Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The First Jubilees Celebrated in the United States

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The First Jubilees Celebrated in the United States

Article excerpt

When on Christmas of 1775 Pope Pius VI extended the Jubilee to the following year for the entire Catholic world,1 the thirteen British colonies of North America had already begun the Revolutionary War, and communications between the American clergy and their ordinary, the Vicar Apostolic of the London District, were interrupted. The priests, all ex Jesuits, continued, nevertheless, to labor under their local superior, who had been appointed by the Vicar Apostolic. After the Peace of Paris was signed, five of the priests, designated by the first General Chapter of the Clergy, met in November, 1783, and wrote a letter to the Pope, stating that they could no longer have recourse for their spiritual jurisdiction to a bishop or vicar apostolic living under a foreign government, and they requested not only that their ecclesiastical superior, John Lewis, be confirmed in office but also that the indulgences of the Jubilee of 1775 be granted to the American mission,"as well as such extension of faculties, as may seem good, to the missionaries in this extensive and very remote region, plagued by a long and bitter war with concurrent and continuing disturbances." For that reason the Jubilee could not be promulgated here; still less could it be celebrated or benefited from.2

Instead of Lewis the Holy See in 1784 appointed John Carroll superior of the missions. The prefect of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, Cardinal Leonardo Antonelli, replied to Carroll that the Holy Father had extended the indult of the Jubilee to the thirteen states and that the time allowed to gain it was one year from the day on which Carroll would receive the letter.3 He received it on November 26, 1784.4 In the following January he sent the clergy a circular announcing the Jubilee and asking that the priests give the faithful under their care such instruction, as may render them well acquainted with the nature, & advantage of a Jubilee, and of the necessary conditions for obtaining the benefit of it." The Holy Father had empowered him "to exchange the enjoined exercises of piety into other good works:' Therefore, since the circumstances of the country did not permit the faithful to visit four different churches, Carroll directed (1) that the inhabitants of towns in which there was a chapel convenient for the purpose, with the Blessed Sacrament reserved in it, had to visit the said chapel on fifteen successive or interrupted days and there devoutly recite either the Litany of the Saints or seven "Our Fathers" and seven "Hail Marys," etc., for the intention stated by the Pope; (2) that those who lived in the country or other places not having the convenience of a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament kept in it, or who lived in towns having such a chapel but were "deprived of all opportunity of visiting it, being servants or slaves," had likewise to recite the Litany of the Saints and the aforementioned prayers "for the space of fifteen days, either continued or interrupted"; and (3) that on two Fridays occurring within the term of performing these devotions all persons who were obliged to keep the usual fasts of the Church had also to fast, and those whose health, age, or other lawful cause exempted them from fasting at other times had to recite the seven penitential psalms and twice seven "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys:' Confession and communion were also prescribed. Carroll also advised the priests to appoint a time for their several congregations to commence the devotions for gaining the Jubilee and to remain several days among them.s Obviously Carroll wished to facilitate the fruition of the Jubilee for all the faithful. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have other sources regarding the observance of this first Jubilee in the United States.

The celebration of the so-called Jubilee of 1800 was also delayed. In a pastoral letter dated November 23, 1804, Carroll, now bishop of Baltimore, promulgated the concession of indulgences granted by Pius VII on May 24, 1800. …

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