The Use and Misuse of Indulgences

By Brooks Ward

Indulgences. It’s a term that’s become somewhat of a dirty word among modern Catholics, stained as it has been by the scandalous profiteering of centuries ago. Even if you remove those connotations, the word still brings to mind the image of a spoiled child being raised by lax parents. Now, clearly those are not meanings that the Church intends. So, why do we call them indulgences, and what are they?

The word “indulgence” comes from the Latin “indulgeo”, meaning “to be kind or tender”. In Roman law, however, it came to mean “forgiveness of a debt”. What debt do indulgences forgive, you might ask? When you or I commit a sin, that sin has both temporal and eternal consequences. We know this from experience. If I lie to a friend, then even after that sin has been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance (that is, the eternal consequences removed), I still have to deal with the fact that my friendship with that person has been damaged (the temporal consequences). If I steal something, no matter how sincerely sorry I am, I still need to make restitution. Imagine it like this: Every time you commit a sin, you’re pounding a nail into a board. Even if you remove the nails (Confession), the holes still need to be filled in. Indulgences are one of the ways the Church provides to enable us to close those holes. They “remit the temporal punishment due to sin.” In other words, the debt which indulgences forgive is a period of time one would spend in Purgatory being purified, before passing into Heaven. Any indulgence which removes only a portion of that time is called partial, while one which removes all of that time is termed plenary.

It should be no surprise that over the many centuries since Christ established the Church, indulgences have often been poorly understood, and sometimes even abused. The most serious abuses were perpetrated by those engaged in the sin of simony, the buying and selling of ecclesiastical privileges, including indulgences. These cases often had well-intentioned beginnings, such as the granting of indulgences for giving alms to the poor, but eventually came to be treated as a means of “paying your way to heaven”. Several Church councils attempted to deal with the issue, such as the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Trent (1562), going so far as to instruct that “all evil gains for the obtaining of [indulgences] be wholly abolished”. Even so, the problem became so widespread that in 1567, Pope Pius V took the drastic step of ceasing all indulgences attached in any way to money or financial transactions.

Today, it is possible to gain indulgences through many pious actions you probably already participate in. These include spending time in mental prayer, praying the Rosary, reading Sacred Scripture, and even simply making the Sign of the Cross! It’s important to remember that indulgences are not simply magic “get out of Purgatory free” cards. In order to gain them, we must perform the actions devoutly, with a contrite heart. In addition, plenary indulgences require us to go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, and pray for the intentions of the Pope, all within 20 days of the indulgenced action, as well as possessing the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin. What are you waiting for? Get out there, be holy, and gain indulgences along the way!


Brooks Ward is a Junior majoring in Philosophy and Classics, and can be found at Joe’s Diner during breakfasts and Chipotle the rest of the time

God’s Timeline, Not Yours

By Kat Schneider

Today is Half-Priced Chocolate Day, which means yesterday was Valentine’s Day, a day where love is in the air along with the smell of fresh flowers and sweets. Or if you’re a single singleton like me, then it is not much different from any other day, and that’s okay. Regardless of whether or not you shared it with a special someone or your Netflix account and lab reports, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that reminds us to share a little love with those around us. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to call your mom to tell her you love her and ask her to be your Valentine. However, before you can have an actual romantic valentine, you have to navigate this pretty tricky path known as dating.

I know some of those who are not currently in a relationship call Valentine’s Day “Singles Awareness Day” and lament the lack of a special connection with another individual. Well, that is just hogwash, let me tell you. Yes, being single in college can be somewhat disheartening. As a junior, just scrolling through Facebook shows me how many of my friends are in relationships, engaged, or married. Some are even welcoming little blessings into their family. Scary, right? I’ve never even been on a real date—or at least something that has been mutually agreed upon as being called a date—while people my age are already starting families. But that was their timeline, not mine.

I always struggled with that concept. I compared my lack of a love life with theirs all the time. Especially with social media, we college students are surrounded with relationship statuses and updates from our peers. We tend to say to ourselves, “Well, they are in a relationship. What am I doing wrong? Will anyone ever like me? I’m going to be forever alone.” (Disclaimer: No matter how many guy friends I have or how many years I’ve spent with my brothers, I am still not fluent in male. So while I understand them better than some women, I in no way claim I can speak to their viewpoints as well as I can women. Sorry!) For a while, I lived in that school of thought. Their dating path looked a lot greener than mine.

