Who uses it: Catholics
What it means: A remission of the time you would have to spend atoning for the sin that has already been forgiven you.
How you can use it: When seeking to escape punishment.
Plenary indulgence is one of the more complicated principles of Catholicism. It's basically a "get out of Purgatory free" card, for sins you have sincerely repented and already received forgiveness for. Without the plenary indulgence, you'd be forgiven but you'd still have to serve the time in Purgatory. It's not the same as absolution, which you have to ask for through confession, but it follows absolution, and is one of the graces Catholics receive from the sacrament of reconciliation.
Purgatory -- the waiting period or place before Heaven -- is another Catholic concept I have trouble with. There's an argument to be made that purgatory is right here on earth (actually, it's a very nice ski resort in Colorado, but that's not the point).
Nevertheless, I hedge my bets, which is why St. Joseph's said a Mass for Mom last week, and one for my friend Sue's father on Tuesday. Just in case.
I'm off to Montreal today to celebrate the fabulous Claire Bea's birthday. Happy birthday, too, to Maeve C. and Pam L., and happy spring to everyone.
What I Read This Week
Susanne Antonetta, A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World. Antonetta, a poet, explores the idea that the human race needs "disorders" such as autism, schizophrenia and manic depression, from an evolutionary point of view. It's a compelling argument, and she makes it beautifully.
Sue Walker, The Reunion. A psychological novel about the repercussions of something terrible that happened on an adolescent psychatric ward in the late 1970s. It's interesting to compare this novel to others about groups of young people who carry a secret for decades: Donna Tartt's Secret History, Kevin Wignall's Among the Dead, Julia Wallis Martin's A Likeness in Stone. The Reunion is an impressive first novel, but I found the central character less interesting than all of the people around her.
John D. Gartner, The Hypomanic Edge: The Link between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America. Proving Susanne Antonetta's point for her, psychologist Gartner gives us case studies of major American figures who, he asserts, had bipolar II disorder -- not full-blown mania, but hypomania. Gartner starts with Christopher Columbus, and dissects the behavior of Roger Williams, Andrew Carnegie, David O. Selznick, and geneticist Craig Venter, among others. It's fascinating reading, though I'm a little uncomfortable with pathologizing things I think of as character traits.