Monday, October 15, 2012

Special Plenary Indulgence for the Year of Faith

The Holy Father has granted the Catholic faithful access to a special plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith (from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013) in his decree, URBIS ET ORBIS. Before giving you the instructions for obtaining this special plenary indulgence as per the said decree, here's a quick summary of the meaning of indulgence as explained by W.H. Kent of EWTN and simplified by me.


An indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due to sin that has been forgiven. Its remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the guilt of sin is removed, and with it the eternal punishment due to mortal sin; but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of dicharging this debt during his life on earth.

A plenary (vs. partial) indulgence offers the remission of the entire temporal punishment due to sin so that no further expiation is required in Purgatory. Note that it presupposes the effects obtained by confession, contrition, and sacramental satisfaction (i.e. the temporal punishment of the sin is discharged by the plenary indulgence only if the sin has been confessed and absolved.) This indulgence is a plenary indulgence.

Some indulgences are granted in behalf of the living only, while others may be applied in behalf of the souls departed. Since the Church has no jurisdiction over the dead, she makes the indulgence available for them by way of suffrage, i.e. she petitions God to accept these works of satisfaction and in consideration thereof to shorten the sufferings of the souls in Purgatory. This indulgence is "applicable in suffrage to the souls of the deceased".


Throughout the Year of Faith — established from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013 — all individual members of the faithful who are truly repentant, have duly received the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion and who pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff may receive the Plenary Indulgence in remission of the temporal punishment for their sins, imparted through God’s mercy and applicable in suffrage to the souls of the deceased:

a. every time they take part in at least three homilies preached or attend at least three lectures on the Proceedings of the Second Vatican Council and on the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in any church or suitable place;

b. every time they go as pilgrims to a Papal Basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church, a sacred place designated by the local Ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, the Minor Basilicas and Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the Holy Apostles or to the Holy Patrons), and take part there in some sacred function or at least pause in recollection for a suitable length of time with devout meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary or, depending on the case, to the Holy Apostles or Patrons;

c. every time when, on the days determined by the local Ordinary for the Year of Faith (such as, for example, the Solemnities of the Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Feasts of the Holy Apostles and Patrons and of the Chair of St Peter), in any sacred place, they take part in a solemn Eucharistic celebration or in the Liturgy of the Hours, adding the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form;

d. a day freely chosen during the Year of Faith on which to make a devout visit to the baptistery or other place in which they received the sacrament of Baptism, if they renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

Diocesan or Eparchial Bishops and those who are legally equivalent to them, on the most appropriate day in this period, on the occasion of the principal celebration (for example, 24 November 2013, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, with which the Year of Faith will end) will be able to impart the Papal Blessing with the Plenary Indulgence from which all the faithful who receive this Blessing devoutly may benefit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jason's Infancy Story

This is a video taken by Jason's uncle on a visit from HK 16 years ago. We finally received the video 16 years later! How time flew! We were all so young 16 years ago! And so many things had happened between now and then.

You don't see me until the very end of the video. But that person you see was not me! I mean spiritually I've become a very, very different person. Praise the Lord! The video means a lot to me because it allows me to catch a glimpse of the "me" who was on the threshold of the most important breakthrough of my life - a breakthrough comparable to the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, a breakthrough made complete by a spiritual conversion that lasted more than a decade, a breakthrough that defined my life which would have been meaningless and futile otherwise.

And I look at the other people in the video: Josephine, Michelle, Jason, my mother-in-law; and think of our relationships then and our relationships now. And I thank God for giving us marriage and family. Yes, there's no better way to learn and to grow spiritually than having a family; there's no better way to force yourself to emerge from the false sense of "security" and "freedom" of being single than to accept and enter into the communion of conjugal and fraternal relationships.

How many 16 years do we have in our lives? How many 16 years do I have ahead of me? All I can say is make good use of the present and walk in faith and righteousness while we can before our time runs out....

For Josephine and me, there's the added pleasure of seeing Michelle and Jason then and now, knowing and recalling all the little things and events that had transpired in between, including the various moments of happiness and sorrows, anxieties and thankfulness; the sweetness and bitterness of parenting; the fulfilled hopes and broken dreams....

Before you watch the video, here's a picture of the family 16 years later:

Here's the video from 16 years ago on YouTube: (Please email me for link).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where Did Jesus' DNA Come From?

An inquirer from my Bible Study Program sent me a very interesting question:

For humans, our DNA comes half from our fathers and half from our mothers. I am getting confused here. My question is where is Jesus’ DNA comes from? Did it come from The Holy Spirit? Did Virgin Mary’s DNA form part of Jesus’?

The mystery of the Incarnation (i.e. Word became flesh) means that it is "in [Mary] that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled" (JPII, Redemptoris Mater 9). Therefore, Mary is not only "full of grace" (kecharitomene)(Lk 1:28); "because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all other creatures both in heaven and on earth" (Vatican II:Lumen Gentium 53).

There were many different ways that God could have used to save us. In His infinite wisdom, God had chosen to send His Son to save us through the Pascal Mystery, i.e. through his suffering, death, and resurrection. The "critical path", if I may use this popular business term, for accomplishing God's economy of salvation was for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14). Mary was given the singular and sublime grace of being the "woman" from whom Christ took on his body and his human nature.

St. Paul highlighted the significance of the role that Mary played in giving Jesus a body when he said, "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons...crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal. 4:4-6). "Born of woman" is significant in that it underscores the Incarnation - Christ taking on a human body and the human nature from Mary for the redemption of men and humanity. It was a true human body – “born of woman” as St. Paul said – for Jesus is true God and true man (CCC 464).