Then, in sophomore year, I talked to Carmen DeCelle, a wonderful woman whom I highly encourage everyone to talk to (especially the ladies). She literally laughed at my timeline. Not to be mean, but because it was my timeline, not God’s. I had it all figured out. I would meet this great Catholic guy at school. He’d ask me out. We would go on dates around Blacksburg. We’d fall in love. We would get married after graduation in June and then go on to do what all married couples are called to do. Cute, right?  So why wasn’t it all going like I had it mapped out in my head? As Carmen pointed out to me, it was a map that I made for my path.

The path to dating will never be easy—almost nothing that is worth something is ever easy. But our maps that we plan out won’t make our journey much easier either. It might even take us off the correct path completely. That’s because it isn’t God’s map. In fact, God doesn’t even need a map to navigate the path. He already knows the way. He knows what, or I guess I should say who, lies at the end of the path. All He is asking us single singletons—who are worried about the journey or if there is actually someone at the end or how banged up we might get along the way – to do is to throw away our plans and put our faith and trust in Him.

Any person in a committed relationship will tell you it wasn’t easy. They will all have different stories of how they met, when they first started to fall in love, the struggles they had along the way, how they overcame them, etc. But one thing is always the same: a successful relationship is centered around God. Neither person has all the answers, but God does. Neither person is perfect, but God is. Neither person is capable of being the solution to all of the other’s struggles, but God is. Neither person can love each other fully and with all of their being more than anything else, but God can.

Those successful relationships are not without flaws. At Newman, we are blessed to have great people to talk to about successful relationships at almost every stage: dating, engaged, or married. I am sure each of them will tell you their dating path was not without hills to climb, dark areas to navigate, or a couple tumbles. But every person has God with them, offering a hand to help them up those hills, through the darkness, and up from the tumbles. Because no one can love us more than God can and does every moment of every day.

So, again I will say, dating is hard. And don’t I know that being single can be hard too. But if you can trust God, who will always have your best interest in mind, then it does get easier. If God is calling you to the married life, do you really think He would do it so you could be forever alone? He definitely has someone in mind for you. You may know the person, or maybe you haven’t met them yet. But what you think you need now and what God knows you need now can be different. God is beyond the human construct of time, so your timeline is kind of irrelevant in His grand scheme of things. You just have to put your trust in Him that He will help you find your future valentine.

Kat Schneider is a junior Multimedia Journalism major with minors in Pop Culture, Creative Writing, and collecting fun facts to share with all of her friends.

Saint of the Month: St. Edith Stein


By Amy Burke

How did a young Jewish girl from Poland become one of the most exemplary Catholic saints?  Good question, let’s find out!

Edith Stein.  A girl who had eleven brothers and sisters, of which she was the youngest.  Her mother, widowed when Edith was two, worked hard to care for the children and keep the family business afloat.  The Jewish faith was close to her mother’s heart, but she had a hard time keeping it alive in her children because of all her duties as a single mother.  Edith ended up falling away from the Jewish faith on her own, proclaiming herself an atheist, saying, “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying.”

Soon after she lost her faith, she went to college.  She studied German and history, although her interest was in philosophy.  Despite her heart being elsewhere, she gave her all to her studies and got her degree. 

Afterwards, she took a nursing course with the intention of nursing injured men in World War I.  She was placed at an Austrian field hospital where she worked in the typhus ward.  “I no longer have a life of my own,” she wrote, as she saw people her age die.  Everything changed when she realized her life was for much more than just herself; it was for serving others.  Edith could see the scope of suffering in the world, and understood that life was a gift, a fleeting gift, which made it precious. 

Her understanding of what her life was supposed to be helped set her up for her conversion to Catholicism.  What Edith describes as her moment of conversion was when she visited one of her recently widowed friends.  She had never before witnessed someone truly “carrying her cross” until she saw this friend.  This woman had just experienced one of the most painful experiences of this life—losing her husband—yet she carried this warm joy that only Christ could emanate through her. “This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it … it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me—Christ in the mystery of the Cross.”

Edith was soon baptized. When she went home to tell her mother about her conversion to Catholicism, her mother wept with sadness.  Years later, Edith became a Carmelite nun, despite her mother’s heartache.

