During my conversion, one of the best, most logical teachings I came across was that of Purgatory. Though I didn’t have the terminology for it at the time, Catholic understanding of the process of final Sanctification explained how God could be both merciful and just. A merciful God forgives us for all our sins. A just God doesn’t allow us to continue into eternity with vices and disordered attachments.
So Purgatory, that state of being where we are purged of all those unwholesome habits and longings, made sense.
But the indulgence thing confused me. Being a nice Protestant girl, the only dealings with indulgences I’d ever had were in high school World History class, where we learned all about the scandal of selling indulgences etc. etc. That image was further driven home by the local Renaissance Faire, which featured a fat monk wandering around the grounds selling “indulgences” to the fair goers.
I found myself fascinated with the actual practice of indulgences; I think I probably could rattle off three dozen different indulgenced actions just sitting here right now with end-of-the-day brain fry. The practice is a beautiful, highly misunderstood, and generous gift from God.
However, I think there are some glaring omissions in the Handbook of Indulgencesthat need to be remedied. Therefore, I humbly submit the following actions be included in the list:
Indulgences for Parents and/or Caretakers of Children*
- For embarking on the behavior modification known as “potty training”, partial indulgence. The indulgence will be a plenary one for those having the discipline to use small toys, stickers, and praise as the reward system. Bribing the child by giving them unrestricted access to bags of chocolate chips renders the entire endeavor void of any meritorious effects.
- For the event known as “bath night”, partial indulgence. “Bath Night” must include filling the tub with water and putting in enough soap so that 70% of the dirt on the hands, limbs, torso, and feet will be soaked off. If hair washing is included, the indulgence is a plenary one. Even if the child insists that you got soap in his eyes. Because it’s probably his own fault for not listening to you when you said, “Shut your eyes, so you don’t get soap in them.”
- For any trip to a grocery store that involves at least one human being under the age of 16, partial indulgence. If the trip involves coupons, the purchase of feminine hygiene products, or the necessitation of more than one cart, the indulgence is plenary. If beer is consumed during the outing (by any member of the party), all meritorious effects are rendered invalid.
- For each “where do babies come from?” discussion, partial indulgence. If the talk is an impromptu one, triggered by questions about feminine hygiene dispensers in public bathrooms, or takes place in any public sphere whatsoever, the indulgence is a plenary one.
- For each trip to the library that doesn’t result in torn/lost/late books, partial indulgence. If your party, as a whole, is shushed less than five times by the librarians, the indulgence is plenary.
- For every reading of “Goodnight Moon” beyond the 400th one, partial indulgence.
- For any venture outside of the house that includes all children fully clothed and wearing matching shoes, partial indulgence. If the clothes and shoes fit and compliment each other, you don’t need any more indulgences, you’re already a saint in heaven.
- For any appointment with any member of the medical profession where children are present, partial indulgence- even if the child is not the patient. If the appointment involves the use of any sharp objects whatsoever, the indulgence is plenary. Unless the child is the one using the sharp object.
- For attendance at any religious observation, partial indulgence. If attendance occurs without the use of Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, hand-held video games, toys that make sound, or parental promises of severe and lasting pain if behavior is not acceptable, then the indulgence is plenary. If you pray for death more than twice during the service, all meritorious effects are invalidated.
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