Many contemporary Catholics have forgotten about the “Pardon Crucifix”. It seems to be a remnant of a bygone era in Catholicism. The Crucifix deals with the concept of “indulgences”. The word indulgence originally meant kindness or favor. In Latin it meant the remission of a tax or debt. Under Roman law it was used to express release from captivity or punishment. In this instance, an indulgence is given to remit the temporal punishment of sin that has been forgiven. These indulgences have been declared upon the Pardon Crucifix by Pope St. Pius X in 1905, and have been approved in the pardon of the living and the souls in Purgatory in 1907 (no longer mentioned in the new enchiridion)
1. Whoever carries on his person the Pardon Crucifix, may thereby gain an indulgence.
2. For devoutly kissing the Crucifix, an indulgence is gained.
3. Whoever says one of the following invocations before this crucifix may gain each time an indulgence: “Our Father who art in heaven, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “I beg the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray to the Lord our God for me.”
4. Whoever, habitually devout to this Crucifix, will fulfill the necessary conditions of Confession and Holy Communion, may gain a Plenary Indulgence on the following feasts: On the feasts of the Five Wounds of our Lord, the Invention of the Holy Cross, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Immaculate Conception, and the Seven Sorrows (Dolors) of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
5. Whoever, at the moment of death, fortified with the Sacraments of the Church, or contrite of heart, in the supposition of being unable to receive them, will kiss this Crucifix and ask pardon of God for his sins, and pardon his neighbor, will gain a Plenary Indulgence.
According to the current Enchiridion Of Indulgences the above indulgences are no longer in effect. "Enchiridion" means "handbook," and the Enchiridion of Indulgences is the Church's official handbook on what acts and prayers carry indulgences and what indulgences actually are. These practices, however, still grant those who use them many graces. In addition, these following indulgences do apply to any crucifix:
1. The faithful, who devoutly use an article of devotion (crucifix or cross, rosary, scapular or medal) properly blessed by any priest, obtain a partial indulgence.
2. To the faithful in danger of death who cannot be assisted by a priest to bring them the sacraments and impart the apostolic blessing with its attendant plenary indulgence (according to canon 468, 2 of the Code of Canon Law) Holy Mother Church nevertheless grants a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. To use a crucifix or cross in connection with the acquisition of this plenary indulgence is a laudable practice.
Today’s effective indulgences are listed in the Apostolic Penitentiary’s Enchiridion of Indulgences, in addition to those declared by the Holy Father. (The Apostolic Penitentiary is a department within the Vatican responsible for items relating to the forgiveness of sins).
This is not to say that the pardon crucifix is not a beautiful and worthy sacramental to bring into one’s life. It is, but one must be careful not to use it as a tool in a fruitless quest for indulgences. Indulgences are a wonderful gift from Christ and His Church, but without a genuine pursuit of His Heart we might find ourselves lost. Indulgence’s and sacramentals should be used as a tool as we seek to draw closer to Christ, or should be applied to other souls needing Christ’s grace.
The Front of the Crucifix: Above the cruciform figure, the familiar I.N.R.I. has been inscribed with the words “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. “” Latin uses I instead of the English J, and V instead of U (Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm). The English translation is “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
The Reverse of the Crucifix: On the transverse arms are the words, “Father, forgive them.” On the vertical beam of the Cross are the words, “Behold this heart which has so loved men.” An image of The Sacred Heart of Jesus is shown in the center.