An indulgence for THAT?

Probably you’ve heard, you can get an indulgence if you follow the events of World Youth Day via Twitter.

Of course the secular media is reporting that you can get an indulgence “through” Twitter, as if it’s something you can download.  And wouldn’t that be an interesting topic for another day?  I can’t be the only one who reifies technological processes in my imagination, picturing digitized data as twinkling clouds that swirl through the air and down through the vent in the side of my laptop.  Zwoosh!  Downloaded.   I may be a technological moron who engages in magical thinking when it comes to computer stuff, but the typical secular person is just as childish when it comes to understanding and imagining spiritual things.  I suppose that, when they hear “grace” or “salvation,” they think of moonbeams or pixie dust.

Anyway, about those Twitter indulgences.  The usual crowd of indignant neckbeards are grousing at the loosey goosey way Francis is handing ’em out for cheap  — forgetting, apparently, that there’s a long tradition of earning indulgences through doing things that by no means guarantee a spiritual experience.  The actual action you perform — going to Mass at a certain church, finishing a certain novena — isn’t necessarily a difficult thing.  In part, it’s kind of a hook, something to grab your attention and give you some structure, so that you get the spiritual benefit of the proscribed action, and you’re also motivated to do the other things necessary to gain an indulgence.  Here’s a good overview.

It occurs to me that Francis has actually done something brilliant here — something even the Frankophobes can’t argue with:   he’s making the media help him catechize the world.


I mean, imagine if he sent out a tweet saying, “Your word of the day is ‘indulgence,'” and then went on to define it.  No one would care.  Instead, he’s made it into a story, and now people are actually having to look it up and see what the deal is.  Haters gonna hate, but plenty more people will learn something they never would have otherwise.

Love that man.

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  • I bet I can find a way to argue with it… just gimme enough time and beer.

    • simchafisher

      Aw, you’re not a neckbeard.
      Honestly, I kind of hate World Youth Day AND Twitter, and I never felt comfortable with indulgences. But a good idea is a good idea!

      • Tony G. Pizza

        What is to hate about World Youth Day? Unless of course, you aren’t a yoot anymore and need to find decent food or a bathroom amid 4 million people.

  • Spectrall

    I may be a technological moron who engages in magical thinking when it
    comes to computer stuff, but the typical secular person is just as
    childish when it comes to understanding and imagining spiritual things.

    This strikes me as… I don’t know exactly, but odd. I’d guess that you don’t actually engage in magical thinking with regard to computers, but instead say, “I don’t know how the guts of my computer work, but they obviously do, as I can see the results”. I suppose if you actually thought computers worked by magic, that’d be childish, but I’m sure you don’t.

    I also have no idea what’s childish about a secular person saying, “I think spiritual things are nonsense”. They may or may not be correct, but it’s not an inherently childish position.

    • simchafisher

      Well, first of all, “magical thinking” doesn’t mean “they work by magic.” It means trying to make something happen by thinking about it. So I misused that phrase, but so did you, in this comment! What I mean is that I have foolish, unscientific thoughts about how computers operate. They are childish, to the extent that I let myself believe in them.

      But what’s not childish is when I know I’m wrong, and will admit it. A secular person who thinks spiritual things are nonsense is not necessarily childish as long as he actually knows what he’s talking about. There areplenty of atheists who are well informed about various religions, and who simply are not convinced, and there’s nthing childish about that. What is childish, and what I see more often than not, is secular people feeling smart and sophisticated because they don’t believe in a huge, invisible Santa Claus in the sky.

      The Pharyngula guy, for instance, sneers about how dumb Catholics are for believing they can buy a “get out of purgatory for free” ticket; but a four second Google search would show him that Catholics believe in no such thing.

  • kiwords

    I don’t know why this keeps surprising me, but I’m astonished at the vitriol people are responding to this with. Not here, but the rest of the world (AKA Facebook). I’m a convert, and to say I don’t get indulgences is an understatement. But why does it make people so angry”? Why does it make non-believers so angry? I wouldn’t be angry if followers of the Great Spaghetti Monster offered heavenly credits for something, any more than I was angry at my four-year-old for sadly telling me this morning that she’d taken all my superpowers. If…you don’t believe it, why does it make you so angry? *sigh*
    I just don’t understand.
    Also, I don’t have a Twitter account, so I’m not eligible.

  • richard

    Good point there. Thanks for the link. I have gotten lax with regard to gaining indulgences of any kind.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Doesn’t receiving an indulgence require confession at some time during the activity or within a certain amount of time before or following it? It’s been a while since I read up on the specifics, but I think that’s part of it.

  • Newp Ort

    Burn away your sins in half the time using this one weird old tip!

  • Sheila Warner

    An indulgence always involves a detachment from sin, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions, as well as receiving forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s not easy to get an indulgence at all.

    • chloe_of_hil

      A plenary indulgence (complete remission of punishment due to sin) requires those things. A partial indulgence (taking away part of the punishment) only requires that one be in the state of grace (which might require confession, but not necessarily). So, no, a plenary indulgence is not easy, but partial indulgences are more freely given.

      A good practice is to state, during morning prayer, one’s intention to gain as many indulgences as possible that day. As stated in Simcha’s link, even doing one’s daily work with a mind turned to God has a partial indulgence attached.