This is my very first letter to Catholic Answers, and I have a question that’s kind of a stumper. If I could easily access Fr. Corapi, I know I’d have the correct answer in a matter of minutes, but since that’s impossible, I’ll have to ask you fine people.
I have always had a dear love for the Souls in Purgatory. In the last few years I’ve devoured pretty much EVERY book Susan Tassone has published (if you know who she is). Without a doubt she is America’s (and maybe at the present time - World’s) biggest “evangelist” for teaching about helping the suffering Souls in Purgatory. This whole thing about indulgenced prayers really interested me. I wanted to know if there was a book that had ALL the officially indulgenced prayers in it. There is: “The Handbook of Indulgences , Norms and Grants”. As I read the book I saw that to gain a plenary indulgence (the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sin) you basically had to do a few “prescribed works”: go to confession 8 days before or after trying to gain the indulgence, receive holy communion, and then either 1)say the Stations of the Cross in a prescribed church /setting, 2) spend half hour adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, 3)say the rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament, 4) say the rosary in a family setting (“the family rosary”). Seems simple enough if you really put your mind to it.
But something amazing caught my eye when I was leafing through this Handbook of Indulgences. I saw something in there labeled “At the Approach of Death”. I read it, then re-read it, then re-read it about 5 more times because I literally couldn’t believe my eyes! I quote- "Priests who minister the sacraments to the Christian faithful who are in a life-and-death situation should not neglect to impart to them the apostolic blessing, with it’s attached indulgence. But if a priest cannot be present, holy mother Church lovingly grants such persons who are rightly disposed a plenary indulgence to be obtained “in articulo mortis”, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetimes. The use of a crucifix or a cross is recommended in obtaining this plenary indulgence.
In such a situation the three usual conditions required in order to gain a plenary indulgence are substituted for by the condition “provided they regularly prayed in some way”.
The Christian faithful can obtain the plenary indulgence mentioned here as death approaches (in arcturo mortis) even if they have obtained another plenary indulgence that same day.
This grant, number 28, is taken from the apostolic constitution “Indulgentiarum doctrina, norm 18.”
You read that right. If you’re in a life-and-death situation (say a plane going straight down) and you’re “rightly disposed” (“Jesus, I wish to obtain that Apostolic Blessing NOW!”) you gain a full remission of all your sins and temporal punishment, provided “you regularly prayed in some way during your life”. Talk about a straight shot to heaven.
I have to admit that I was slightly more than “tiffed” that I’d never heard of such a tremendous blessing at any time in my entire life. Can the clergy be THAT misinformed? I guess so.
But enough of that. My question is simply this: Are “Last Rights / Annointing of the Sick” different from this Apostolic Blessing? The reason I ask is that when my mother was dying 2 years ago, I asked the priest in the hallway at the hospital if he had given my mother an Apostolic Blessing. He was kind of vague and kept insisting that he gave my mother “a blessing”. I asked him to his face if he knew what an Apostolic Blessing at the time of death was, and all I got was a reassuring, smug smile in that he had given my mother “a blessing”.
I guess this sets a record for the longest initial letter ever sent into Catholic Answers! Any insights from anyone would be massively helpful. Thank you so much in advance! Larry