Lesson Notes: Sacramentals & Indulgences

Posted March 17, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Uncategorized


Indulgences are one of those topics that have been and still are misunderstood, but the simple explanation is that when Jesus founded the Church, he gave the Apostles (and their successors) the ability to bind and loose sin (Matthew 16:18 Matthew 18:18).  This power given to the Church allows her to dispense graces in all sorts of ways and one of the ways she chooses to do it is through indulgences.

It’s critical to remember that all indulgences have conditions – things you must do to receive the graces.  To get a full indulgence, you must perform the action (go on the pilgrimage, complete the novena, etc.), you must go to confession within a few days of the required action, you must receive the Eucharist, preferably on the same day as the action, and you must pray for the Pope’s intentions.  When you look at any indulgence from that angle first, it’s plain to see that you are going to receive graces and grow in holiness simply by completing those virtuous actions.  The indulgence can be looked at as a value-added boost from the Church’s “bank” of dispensable graces.

In my mind, this analogy of a bank is helpful.  Everyone who uses a particular bank is part of a particular community.  We all deposit money and withdraw it periodically.  When I withdraw money, it’s almost certainly not the exact same dollars that I’ve deposited, but I get money nonetheless.

bankIn a similar way, I’m part of a community of Christians (the Body of Christ) and I’m making hopefully frequent deposits through my prayers, works, joys and sufferings offered to Jesus each day.  I think of an indulgence as a withdrawal from this cosmic bank where someone else in the community can make a withdrawal – get the graces they need when they need them.

You may also find this analogy of a child who steals a candy bar to be helpful  (Read the complete article here.):

The Good parent and child

Holy Mother Church and child

the parent forgives the child for stealing and allows the child back into his good graces

the Church forgives the guilt through the Sacrament of Confession, thereby eliminating the eternal consequences by the grace of Christ, and restoring the penitent from being a “dead member” of the Church to a “living member” of the Church

the child desires to pay back the store (“make satisfaction” for his debt)

the faithful desires to make satisfaction for his debt to God which he incurred through sin

the child turns to his parent for help in making satisfaction for his debt to the store. The child doesn’t have the money to pay back the store, but to the parent, the cost of the candy bar is nothing

Holy Mother Church was given the power of the Keys and, therefore, the authority to make ways for the penitent to make satisfaction for his debts to God by tapping into the treasury of merits of Christ and the Saints

the good parent says that if the child is truly contrite and truly desires to make satisfaction for the debt, he can earn enough to pay for some of the candy bar if he does X, or enough to pay for all of the candy bar if he does Y

Holy Mother Church sets out certain prayers and works to be offered under certain conditions which will either pay for some of the debt owed to God (partial indulgence) or all of the debt owed to God (plenary indulgence)

the child does X or Y

the faithful performs the prescribed actions, under the prescribed conditions, to gain an indulgence

the good parent follows through on his promise, helping the child pay for his crime by opening his wallet and giving the child some or all of the money to pay back the store.

the Church mitigates punishmentincurred (temporal penalties) by opening the treasury of merit and applying those merits to the faithful.

Now, suppose there are two children. One child steals the candy bar and then dies. The other child — his brother, say — wants to help pay his dead brother’s debt, so he pays back the store in the name of his dead brother.  In this way, the Catholic can offer the benefits of the indulgence to the souls in Purgatory.  Indulgences can only be applied to oneself or to a soul in Purgatory, not to another living person.

Lesson Notes: Sacramentals & Indulgences

Posted March 17, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Sue's Suggestions

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An easy way to think about sacramentals is to remember all the “holy things” that are part of our lives as Catholics, and connect how they make us ready to receive the graces of the sacraments.  An easy example is the holy water at the entrance of every Catholic church.  It’s automatic to dip our fingers in as we enter, but if you give it any thought at all, you might recall your baptism where you received the amazing gift of a part in the life of Jesus.  The water might help you recall that your baptism made you part of this family you’re about to worship with.  You might think about the awesomeness of the Trinity as you’re making the sign of the cross.  You might think about the beautiful name of Jesus.  At the very least it might be a mental transition from the outside world into this time of worship.  Any of those things will make you more ready to receive the graces waiting for you in the Eucharist and it all begins with the simple act of dipping a finger in water.

