Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 24, 2016 and has been revised.
Today, I was listening to the 2/11/16 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show on The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM in Buffalo, N.Y.) featuring Catholic priest, Rick Poblocki, taking questions from callers. Rick began the show by humbly correcting some advice he had previously given.
A couple of days before, a Catholic woman had called into the show and asked Rick if it was okay to pray the Stations of the Cross at her church at the same time she was at the church for eucharistic adoration. Catholics are granted “indulgences” in order to mitigate future sufferings in purgatory by practicing either activity, and the woman wanted to know if she could essentially get two for the price of one. Let’s briefly look at the two practices.
The Stations of the Cross
For my evangelical friends, Catholic churches have 14 plaques stationed around the sanctuary, which depict various events in the trial, suffering, and crucifixion of Jesus. Five of the 14 events; Jesus meeting His mother Mary (IV), Jesus having His face wiped by “saint” Veronica (VI), and Jesus falling three times (III, VII, IX) as He pressed on to Calvary are apocryphal and are not mentioned in the Gospels. Pope John Paul II came up with a different series of 14 events – the Biblically-accurate “Scriptural Form” – which some parishes have adopted.
Catholics walk from station to station and pray the assigned rote prayers. This practice is especially popular during Lent. Praying the Stations of the Cross is classified officially as a “devotion.” Catholics are taught a “plenary” (full) indulgence can be earned by following the Stations of the Cross. This means that all of the temporal punishment for confessed sins not yet fully expiated up to that point in a person’s life are “remitted” (canceled). Catholics believe they could spend hundreds and even thousands of years in purgatory receiving the temporal punishment that remains after they die, so receiving a plenary indulgence is a big deal, although probably 90% of today’s Catholics would have no clue what a “plenary indulgence” was if you asked them. The vast majority of Catholics these days can’t even be bothered with attending obligatory mass on Sundays let alone coming to church during the week and praying the Stations of the Cross.
Question from an ex-Catholic evangelical: If someone begins the Stations of the Cross, but has to stop after Station XIII because of a family emergency, do they still earn a plenary indulgence or is the indulgence benefit pro rated?
As for eucharistic adoration, Catholics believe their priests change bread wafers into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ during the mass. Sometimes a large eucharist wafer is placed inside an ornate gold display piece called a “monstrance.” The monstrance has a glass window so the wafer is visible. Catholics come to church at designated times to worship and adore the eucharist wafer, which they believe to be Jesus Christ. Catholics are taught they receive a partial indulgence (of indeterminate time) if they visit with the eucharistic Jesus wafer for less than thirty minutes and receive a plenary indulgence if they visit for more than thirty minutes. Anybody got a stopwatch? Who decided on thirty minutes? Why not twenty-five? Why not thirty-five? Can 29:30 minutes be rounded-up or is 30:00 minutes a precise non-negotiable? Eucharistic adoration is officially classified as a “benediction.”
Catholicism’s dizzying religious calculus vs. the simple Gospel
So, back to our caller’s question. Initially, it was clear from the tone of his voice that Rick wasn’t thrilled about the caller’s proposition of praying the stations AND adoring the eucharist Jesus wafer at the same time, but he concluded by saying it was “probably” okay. However, when Rick came back on the air on February 11 he had some egg on his face, saying he had checked the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops web site (see below) and discovered that Catholics cannot double-dip. A “devotion” like the Stations of the Cross and a “benediction” like the eucharistic adoration cannot be mixed. It’s either one or the other. Catholics aren’t allowed to do both at the same time.
So, is it a mortal sin if a Catholic tries to double dip by participating in both activities at the same time or is it only a venial sin? Or is it that they just don’t get ANY indulgences?
Are you all still with me? I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers dropped away several paragraphs ago. The Roman Catholic church’s rituals and rubrics are so complicated that even a veteran priest like Rick can’t keep them all straight. But the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is so simple even a child can understand it. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Religious ritual doesn’t save. Only Jesus saves. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.
“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” – Mark 7:13
“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” – Matthew 23:4