Indulgences: It’s about healing

Murillo, Penitent Magdalene (1665)

Penitent Magdalene (1665), by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (WikiPaintings)

As always, this turned out to be longer and more involved than I intended. So consider this part 1 in a series on Indulgences. And no, I haven’t forgotten about Baptism.

The other day Pope Francis granted a plenary indulgence to those devoted faithful who would follow his tweets or other coverage of the World Youth Day events in Brazil — to the bemusement of the global media and the consternation and ridicule of many Protestants. It seems, to some, a crass abuse of spiritual authority for the motive of getting more “followers” — authority he doesn’t have anyway, according to Protestants: a sham and a mockery of the Gospel, I have heard. Rather than being embarrassed at a faux pas before the media and the world, I praise God for a Holy Father who humbly offers forth the truth despite ridicule. I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to share a bit about the truth of indulgences, what they really mean, and why they are important today.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis.

Now, indulgences are a rather complicated and confusing doctrine: complicated even more by the negative baggage they carry from the age of the Protestant Reformation. When Protestant ears hear “indulgence,” they automatically think “abuse” and “corruption.” I know; I grew up a Protestant, and thought that even though I was never particularly anti-Catholic. But in truth, the doctrine of indulgences is built upon basic and biblical principles, and has roots as ancient as the Church, sprouting from the seeds of the Apostles.

I made a post almost exactly a year ago trying valiantly to tackle this difficult topic — bless my baby Catholic heart. I am still a baby Catholic, but I have grown so much in the past year and think I could do much better than that, if I had time. I think you can still learn something about what indulgences are and what they are not from that post.

Let me start with those basic building blocks: We all know that we sin (1 John 1:5–10). Everybody, including Protestants, thinks about the eternal punishment due for our sins (Romans 6:23) that we would face if not for the forgiveness of God by the atoning death of Jesus (1 John 2:2). But what Protestants tend not to talk about — but surely recognize — is that our sins have consequences in this life, on us and on those around us, on the ones we hurt by our sin and also the ones who hurt with us because of our sin. Sin is misery (Psalm 25:18, Romans 2:9).

Reni, St. Peter Penitent

St. Peter Penitent (c. 1600), by Guido Reni. (WikiPaintings.org)

We serve a just God, and sin being misery is how He made the world. When we sin, we suffer our just deserts of that misery, even after God forgives us. And suffering through that pain is part of God’s process of healing and teaching: to bring us to true repentance and contrition for our wrong, that we can be healed from the hurt, and purified from the stain, and that we can learn and grow and not fall again. Remember, for the classic example, King David — who, even after he was forgiven by God (2 Samuel 12:13), still had a heavy price to pay in misery (Psalm 51, etc.). This is what the Church calls the temporal punishment due for sin, and it is clearly something separate from the guilt of sin from which Christ redeems for us by His grace. And this is the whole idea of penance: the priests of the Church, having received the authority of the apostles to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18) and to remit and retain sin (John 20:22–23), have the authority to impose penance on us as a means to work through that temporal punishment. Penance is not an actual punishment so much as it is a remedy: Jesus is our spiritual physician, and through the priest, He gives us a prescription for the healing of our souls.

Ingres, Jesus Returning the Keys to Peter

Jesus Returning the Keys to Peter (1820), by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (WikiPaintings.org)

And the basic idea of indulgences is this: Because the Church imposed those penalties, she has the power to remit them. What is bound on earth is bound is heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven — and these penances, designed for our spiritual healing and growth in grace, can be released, if it seems they have served their purpose. By analogy, the penance is a big, unwieldy cast, designed to set our broken bones; and when it seems our bones have healed, the doctor removes the cast. And that’s all, in the most basic sense, an indulgence is. From the Latin indulgentia, it means literally a remission or release. We see in Scripture, for example, the case of a sinner in the Corinthian church, upon whom “punishment by the majority” had been placed — presumably excommunication (1 Corinthians 5:2) or other penitential acts. And, deciding that the sinner had had enough, that he had been restored, Paul remits the punishment:

For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ [ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ, lit. in the face of Christ — Latin in persona Christi], to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:6–11)

The doctrine developed a little bit from this before it came to resemble what we call indulgences today, but this is the start: the Church’s remission of a penance — a rehabilitation for the hurts of sin, for a sin already forgiven — for someone who, in the judgment of the Church, has risen above the sin, by God’s grace. Penance is the Church’s version of spiritual rehab: when you’re broken, you have to endure some painful exercises before you can properly heal. And when the doctor decides you no longer need it, you’re free to go — and that’s an indulgence.