Having established the singular and significant role that Mary played in the economy of salvation - giving birth to Christ, giving him a true human body; now the answer to the inquirer's question - where did Jesus' DNA come from? - has become self-evident.

From the above scriptural analysis, it's clear that Jesus' body came from Mary - God made a point of seeing that it did: she was "overshadowed" by the power of the Holy Spirit; she conceived; and baby Jesus grew in her sacred womb. She is sublime and surpasses all other creatures on earth and in heaven because of this special vocation - giving birth to Jesus, giving him a human body and the human nature. It follows that Jesus' body had his mother's DNA since it came from her. It was God's will that Jesus had Mary's DNA!

According to the inquirer, biologically a child's DNA must come from a father and a mother. How is it possible that Jesus received his DNA from just Mary alone? The question is similar to Mary's own question to Gabriel: "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Luke 1:34). As a result, its answer also is similar to the answer that Gabriel gave Mary: "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...for nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:35-37).

Does this mean half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit? As a divine Person, the Holy Spirit is neither man nor woman. He doesn't have a human body. While it was the power of the Holy Spirit that caused Mary to conceive, it's wrong to say that half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit. With humility, we have to admit that we don't know exactly how God did it, but we do know that "nothing will be impossible for God".

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Apart From the Holy Tradition the Bible Is Not the Word of God

Unlike our Protestant counterparts who promote "Bible alone" (sola Scriptura), the Catholic Church teaches that the Bible cannot be properly understood without the teaching and guidance of the Church Magisterium, which does so following the Holy Tradition. "[S]acred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others" (CCC 95).

What on earth is the Holy Tradition?

According to Vatican II, Tradition (from the Latin ‘traditio’ – ‘what is handed down’) came from the preaching of the Gospel done by the apostles and other men associated with them, “who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum, n.7).

In the words of Avery Dulles, S.J., a contemporary and well-respected mainstream Catholic theologian, “tradition involves a communal ‘sense of the faith’
aroused and continuously sustained in the Church by the Holy Spirit”; it is “grasped through familiarity or participation as a result of dwelling within the Church, taking part in its worship, and behaving according to its standards.” Tradition is “an organ of apprehension and transmission…the mode in which the Church perpetuates its faith and its very existence” (A. Dulles, The Craft of Theology, pp. 94,103).

Dulles contends that if "taken apart from the tradition in which it comes to the faithful, the Bible would no longer deserve to be called the word of God."

Strong words, and yet so true!

There are many different ways to understand the teaching and events of the New Testament books. If you follow the Catholic Tradition, you will see God as
Trinitarian, for example. Similarly, you will find strong scriptural support for the Marian doctrines of Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity. This is not the case at all if the Bible is read in the light of, say, the Jehovah Witnesses tradition, which disputes the divinity of Christ. Also, according to the traditions of many Protestant churches the Bible is understood to teach that Mary was not free from sins and had other children. Tradition is like eyeglasses: what you see is determined by what you wear!

But how can the Catholic Church claim that her tradition is the only tradition that has the authority and ability to properly interpret the Scripture if hers is only one of many? Why are the Catholic “eyeglasses” necessarily better than all other
"eyeglasses"? How can Catholic theologians such as Dulles be so “puffed up” as to claim that the Bible is no longer the word of God if taken apart from the Catholic tradition?

For one thing, of all the Christian denominational traditions, the Catholic tradition is one of a handful that was handed down to us directly from the apostles,
who had first-hand experience in encountering the historical Christ.

More important, however, is the fact that of the few Christian traditions that can be traced back to the apostles (e.g. Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.), the Catholic tradition is the only one that came down directly from Peter and Paul, the two glorious apostles of Christ, through two thousand years of continuous succession. The other traditions, while apostolic and originally part of the integral whole of the Petrine Church, had at one point or another branched out to progress and develop on their own, picking up characteristics and faith elements that are sometimes foreign to the Catholic faith.

According to Irenaeus, a second century and much quoted saint, orthodox Christian faith is that which is believed in those apostolic churches founded by the apostles. But among all the apostolic churches, he offered to produce only the line of succession "of the very great, the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul." It was this Church, concluded St. Irenaeus, that "by reason of its more excellent origin every church must agree", and it was in this Church that "the tradition which comes from the apostles has been preserved" (Against the Heresies 3.3.2)!!

This is no exaggeration, but when I, a rebel against the Catholic Church for years, first found out about this, I was absolutely dumbfounded. In fact, I was in fear: the way Peter feared Jesus when he suddenly sensed the holiness and divinity of the person standing in front of him, which were in stark contrast to his own sinful state and lowliness (cf. Luke 5:8).

In concluding this post, let me leave you with this closing thought: The Catholic tradition provides a certain approach, a sense of the faith, if you will, that the Catholics adopt in reading and understanding the inspired Scripture. It was based on this reading and understanding of the Christian faith as preached and proclaimed by the apostles, that the early Church determined the Canon of the Scripture, i.e. the official list of books deemed as inspired by God. Wouldn’t any attempt to read and understand the Scripture apart from this original reading and understanding render the Scripture unworthy of being considered the word of God? Remember, the message or teaching is not the book as such, i.e. the Bible, which is but a stack of papers; it is the reading, the understanding, and the teaching derived therefrom.

(Article originally made public in February 2008 as an email.)