The following comes from an article by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, spiritual director of our Holy Souls Sodality.
As members of the Holy Souls Sodality, our ultimate goal is to empty out Purgatory and send all souls to Heaven. When I tell people that, I often hear a response along the lines of, “But then will we cease to exist as a sodality because we no longer have a purpose?”
Well, wouldn’t that be a great problem to have?
Unfortunately, there are always people dying, every minute of every hour of every day, and many of them are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins or have not fully atoned for past wrongdoing. Thus, they are kept from Heaven until their souls become purified in Purgatory.
That said, it’s my desire and the desire of Holy Mother Church that those who are dying should avoid Purgatory all together. One means in which Holy Mother Church gives her priests to affect this pearl beyond price is through the Apostolic Pardon, which far too few Catholics today know anything about. The Apostolic Pardon is a final blessing given specifically to the terminally ill and dying when they receive the Anointing of the Sick. Typically it is given after the absolution of the Sacrament of Confession (to the extent that the dying person is able to participate in the sacrament).
The Catholic Encyclopedia explains the Apostolic Pardon thusly:
The anointing [of the sick] is ordinarily succeeded by the conferring of the Apostolic benediction, or “last blessing,” as it is commonly called. To this blessing a plenary indulgence is attached, to be gained, however, only at the hour of death, i.e. it is given nunc pro tunc. It is conferred in virtue of a special faculty granted to the bishops and by them delegated quite generally to their priests. The conditions requisite for gaining it are the invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus at least mentally, acts of resignation by which the dying person professes his willingness to accept all his sufferings in reparation for his sins and submits himself entirely to the will of God. … The words of St. Augustine are in point: “However innocent your life may have been, no Christian ought to venture to die in any other state than that of the penitent.”
The very words of the Apostolic Pardon best explain what’s going on, spiritually:
Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.
Or as it was traditionally prayed years ago:
May our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave to His blessed apostle Peter the power of binding and loosing, mercifully accept your Confession and restore your baptismal innocence. And I, by the power given to me by the Holy See, grant you a plenary indulgence and remission of all sins; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
By the sacred mysteries of mankind’s restoration may almighty God remit for you the punishment of the present life and of the life to come, and may He open to you the gates of Paradise and admit you to everlasting happiness.
It’s a gorgeous prayer intended to hasten penitents’ souls to Heaven, remitting the temporal punishment due to sins they’ve confessed (or that have fully been repented from in their hearts).
Where does the Apostolic Pardon come from? From Christ Himself, who gave the authority to St. Peter (and his successors) when He said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19). Every priest, by his normal faculties, if he has the power to say Mass and pardon sins, has the right to impart an Apostolic Pardon.
What makes the Apostolic Pardon especially suitable for us Marian priests to perform? As promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message, the prayer of the Apostolic Pardon is a supreme example of the mercy of God for poor sinners.
Jesus told said Faustina, “My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 367).
He said, “And even if the sins of souls were as dark as night, when the sinner turns to My mercy, he gives Me the greatest praise and is the glory of My Passion (378).
Christ wants to save us, and He’s giving us yet one more opportunity to do so in our final moments of life. Indeed, the Apostolic Blessing is given when the person is within a few days of death. We’re talking about people with Stage 5 cancer, for example – people who are no longer responding to medication, or people in hospice care.
In such cases, call a priest, and remind the priest about the Apostolic Pardon. I’m putting the text of the blessing in the box above, and I invite you to cut it out and keep handy.
May you and your loved ones find added peace in this great gift to souls who are on their deathbed. With the Apostolic Pardon, you can have confidence that you have done all you could do to bring the soul of a loved one closer to the gates of Heaven.
For more information or to join the Holy Souls Sodality, visit prayforsouls.org|prayforsouls.org