More in Part 2: Indulgences: Gift of the martyrs

The Damascus Road

Caravaggio, Conversion of Saint Paul (1600)

Conversion of Saint Paul (1600), by Caravaggio. (WikiPaintings.org)

My wandering had come to running and rebellion. My soul was crying out — I was lost, and could not find my way — but I was hurt, angry, fighting, and unwilling to humble myself before God, to lay down myself and seek in Him the guidance I needed.

Thank God for a praying mother — God’s messenger in my life, who would not let me go. She harped on (so I called it then) my need to get back in church and to get right with God — and I resisted. I said some cruel and terrible things to my dear mother during this time. But I remember one moment in particular when I retorted, not so much in annoyance as in desperation, “If God wants me to turn my life around, He should stop me in the road like he did Paul.” If only I had the certainty of such a direct encounter, I thought.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
Acts 9:1-8
Accident scene overhead

A satellite view of the accident scene. (Google Maps)

In August 2006, I set out on a misguided errand of mercy, one with good intentions but ultimately selfish, sinful motives. The insane plan was to involve a major road trip and multiple hops by plane, flying out of Cleveland, Ohio — only I never made it to Cleveland. A few miles north of Columbus, while attempting to make a U-turn in the middle of a two-lane highway, my car was broadsided on the driver’s side by a dump truck loaded with concrete going some 50 miles per hour.

Accident report: Damage area diagram

The damage area diagram from the accident report. My car (bottom) versus the dump truck.

I have no memory of the accident. I don’t know by what mercy — whether angels, or saints, or gifted safety engineers — my body was spared being crushed with the rest of the driver’s side of my car. I was airlifted from the scene to Ohio State University Medical Center with severe head trauma. Arriving in the emergency room, I was completely unresponsive — I bottomed out with a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, indicating deep coma or death. “A brick or a piece of wood has a Glasgow Coma Score of 3. It’s dead,” says a recent report.

It was August 15 — the feast of the Assumption.

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Matthew 8:5–9
Accident report: Crash diagram

From the accident report, the accident reconstruction.

I know that there were dozens if not hundreds of dear people praying for me from the moment of the crash — many even whom I did not know, thanks to prayer chains in half a dozen different churches. But most of all my beloved family — my parents and brother and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins — were standing with me in prayer. And I have no doubt that my family in heaven, all my dearest saints, were praying for me, too. My parents came to my side as quickly as they could, and didn’t leave until I was home.

Wrecked Honda Civic

The remains of my car.

Somehow, I was still alive, but I remained insensible. The doctors offered no immediate prognosis. Given the elasticity and unpredictability of the brain, the best they could offer was “wait and see.” The only other injuries I suffered, incredibly, were a few broken ribs; a cracked sacrum; a nasty, black-and-blue bruise on my left hip, where the imploding car door had hit me; a sprained left wrist, which I tend by habit to thread through the handle of the steering wheel; and just a few deep cuts on my forearms and the left side of my face where I had been struck by flying window glass. My car, a 1998 Honda Civic (may she rest in pieces), had no side curtain airbag, but the driver’s side frontal airbag did deploy.

When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
Matthew 8:10, 13
El Greco, Christ Healing the Blind (1578)

Christ Healing the Blind (1578), by El Greco. (WikiPaintings.org)

I remained out of my senses for about a week. Then, gradually, I began to return. My memories from this time are very foggy, like a half-remembered dream fading in the light, or like my earliest memories of childhood. Just as my brain was still forming as a child, my brain then was snapping back from a major traumatic injury. The world seemed so unreal; it was another few days before I could admit that this had really happened.

