you could practically have a Jubilee drive through window in your backyard to participate. The Pope bent over backwards to get you to walk through the door. He would have opened a Starbucks outside if he thought it would help. It was a big deal. I remember we had Jubilee Door wall hangings for the doorways in your house so you could get the spirit. (Not the Spirit. For that, you'd have to go to confession, attend Mass, go to the basilica, do charitable works).

Good for you to have taken him up on his offer.

Too bad it didn't last.

We didn't expect it to last, really.

I went through the door myself and still managed to eat a bucket of Halloween candy while thinking of the starving children in Africa.

Here's the thing about your plenary indulgence: it was for all the sins you committed before you went through the Jubilee Door. So it isn't "cancelled out".

But it isn't retroactive, either. You and I have racked up some new sins for which we will have to answer. That's why we have the Sacraments, especially confession. Otherwise we could just have a giant Jubilee door and never go to Mass again. The Sacraments help give us grace to not need so many indulgences.

The Door will open again in a few years. Meanwhile, there are other things you can do to get a new plenary indulgence. Here's a giant list: A Giant Bag of Bite Size Snickers Bars from Holy Mother Church better known as Ways to Gain a Plenary Indulgence.


ann nonymous said...


Are you certain that candy you've been into wasn't spiked? I think I was following along pretty well until the very last sentence. Huh? Or, maybe it's me! Maybe there was something in my candy.

Would you indulge me by clarifying your last sentence?

I'll try reading it again in the morning.

Good night and God bless you!

Sister Mary Martha said...

It only makes sense when I remember to make it a link. I must be crashing from the chocolate.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for you, Sister: Can I (or anyone else) offer an indulgence that they gained for someone ELSE's benefit? Can I offer it for a friend or relative near death? Or for a soul in Purgatory? I believe one can offer their Indulgences to Jesus or Mary for them to use as they wish (such as for reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart) rather than one's own benefit but can WE also decide or at least ASK that our Indulgences be applied to someone else?

Anonymous said...

the baby in that picture is adorable. I wish you had another photo taken just after all the candy was taken away, just for balance.

Thanks for explaining indulgences (again). They always give me a headache. (Explaining them, anyway. If I try to obtain one I sneak around when nobody is looking so I don't have to explain what I'm doing. I hope this doesn't negate the indulgence.)

ann nonymous said...

Oh, Sister!

Thanks for your speedy reply and edit. I couldn't sleep for trying to figure it out. Now I get it.

Great post. Thanks for the link, too!

I'm going back to bed. It's 2:30am here. Yikes

Anonymous said...

" no kid has ever been poisoned by Halloween candy, "

Are you sure? Were all those scare stories about poison, pins & needles in the apples, etc., a hoax? Or are you saying that luckily no child has yet died?

This Halloween, I saw a LOT more adults in costume than children. Halloween is become a MAJOR holiday. I even saw a church offering a (horror) silent film on that night.

La Bibliotecaria Laura said...

Thank you for you answer, and the great dose of humor.

All my best,
La Bibliotecaria Laura

Anonymous said...


Sure poison candy is a concern.A bigger concern is that Halloween is a festival involving witches ans demons. Thing that the Bible doe not approve

La Bibliotecaria Laura said...

Halloween is not celebrating witches and demons (at least that's not how we do it here). It is All Hallows Eve-it is the eve of All Saints Day. I think that people focus on death because dying is how we become saints. You can't be a saint unless you die.

And that is scary--to everyone. So we dress up in death, and focus on spooky things (the changing of season seasons and the shortening of the day helps, too).

There is nothing demonic about death. In fact, Satan wants you to never think about death. But it is a fact that most folks who because saints, thought about their end a lot. Monks dig graves right outisde their from doors to remind themselves of this end. Satan would be happy if you never considered death--because then you would never really repent anything.

So we dress up and laugh, yes laugh at death--because it is terrifying. We laugh at death and say, "Christ has defeated you, Evil Scary Stuff, so we need not fear you. We cannot escape death, but we don't have to be afraid of it. Would you like a snikers?"

All Hallows Eve allows us to face our fear of the dark--and find out where it is sweet.

~La Bibliotecaria Laura