Thursday, 22 May 2014

More on The Church Militant

Referring again to Karl Adam's book, one finds this lengthy but clear, further explanation of the Church Militant. I use this quotation to underline the necessity of gaining "merit". When the Church states that some are saved through the merits of the Catholic Church, we are reminded that we must gain merit in order for this to happen.

A strong Church Militant works on indulgences, reparative suffering, self-denial, and other means of building up the Kingdom of God on earth. Some go on pilgrimages, such as to Walsingham for indulgences. Many, if not most, of the serious members of the Church Militant say the daily rosary. Prayers for the sick or the dying provide indulgences. But, actions can also merit grace for those who seek the Truth.

One of the roles of the Church Militant is, simply, redemptive or reparative suffering. This type of suffering allows for the grace of God to flow into the lives of others. Novenas, as well as acts of penance, frequently are implemented by those in the Church Militant. Here is Adam again:

But the ministry of the saints to the faithful on earth is not limited to loving intercession. It is also a love of self-sacrifice and service, a love which is ready to share its own wealth with all the struggling members of the Body of Christ, to the widest extent that it can so share it. The saints during their mortal life amassed beyond the measure of their duty a store of wealth and of sacrificial values made precious by the Blood of Christ. The superabundance of their love and penance forms a rich deposit. United with the superabundance of the merits of Christ, and derived from those merits, this wealth of the saints is that "treasure of the Church" (thesaurus ecclesiae), that sacred family inheritance, which belongs to all the members of the Body of Christ, and which is at the service especially of its sick and feeble members. "If a member suffers, all the members suffer with it." 

When a member has not made sufficient reparation for his sins, when after the forgiveness of sin and the remission of its eternal punishment, there yet remains a debt of "temporal" punishment, which the just God in His wise ordinance attaches still to forgiven sin, then all the members of the Body help to bear this burden of punishment, and then the Church in virtue of her power of binding and loosing may supplement the poverty of one member out of the wealth of another.  

 And thus she grants "indulgences," that is to say, supplements the insufficient reparation of her weaker members by means of the vicarious superabundance of the merits of Christ and His saints. So that the indulgence not only attests the seriousness of sin and teaches that guilt must be expiated "to the last farthing," but is also an illustration of the blessed potency of the Communion of Saints and of the vicarious expiation which is interwoven with it. All the main ideas upon which the doctrine of indulgences is based—the necessity of expiation for sin, the co-operative expiation of the members of the Body of Christ, the Church's power so to bind and loose on earth that her action is valid in heaven—all these ideas are contained in holy Scripture.  
 So that although the historical form of the indulgence has undergone some change—from the vicarious expiatory suffering of the martyrs and confessors, and the penitential "redemptions" of the Middle Ages down to our modern indulgenced prayer—and may in the future undergo further change, and although the theology of indulgences has only been gradually elaborated, yet in its substance the doctrine is in line with the pure thought of the Scriptures. Here, as in no other practice of the Church, do the members of the Body of Christ co-operate in loving expiation. All the earnestness and joyfulness, humility and contrition, love and fidelity, which animate the Body are here especially combined and manifested. 

For that reason, as the Council of Trent says, "the use of indulgences is very salutary for the people of Christ" (Sess. 25 De indulg.), But, because indulgences are based upon truths which are not easy for the rude and uneducated, distortion and abuse are very possible, especially where the people are not well instructed in religion and where Church authority is not vigilant. There were many abuses during the period before the Council of Trent, and we are still suffering their evil consequences. But it is a proof of the permanent value of indulgences that abuses have not been able to kill them, but have only purged them with cleansing fire and aroused them to a new and deeper life. They have become in our day, more than ever, a valuable adjunct to pastoral work.  
Every instructed Catholic knows that an indulgence is not a remission of sin, but only of the temporal penalties attached to sin. He knows that it belongs therefore not to the center and core of the life of grace, but only to its outermost circumference. The granting of an indulgence is not a sacramental or priestly act, but an act of Church authority. Every indulgenced practice has meaning and value only in so far as it is at the same time a simple prayer in the Holy Ghost. A man who would want to use prayer, not for loving converse with God, but merely for the gaining of indulgences, would misuse it and would display a bad misunderstanding of its meaning and nature. 
 The supreme aim of all Christian piety, the one absolutely necessary thing, is to live a new life in God and to be delivered by the power of this life from the guilt of sin and from eternal punishment. No indulgence can exempt from this duty. Indeed the gaining of an indulgence presupposes this one necessary thing, for there can be no remission of temporal punishment where there is no remission of guilt and eternal punishment. So that indulgences may be said to operate at least indirectly towards this purification from sin and towards the establishment of the new life in God. The indulgence, therefore, of its nature is not instituted for the externalizing of the religious life, but for its deepening and enrichment. 

It is an emphatic summons to repentance, a strong impulse to vital incorporation in the Body of Christ, so as to obtain His blessing. And as an indulgence does not simply abolish the whole burden of temporal punishment, but remits it only so far as your works, exactly prescribed by the Church, unite with the merits of Christ and His saints, it may serve also to arouse the sluggish conscience and to make it sensitive, not only to the infinite seriousness of sin, but also to the unparalleled blessings contained in the fellowship of the members of Christ.

To be continued later...

1 comment:

  1. Hi, no criticism of the blogpost but as an author, please can you ensure there is at least one image and breaks in paragraphs. Sorry, but visually our blog needs to be easily readable and friendly on the eyes..


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