Catholic Indulgences and that Los Angeles is Named for One

by | Jul 26, 2021 | Catholic Living, July, Liturgical Year | 1 comment

Hey all! Catholic indulgences, St. Francis of Assisi, and the surprising history of the founding of Los Angeles: It’s a new installment of the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Show! Come with us to visit the San Fernando Mission, Old Town L.A.’s Olvera St., and learn how to get the beautiful August 2nd Portiuncula Indulgence.

For more on indulgences see this blog post:

Catholic Indulgences: what they are, when they are, and why you should care (as of the 1999 Manual of Indulgences revision of the Enchiridion of Indulgences)

For more about St. Francis’ Portiuncula Indulgences and many more indulged prayers and practices see The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion or the Catholic All August PDF also available for free with a CAY Membership.

Here’s what you’ll hear in the video:

Hi I’m Kendra from Catholic All Year and today we’re going to talk about . . . indulgences, St. Francis of Assisi, and the founding of Los Angeles. And I promise they all link together!

We are here at the San San Fernando Mission, one of the twenty-one California Missions founded beginning in 1769 by Franciscan Friar St. Junipero Serra. And we’re here because of another Franciscan friar, St. Francis himself, and his Portiuncula (port-tsi-un-cu-la) Indulgence.

If you don’t know what indulgences are at all, or if you’ve only heard negative things about them, I’ll also include links in the description below to posts that have a lot of good information.

It comes down to sin. When we sin, there are consequences. We can (and should) repent of our sins and go to confession, and this means our sins are forgiven and we don’t face the eternal consequence of being excluded from heaven. But there are also temporal consequences to sin. If I steal a car, it’s not enough for me to repent. I also have to give the car back. Whenever I sin, I sin against God, and I have to make reparation to God. If that reparation happens after my death, it will be through time in purgatory. But if I’m smart, I’m going to try to avoid that by acts of penance and good works here on Earth. And, because Christ instituted the Church and gave her the power to bind and loose sins, I also have recourse to indulgences.

The Church has the authority to give me access to a combined deposit of grace, stockpiled by saints and martyrs and everyday sacrifices, that all Catholics can share in.

By doing particular prayers or acts recommended by the Church in the Manual of Indulgences, we can gain plenary or partial indulgences, meaning full or partial remittance from the temporal consequences of sin that can be applied to ourselves, or to the soul of someone who has died. These prayers and acts can also be seen as a playbook of officially recommended “best practices” that can help us all grow in personal holiness as well, so we are strengthened against falling into sin again. It’s a twofer!

There are dozens of indulged prayers and acts. One of them is the Portiuncula Indulgence on August 2.

The Portiuncula is a tiny chapel, within the very large Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, in Assisi, Italy. But in the early thirteenth century it was just a tumbledown old chapel. A young St. Francis stopped there one day to pray and heard the voice of God urging him to “rebuild my church, which as you can see has fallen into disrepair”. St. Francis restored that little church, and it became the seat of the new Franciscan order.

Tradition tells us that in 1221, Jesus, his mother Mary, and a host of angels appeared to St. Francis inside the little Portiuncula. Jesus asked St. Francis what favor he would ask of him, and what St. Francis wanted was a plenary indulgence . . . for EVERYONE. He asked Jesus to grant that anyone who visited the chapel on the feast day of Our Lady Queen of the Angels, August 2nd, confessed his sins with a contrite heart, received Holy Communion, and prayed for the intentions of the Holy Father, would be as pure from all sin and punishments as he was immediately after baptism. Our Lord agreed to Francis’ bold request, and so, eventually, did Pope Honorius III, but the stories say that he took more convincing.

Plenary indulgences had existed before, but this was the first that was accessible to everyday folks Eventually the indulgence was extended to include any Franciscan Church, including the California Missions and today includes any church, anywhere.

So on August 2, a plenary indulgence is available to anyone who visits any Catholic church, devoutly recites an Our Father, and one of the approved Creeds: Nicene or Apostles’ are the commonly used ones. If one is unable to fulfill all the conditions, the indulgence becomes partial, which is still really really good and worthwhile. So you should definitely do it!

And now . . . here we are in Olvera Street, for a little lesson on the very Catholic history of Los Angeles.

You remember that, 250 years ago, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was established. Ten years later, a group of forty-four settlers founded a town a few miles away that they called El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula; which means, “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Portiuncula.” One imagines that in the interest of saving time, it eventually became known as just “Los Angeles.”

But here’s the thing: this town wasn’t actually originally named in honor of our patroness, Mary, Queen of the Angels. IT WAS NAMED AFTER THE INDULGENCE. Remittance from the temporal consequence of sin, through the Christ-given authority of the Catholic Church available to everyone for the simple act of visiting a church in a spirit of humble repentance was mind-blowing enough that 560 years after Jesus appeared to St. Francis and 6,268 miles away from Assisi, a group of settlers named a little town after it.

So, this August 2nd, find a Catholic church, and participate in this beautiful gift of God, St. Francis, and the Church. And hey, maybe grab some tacos while you’re at it.

Thanks so much for watching this installment of the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Show, and thank you to our sponsor, Ignatius Press. You can find out more about liturgical living in the home and Catholic traditions like the Portiuncula Indulgence in the Catholic All Year Compendium and more about indulgences and Catholic prayers in the Catholic All Year Prayer Companion.

Speaking of the California Missions, you might also enjoy these!

Colorized Vintage CA Missions Postcard & Pencil Set

And, finally, if you’re looking for a hassle-free way to bring liturgical living into your family’s life each month, we’ve created something that is perfect for you! Our Liturgical Subscription boxes get delivered right to your door each month, and include activities to celebrate three of the feast days from the month! See more details and sign up here.

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1 Comment

  1. megan

    Thank you for writing ahout this indulgence! We had not heard of it before but thanks to you we went to the church of the Porziuncola today.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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