Even after I regained consciousness, my prognosis remained doubtful. It would be a long road to recovery, the doctors said. I would most likely suffer long-term deficits. I was little aware of this at the time. I have little memory of my time in the hospital now at all.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4–6
The Assumption (Murillo)

The Assumption of the Virgin (1670), by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. (WikiPaintings.org)

Some week and a half after the accident, I was released from the main hospital, but was still in no shape for travel. I was moved to the Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital on the OSU campus. After a week and a half there — with time spent with physical, occupational, and speech therapists — I was released to go home. Against medical advice, I returned to school, to the semester whose start I’d just missed, to hobble through a course I wanted to take, whose professor was about to retire. Within three months, I was back to driving and getting around on my own. The only lingering effects of the accident were a slight and occasional stutter or slurring of words, a minor impairment of my short-term memory, and an inability to process alcohol.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:13–16
Brain scan MRI

An MRI scan of the brain (not mine).

Medical professionals are reluctant to label miracles; the most anyone would say was that I made a remarkable recovery. But over the next months, seeing rehab doctors for periodic checkups and reading literature online, it dawned on me just how remarkable it was. Only some 20 percent of patients with initial scores of 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale survive. Of these, less than half have what is termed a “good outcome” (a 4 or 5 on the Glasgow Outcome Scale); the gross majority remain in a persistent vegetative state or have permanent, severe disabilities. Even of those who do well, most face years of painful and difficult recovery, and never regain full function. A recovery as complete as mine, in the brief time in which I made it, is virtually unheard of.

As I was leaving the hospital, I signed up for a long-term medical study of traumatic brain injury outcomes. Every year or two, someone from Dodd calls me to ask how many hours a day I’m able to be out of the house, how much assistance I require getting dressed or using the bathroom or walking, if I’m able to drive a car or operate heavy machinery, etc. I think my answers — that I suffer no functional impairment at all — are entirely anomalous to their expectations and probably skewing their results. And I’m reminded just how blessed I have been.

Saints Damian and Cosmas, icon

Icon of Saints Damian and Cosmas, physicians used by God and martyrs to the Christian faith. (Wikipedia)

The fact that I even survived the impact of the accident; the fact that I sustained such a severe injury to my brain and lived; the fact that I recovered as completely as I have, in such a time as I did — convinces me with certainty that my survival was a divine miracle. I believe that God, more often than through extravagant or ostentatious wonders, works His healing and mercy through the mundane, through natural processes, through the hands of physicians and through medicine (Sirach 38:1–15). I know that my healing was for me, and that my testimony will not convince anyone else; but as a pivotal juncture in my road to Rome — as the turning point of my life — I am compelled to share it.

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
Psalm 6:1–5
1998 Ford Louisville dump truck

A 1998 Ford Louisville (L-Series) dump truck, the make and model of my fateful messenger.

Since my childhood, I’ve felt a close affinity with the Apostle Paul. I asked for his lot — and that, I believe, is what I got. I don’t know what I saw in the road that day — whether there was a literal flash of light, or whether a big blue dump truck was the message meant for me — but I was halted in my reckless path. I believe St. Paul was interceding for me even then.

Looking back today, I can only give all the glory to God. I have no doubt that I am here today as a testimony to His overpowering mercy and healing. I did not deserve this, by any merit of my own or due to any faith of my own. I am not even sure that if I’d died that day, I could have been saved. But the Catechism teaches that God heals the body when it is conducive to the healing and salvation of the soul: I was certainly in need of such healing. I can only credit the faith of the many who prayed for me — my parents who would not let me go — and the overabundant mercy of my God.

In the days and months that followed, as I fully grasped what had happened, the question began to eat at me: Why? Why had I survived when so many people die? Why had I been healed, when so many others are not? Why should God be so faithful to me, when I had all but abandoned Him? Who was I to deserve such a gift? My parents insisted that I owed my life to God — but rather than grateful, I was confused, even troubled. I did not have a true grasp of His grace and love and mercy. As I recovered, and yet continued my stubborn refusal to turn my life to God, my mother grew frustrated — and I grew angry. The accident had brought me to my knees, but I had not yet laid down the fight. There was yet one more showdown.

Thinking about Sin

As I’ve been pondering theology lately, it occurred to me: All this time I’ve been charging that theology is human, man-made, artificial; that it is only man’s attempt to comprehend the mysteries of God in his own feeble, limited, human mind. And we cannot possibly fully comprehend God. And that is true. But that doesn’t mean that theology is unimportant. Because it can profoundly affect the way we live our lives, the way we approach the world, and the way we approach God.

