In our previous editorial, Hidden Agenda – Part One , I talked about certain individuals, including the clergy, who have the hidden agenda of trying to ‘protestantize’ the Catholic Church. Some of our clergy have taken down our statues, removed our crucifixes, and eliminated the rosary and other forms of Marian Devotion. However, we are still the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church established by Jesus Christ.

This hidden agenda to ‘protestantize’ the Catholic Church is a very misguided attempt to bring more Protestants into the Church. Unfortunately, this is having the reverse effect. I pointed out that the things we treasure are not really obstacles to ecumenism. The example I gave was the rosary - a Catholic custom that I did not understand nor appreciate as a Protestant. Now that I more fully understand it, I can actually use the rosary as a bridge to my separated brethren; it just needs to be properly explained.

If you ask a Protestant what they think of when you mention the word Catholic, they probably have an image of the crucifix or the rosary. In this article, I would like to talk about the crucifix.

Because the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states, “There is also to be a cross, clearly visible to the congregation, either on the altar or near it” (n.270), you would think that those with a hidden agenda would not be able to remove the crucifixes from the church. Not so! Catholics have always used the words ‘cross’ and ‘crucifix’ interchangeably and there is no indication that the GIRM is referring to anything other than a crucifix. However, there are those that replace the crucifix with a cross (just like in a Protestant church) and they are still technically following the GIRM. Another game they play is to remove the crucifix altogether and bring in a very small one with the procession during Mass. This very small crucifix is then placed on the altar or on a stand near the altar hardly distinguishable after the first two or three pews. Of course, it is again removed during the procession after Mass. Another, almost perverted practice, is to use a ‘modern’ crucifix where the Christ figure is so distorted that it is not even recognizable as a human form.

Historically, the Catholic Church did not always have the crucifix that we are accustomed to seeing. Following Christ’s death and resurrection, the crosses in the Catholic Churches represented a resurrected Christ. The Church gradually began to place emphasis on the Passion and death of Jesus because the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Redeemer. Crucifixes began to portray a suffering Christ. In some Catholic Churches today you will see some of the crosses with the resurrected or risen Christ. There are those that will argue we can use this to meditate on His glorious Resurrection; however, there is much we can learn from meditating on His terrible suffering for our sins. In this world today where few clergy even mention the word ‘sin’ for fear of alienating parishioners, the crucifix is a stark reminder that Christ died for our sins. This is not just for the sins that were committed prior to His awful Crucifixion, but for the sins that we are committing today and will commit in the future.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen commented that Christ’s blood was the ink and His skin the parchment on which was written the awful litany of sin. He further explained that:

  • The crown of thorns reminds us of all our evil thoughts and desires – the sins of pride, lust, envy, hatred, anger, prejudice, and betrayal.
  • The open wounds from the scourging reminds us of the numerous sins of the flesh – impurity, drunkenness, drug abuse, gluttony, and sloth.
  • The nails in the hands and the feet reminds us of the times when those bodily members have led us to sins of theft, murder, violence, reckless driving, and vandalism.
  • The stab wound that pierced His heart reminds us of the many times that we have turned our hearts away from Him.

The crucifix is a Catholic ‘treasure’ that we often take for granted until we lose it. It is available for us to meditate upon and realize how our sins are causing pain to Jesus. We can also come to the crucifix with sorrow in our heart due to some personal tragedy and realize that our tragedy is nothing compared to the suffering that Christ endured on the cross. Our sorrow then subsides.

We also have the opportunity to gain an indulgence by devoutly reciting the following prayer before an image of the crucified Jesus Christ.

Look down upon me good and gentle Jesus, while before your face I humble kneel and with burning soul pray and beseech You to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, with true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, while I contemplate with deep love and tender pity Your five wounds, pondering over them within me and calling to mind the words Your prophet David said of you, my good Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and My feet, they have numbered all My bones.” (Ps. 21, 17-18)

Since our clergy mention indulgences about as often as they mention sin, this may be a time to review the Church’s teaching on this topic. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sins that have already been forgiven in the sacrament of Penance. This temporal punishment exists because every sin, even venial: “entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory” (n.1472). Indulgences, obtained through the Church, can provide plenary or partial remission (removes all or only some of the temporal punishment). The conditions for obtaining plenary indulgence are: the person must be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin; must perform the indulgence work as perfectly as possible; and, within eight days before or after doing so; must receive the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion; and, offer prayers for the Holy Father (nominally one Our Father and one Hail Mary).

A plenary indulgence can normally be gained only once a day and if each condition is not fulfilled perfectly, the indulgence gained will only be partial. The previous practice of attaching a certain number of years to a partial indulgence is no longer in effect. There are about 70 indulgence works. Some of these works are acts of charity for those in need, but most are prayers and devotions. The prayer before an image of Jesus Christ Crucified is one of these prayers.

The indulgence can be applied to the person performing the works or to a soul in Purgatory.

Of course, if you enter a church and the crucifix has been replaced buy a cross with the risen Christ or has been removed you will not have the opportunity to receive this indulgence, therefore be prepared -- bring your own crucifix.

Jim Fritz


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