In this time of joy of giving her life to the Lord, World War II was raging on.  Edith did not escape the Nazis’ hunt for innocent lives and was captured in 1942.  As she starved and suffered in the concentration camps, she cared for the orphaned children, never ceasing her love for God and, therefore, never ceasing her love for His children.  She was later gassed in Auschwitz, where she died.

Edith teaches the Church that the further we explore truth, the closer we get to God;  that the more we love and search for God, the more we will want to change our lives, even if it is against everything we know.  And finally, she shows us that if God is truly rooted within us, suffering will not mean the ceasing of God’s divine light through us, but will ever increase it.

Additional Reading/Source:


Amy Burke is a freshman looking to attain a degree in writing.  You can always find her singing Christian Contemporary music, baking, or writing 🙂

Welcome to Newman’s Blog!

Welcome to Newman’s Student Blog! Come back every week, Wednesday mornings, to see great articles, written for students by students, about everything from our regular “Saint of the Month” postings to great catechetical articles that can help us to learn more about our faith and explain it to others. This week, I thought it would be best to introduce everyone to our new Servant Leader team.

Derek Bruce, Student Campus Minister

Junior, Accounting and Information Systems


Derek was born and raised in the relatively small town of Stuarts Draft, Virginia. He has two brothers, one who is in his 3rd year of Seminary and another who is a sophomore in high school. In high school, he participated in many forestry competitions, where he literally hugged trees to measure their diameter and tasted their inner bark to determine their species.



Katie Kowalski, Assistant Student Campus Minister

Sophomore, Dual Degree in Professional & Technical Writing and Literature & Language


Katie is from Centreville, VA, just outside of DC. She’s an RA in Payne Hall and really hopes to meet tons of new people as ASCM. She spends her free time reading, hanging out with friends, dancing (salsa, swing, and square dancing are all super fun), and just hoping her residents don’t burn down the building.




Walker kids May 2016Joe Walker, Outreach Minister

Junior, Mechanical Engineering


Joe loves adventure and being outdoors, and believes that while thinking is fun, doing is more fulfilling. He loves rock climbing, so if you ever need a partner, let him know! His favorite Bible verse is Psalm 80:3 (“Why have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?”)




andi moskal Andi Moskal, Community Minister

Freshman, Psychology


Andi is from Smithfield, VA, aka land of delicious ham and bacon. The only things that rival her love of bacon is her love of cooking, books, and hammocking. If there is adventure to be had, Andi is always up for it.





chris royChris Roy, Christian Formation Minister

Junior, Computational Modeling and Data Analytics


Chris is, in a word, loud, which he’s really become through working at several restaraunts, including now as a Student Manager at DX. When he’s pretending not to have homework, you can find him playing board games and watching movies (or arguing loudly about them). He values deep, personal conversation, so if you ever need an ear, just let him know and he’ll make time for you!



Goeringer_KatieKatie Goeringer, Music Minister

Sophomore, Math


Katie describes music as a pillar of her life; she and all four of her sisters all sing and play at least one instrument. She loves Christmas with her family, mostly because they sing Christmas carols for hours on end : )




joe laclairJoseph LaClair, Liturgy Minister

Junior, Wildlife Conservation


Joseph loves being outdoors and is always up for a hike to any of the surrounding mountains.  When the weather is not great for such activities, he can be found at the Newman House, hanging out trying to find ways not to do homework, playing board games or simply relaxing in the company of friends.  He leads a freshmen small group, is part of the Knights of Columbus, and playing volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, and soccer. He is not much of a talker but is a great listener and is always willing to sit down and let you talk his ears off.



Patrick Mumm, Service and Justice Minister

Junior, Animal and Poultry Science


Patrick is from Virginia Beach and has a rich history of service projects through Boy Scouts, the International Baccaureate Program, Virginia Tech’s Honors College, and more. While not studying or serving, he can be found hanging out with friends, watching and playing various sports, and (obviously) working with animals




jimmy singer

Jimmy Singer, Communications Minister

Senior, Visual Communication Design


Jimmy is a graphic design student who is really excited to broaden Newman’s social media presence to help outreach to as many students as possible. In his free time–well, the 2 hours a week he’s not in the studio–you might find him cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles and designing the next Newman T-Shirt.




Chris Roy is a Junior studying CMDA, a Student Manager at DX, and Newman’s 2017 Christian Formation Minister. And if he’s procrastinating, he’ll be playing board games or watching movies : )