The past week or two I’ve been reading about Calvinist and Arminian and Catholic soteriology — views of sin, and grace, and justification. I’m trying to get a full, balanced view, by reading all sides of the matter, and sometimes that’s a lot of work. I’m realizing how fully and how very different the Catholic and Protestant views really are. It is a lot to wrap my head around.

Catholics charge — and I’ve read this several places, most recently here — that Protestant theology doesn’t truly believe in the eradication of sin from our lives: that when we are forgiven and justified, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, despite our own inherent sinfulness, and God declares us righteous before Him. Though I was never formally taught that, this seems to be consistent with my Protestant way of thinking.

There is a quote from Luther that I’ve seen and heard many places, and I wish I could find the original context — but the only thing I can find when I google is Catholics criticizing the doctrine. Perhaps my Lutheran friend can help? Luther is said to have taught that justification is like a cloak or a white sheet thrown over the putrid, rotting sin of the human soul: that we are only declared righteous before God while remaining sinners; that we are not truly washed clean, only our sins and our shame are covered. Is this true? I know Protestant theology makes a distinction between justification and sanctification. Hopefully, after this covering, there would be some actual purification and cleansing through God’s grace?

Catholic theology, on the other hand, doesn’t make the distinction between justification and sanctification. The two are inseparable, part of the same process, practically synonymous. When our sins are washed away through Baptism, they are really washed away. When we are forgiven and absolved through Reconciliation, our sins are really taken away, blotted out. This gives a much more satisfying and clean feeling.

But the difference is this: Protestants believe that the experience of justification is a once-and-for-all legal declaration; that when we are justified, Christ throws the white sheet and all our sins are covered; that when Christ’s righteousness has been imputed, no sin we could ever do can be held against us; that Christ paid the price for all our sins for all time. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that justification is a continuing, lifelong process. That though Christ paid the price for all our sins, we have to go back again and again to be forgiven when we fall, to receive that justification again. That when we sin again after our baptismal regeneration, the sin actually sullies our soul, damages our connection with God and with the Church — in the case of grave, mortal sin, even severs it. There is no white sheet protecting us, covering our shame: we are naked, and when we sin, filthy. Reconciliation is not just a formality; it is a sacrament of actual, spiritual healing. Through the grace of Penance, God washes us clean again, heals our wounds, and restores our damaged connection.

And this can have profound consequences for the way we think about sin. For years and years as a Protestant, I struggled with the same sin (I still do, only now I am actually struggling). I assuaged myself, told myself that God knew I was sinful, knew I was a wretch, and that He’d already forgiven me; that nothing I could ever do could take away my salvation. There was never any impetus to truly repent, to truly strive for holiness. And so I didn’t. For a long time I would pray and ask for forgiveness, say I was sorry; but then go right back to doing the same thing. After a while, I stopped even pretending to repent, believing that God “understood” and had it covered.

That’s not a Christian way to live. I hope and believe that that’s not the way most Protestants live, that most Protestants do indeed strive after repentance and holiness as the Bible teaches — but I know that it was an easy fallacy for me to fall into, believing what I did about justification. Now, as a Catholic, I am realizing more and more vividly that sin is something severely harmful and menacing — that not only does it harm me temporally, make me miserable, but it harms my relationship with God; it causes me to fall from grace; it threatens my immortal soul. More than ever before — where I have not had it before — I feel the drive to repentance and to holiness.

Confession and Healing

Today I made my First Confession.

I’ve heard from various friends about the sensations they felt the first time they took part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation — from joy, to peace, to release. For me, it was similar. I was very nervous going in. It was a new experience, and I would be laying my soul and my faults bare. I had written out my confessions beforehand. As I confessed them, I had the sensation of a pouring out of my soul — and in the end, catharsis. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt clean. I didn’t smile; I didn’t skip away; I cried.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:18-19 ESV

This has always been one of my favorite Scriptures about God’s forgiveness. Today I truly feel that my sins have been cast into the depths of the sea.