In this lesson, you’ll learn that there is more to sacramentals than “holy things” – it also includes actions like genuflecting, blessings like praying before you eat, sacred times like Lent, sacred places like your church or a shrine, and words like the words of a prayer or the words of Scripture.

The basic points of this lesson are (1) to become more aware of the existence of all these things and (2) to recognize that God gives them to us because of His great love.  He wants us to grow closer to Him and literally surrounds us with little paths to make that happen.

Younger Saints iconFor your youngest kids, we definitely recommend starting with the Sacramental Scurry scavenger hunt.  It’s active and has an immediate relevance since these things are actually in your home.  Even if you don’t think you have many “Catholic” things around, you may have a Bible, a wedding ring, a nativity set, or possibly a holy card earned at a Family Formation class.  These things are a great starter list and you should be able to add blessed palms soon as you go to Mass on March 25.

Older Saints IconOlder kids should also be part of the scavenger hunt, but you may want to consider giving them the list entitled Sacramentals in Our Home and have them lead this activity by gathering everything together.  Even teens who are outside of Family Formation age can benefit by a greater awareness of the sacramentals in your home, so get the whole family involved.

You’ll also want to go through the entire lesson with the older kids because it’s there that you’ll learn about things beyond your current experience – sacramentals you hadn’t thought about and new paths to deepen your faith in God.

Veiling Holy Images

Posted March 16, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Sue's Suggestions


This weekend we’ll celebrate the 5th Sunday of Lent and this is the traditional time to veil crucifixes and other holy images in purple cloth.

veiled images

It seems counterintuitive to cover a crucifix during Lent, but in reality, the effect of this practice is that our longing to see Jesus is heightened by the fact that even this simple means is denied for a time.

This is a wonderful practice to duplicate in your home and can easily be done with a trip to the fabric store.  Before you panic, non-sewers, just look for stretchy purple fabric and you won’t have to sew it at all – just cut pieces big enough to cover your images and use a pin or two to hold it in place, if necessary.

If you’d like to learn more about this custom, read this article from our archives or this one from Aleteia.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Posted March 16, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Sue's Suggestions

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Monday (March 19) is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph and you’ll want to honor him by learning more about this most holy man and powerful patron.  If you’re ambitious, you can find lots of ideas on the ‘net to celebrate, but you may want to keep it simple and just listen to the Life of Saint Joseph audio provided with your March lesson.  Check this month’s packet for instructions on how to download it to listen.


Lesson Notes: Intercessory Prayer

Posted March 11, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Parent's Perspective, Sue's Suggestions

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Intercessory Prayer

We like to teach about prayer in the big categories: worship (praise), contrition (I’m sorry), gratitude (thank you), and supplication (please), and intercessory prayer falls in that last category.  We pray for others and we ask them to pray for us.  Sounds simple, right?  But this lesson helps us unpack it a little.

Teaching your kids to pray for others is an outstanding way to help them grow in holiness.  They learn duty, empathy, and charity, among other things.  It fights against a child’s tendency toward being self-centered and helps them grow stronger as a Christian as they realize that their prayers actually make a difference.

I remember my relationship with my kids actually taking a giant leap forward as I would ask for their prayers.  “I’m going to have a challenging day today.  Can you pray for me?” Just asking something like that implies trust.  It sends a message that they are moving into the grown-up world.  It says, “I value your prayers.”  It opens faith-based conversations.  So much good can come from this one tiny habit!

The flip side is helping your kids get in the habit of asking for prayer.  If you want them to feel comfortable asking you, you probably need to open those conversations.  Does your son have a test today?  “I’ll pray for you.”  If you get in the habit of having that kind of conversation with your Family Formation aged kids, you are going to be so happy when they get older and still bring their prayer needs to you!

