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Bishop Knestout Letter on the Plenary Indulgence for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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December 9, 2020
Memorial of St. Juan Diego Cuahtlatoatzin

Dear Faithful of the Diocese of Richmond,

“Juanita … I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God … It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me.”

The Virgin Mary addressed these words to St. Juan Diego in 1531 on the outskirts of Mexico City. Since then, countless people in the Americas, the Philippines, and elsewhere have venerated Our Lady of Guadalupe with great love and trust. Understanding how important this devotion is, Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, 2020.

An indulgence (Latin: indulgentia, meaning “kindness”) is one way to cleanse the “residue” of sin. The Church defines an indulgence as “the remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven” (Code of Canon Law, canon 992). Temporal punishment helps free a sinner from earthly (temporal) desires. In granting an indulgence, the Church pays a person’s debt of temporal punishment by drawing on the infinite value of Christ’s suffering, along with the good works, sufferings, and prayers of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

The faithful can obtain, at home, the indulgence associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe in the following way:

  1. Prepare an altar or a place of prayer in the home dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
  2. Watch, with devotion, a televised or livestream Mass of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the Diocese of Richmond, parishes are permitted to celebrate an anticipated (vigil) Mass for the feast on December 11, or to celebrate the feast on December 12.
  3. In addition to the repentance for sin, a desire to love God and neighbor more, and prayer for the intentions of the pope, to complete the other usual conditions for a plenary indulgence when health conditions make it possible to do so: sacramental confession, attendance at Mass in person, and reception of Holy Communion.

“Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection?” The words of Our Lady of Guadalupe spoken to St. Juan Diego reassure us today. The plenary indulgence associated with this feast day is an opportunity to draw closer to God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe always protect us.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverent Barry C. Knestout
Bishop of Richmond