What has moved me the most in approaching Confession is that it’s known as a Sacrament of Healing. I don’t know what I thought it was when I was a Protestant; but I conceived of it more as a burden, a legalistic obligation, than as an administration to the soul. Christ is the physician to our bodies and souls. Confession is the Sacrament of Reconcilation, the Sacrament by which we as sinners are reconciled to the Church, to each other, and to God. It is also called the Sacrament of Conversion, because through it, through Confession and Penance, we actively turn away from our sins and convert (turn towards) God and His path of righteousness (CCC 1423-1424). This whole chapter in the Catechism is powerful and poignant to me; I have quoted sections of it before; but to quote another:

“The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God (CCC 1468).

One of the key scriptural foundations for Confession is telling to this point:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:13-16 ESV

Here, confession of sins is intimately connected with healing, both physical and spiritual. And it is paired essentially with the other Sacrament of Healing, the Anointing of the Sick.

In the Christian tradition from which I’m coming, miraculous healings, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are at the forefront of the Christian experience. When someone is sick, especially gravely sick, there is so much prayerful petition, so much faith and hope that God will work miracles of healing through prayer, anointing, and the laying on of hands — inspired by the healing miracles of Christ and the Apostles, and by this same Scripture that undergirds the Catholic Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. There is a genuine belief and an active faith that God heals; but even beyond this, there is ready credence and faith given to faith healers, individuals who profess to have individual, personal gifts of miraculous healing through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in the Great Commission of the “Longer Ending” of Mark (Mark 16:14-20), that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” and that “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues . . . ; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12, writes of gifts of healing and other spiritual gifts. While Catholics and cessationists apply these passages only to the Apostles and believers of the Apostolic Age, many Protestants and continuationists apply them to wider Church, to all believers in all ages, and believe that these miraculous, personal gifts of healing continue to this day.

I have no doubt that God heals today — that He intervenes in our lives in miraculous and mysterious ways. If this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be alive today. But I believe that more often than not, these healings follow the course of the mysterious rather than the miraculous: of God’s infinite love and grace, and not His desire to make a show or spectacle. My own healing was miraculous, but it was a private, personal miracle, more for me than for anyone else. My experience, and the faith it engenders in me, is of little weight to anyone else; and to me, that makes it all the more personal and precious. I believe God works through medicine, through surgery, through the unexplained, through paths that no one sees, that few appreciate but those that receive His graces. When it comes to professed faith healers, to individuals with professed gifts of healing, I tend to be a skeptic. Many of them, I fear, are charlatans and showmen. I certainly don’t believe “word of faith” teaching, that professes that we can “speak” or “declare” God’s blessings and graces into our lives.

Do Catholics believe in divine healing? This was one of the most pressing questions I faced as I made this journey. When someone is terminally ill and dying in the Catholic Church, I have never heard a priest or anyone pray for God’s divine healing. There seems to be a ready acceptance that death is imminent. In many ways I think this is healthy; earthly death is a part of life, as much as being born, and I have seen firsthand the crises of faith faced by those who believed they had “spoken” a healing and “received” it, only to face death in the end. But do Catholics believe in divine healing? Most certainly. Catholicism abounds with stories attributing healings and other miracles to the intercession of saints; even attributing intercession against certain ailments and diseases to particular saints. St. Peregrine Laziosi, for example, is the patron saint against cancer.

And in the Catechism itself, in the mainstream, established doctrine of the Church, there is also hope in God’s healing. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick — the so-called “Last Rites” — is not a sacrament of death or even strictly of preparation for it, but of healing (CCC 1499-1532). Though the emphasis of the Sacrament, as described in the Catechism, is the healing of the soul — on the gift of grace to face sickness; on the forgiveness of sins; on preparation to make life’s final journey — throughout is an acknowledgement that Christ is a physical healer. It affirms that Christ may heal the body to accomplish the salvation of the soul (certainly, this is what happened for me); but accepts that the salvation of the soul is paramount, and that crossing over into the next life is a grace in itself to those who belong to Him.

So do Catholics believe in divine healing? Yes, they do. Sometimes I think that there should be more faith and prayer for physical healing in this life; but what I see, more openly than that, is perhaps even more valuable: a full acceptance of God’s Will and Grace in our lives, that not ours, but His Will be done.