The other piece of asking others to pray for you leads to a conversation on the Communion of Saints.   Mary, angels, Saints – those in heaven are always in the presence of God and are ready to bring our needs before Him, and the last part of this lesson encourages you all to develop relationships with them.

How are you doing?

Posted March 9, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Parent's Perspective, Sue's Suggestions

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Laetare Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”) is Latin from Isaiah 66:10.

Plan for Lenten Growth

This weekend is Laetare Sunday, a midpoint in Lent and a time where the Church officially lets us know that the time to celebrate is on the horizon!  We think this is a great time to pull out the My Plan For Lenten Growth sheets you filled out last month and evaluate how you’re all doing.  It’s not too late to correct your course if necessary, and it’s definitely not too late to recommit to the original plan.

Once you are finished measuring your progress, we suggest you cooperate with the spirit of the day and celebrate … just a little.  On this day priests have the option of wearing rose-colored vestments, so dress your priest paper doll appropriately and add some pink ice cream to your grocery list for Laetare Sundaes.

One of the reasons why we LOVE being Catholic is that it gives us countless reasons to celebrate the joy of belonging to Christ and we hope you’ll take advantage of Sunday’s opportunity!


*and, for what it’s worth, this Sunday/sundae pun works for all sorts of liturgical celebrations, so keep it in mind,  Catholic ice cream lovers!  Divine Mercy Sundae, Ascension Sundae, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Sundaes … I can do this all day. 🙂

Art for March Prayer Tables

Posted March 7, 2018 by Sue Klejeski
Categories: Catechist's Corner, DRE & Faith Formation Coordinators, Sue's Suggestions

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This is Saint Norbert worshiping Our Lord, truly present in this ornate monstrance.  Norbert was a worldly man who had a very dramatic conversion story and went on to found a religious order that continues to this day.  One of the other things Saint Norbert is known for is defending the Eucharist against heresy and disbelief, and one of his attributes* is to be pictured with a monstrance.

I’d like to recommend this piece for March classrooms as we learn about Our Lord, truly present in the Eucharist.  Older kids, in particular, will have a time of Eucharistic adoration during March classes and catechists can help their students get more out of the experience by pointing out some elements in this work of art.:

  • Norbert’s obvious devotion.  His posture, focus, position of his hands – all are expressions of love for He who is before him.  How can your students follow his example during our time of adoration?  (Genuflect, kneel, eyes on the monstrance, participate in the singing, listen to the verbal meditations, etc.)
  • The beauty of this particular monstrance.  We offer our best to God, and some craftsman (and this artist, Marten Pepijn), certainly did that, also as a sign of their devotion to God.  How can your students give their best to God during Family Formation and in other areas of their lives?
  • And finally, there are other details you can cover such as:
    • What is a monstrance? (A sacred vessel with a glass opening through which the Sacred Host can be seen.  From a Latin word meaning to show.)
    • Why is that lamp burning just to the right of the monstrance?  (That is a sanctuary lamp, required by canon law to be lit wherever the Blessed Sacrament – consecrated hosts – are reserved, to remind believers of their sacred presence.)
    • Where can we find the Eucharist in our church?  (Answers vary slightly with each church, but it would be most typical to find the Blessed Sacrament reserved in your church’s tabernacle and in an Adoration Chapel.)  Make sure your students know where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in your church and remind them of the proper signs of devotion and respect.  (genuflecting, sign of the cross, reverent behavior, etc.)
    • How can we find where the Eucharist is another Catholic church? (Look for the sanctuary lamp to point the way.)

*In art, an attribute is an object that identifies someone, most commonly referring to objects held by saints.  (e.g. Saint Peter is often identified as holding keys, Saint Joseph by carpenter tools and a staff with lilies, etc.)

You can find the art to download here, thanks to the Web Gallery of Art.

If you’d like options, these pieces would also be nice on this month’s prayer table.



Our Lady of the Eucharist. Printable file size here.





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