VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Leading up to the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome is granting a plenary indulgence to any of the faithful who take part in the jubilee celebrations of the Dominican Order over the next two years.
The two-year Aquinas Jubilee, which began Jan. 28, 2023, includes three anniversaries in honor of the Angelic Doctor. July 18 marked the 700th anniversary of the canonization of St. Thomas, which was celebrated July 18, 1323, by Pope John XXII.
Next spring, on March 7, 2024, the traditional feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dominicans commemorate the 750th anniversary of his death, which occurred in 1274 at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova. The theologian was on a journey to take part in the Council of Lyons and fell ill along the way. His body was kept in Fossanova until the end of the 14th century, when his relics were transferred to Toulouse, France, where the Order of Preachers was founded by St. Dominic. Today, St. Thomas’ relics can still be venerated in Toulouse.
Finally, the jubilee will culminate with the 800th anniversary of St. Thomas’ birth on January 28, 2025. Aquinas’ birthday is the date on which the saint is commemorated on the new calendar of the Novus Ordo.
The plenary indulgence, which is granted by the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, can be obtained by any of the faithful who make a pilgrimage to a church, oratory, or holy site connected to the Dominican Order. This may be to participate in the more formal jubilee celebrations or to simply “devote a suitable time to pious recollection.” The pilgrimage should include the praying of the Lord’s Prayer, reciting the Creed, and invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Thomas Aquinas. Any church, shrine, or chapel run by or belonging to the Dominican Order fulfills the requirements for the pilgrimage.
The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence still apply, which are the following: the individual must 1) be in the state of grace, 2) be detached from all sin, mortal and venial, 3) pray for the Pope’s intentions, 4) make a sacramental Confession, and 5) receive Holy Communion. Confession and Communion may be made within 20 days before or after the indulgence.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” The plenary indulgence for the Aquinas jubilee may be applied “to the souls of the faithful departed still in purgatory,” and may be gained even by those unable to leave their homes for any serious reason, such as the sick or elderly “if, despising all their sins and with the intention of fulfilling the three usual conditions as soon as possible, they spiritually join in the Jubilee celebrations in front of an image of St. Thomas Aquinas, offering to the merciful God their prayers as well as the sorrows and ills of their lives.” The indulgence can be obtained through the end of the jubilee on Jan. 28, 2025.
St. Thomas Aquinas has been highly praised by many saints and popes. In the Encyclical Aeterni Patris on the restoration of Christian philosophy, Pope Leo XIII called Aquinas “the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith.”
Leo wrote, “With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching.”
Recounting a unique honor given to St. Thomas that highlights the importance of his doctrine and thought, Leo wrote that “the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.”
Leo concluded his praise of the saint by calling on bishops “to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences.”
A letter from the Master of the Order of Preachers on the occasion of the jubilee celebrations for St. Thomas Aquinas can be read here.