Saturday, August 29, 2009

‘Do you call twenty several?’

While researching the topic of indulgences I was asked how long after the principle act of earning the indulgence a person had to fulfill the obligation of receiving the sacramental Confession. I came across the following passage on the Vatican Website.

5. It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.


This clarifies the question nicely, but raises a new question, since when does "several" mean "about 20"? Frankly this reminds me of the passage in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, where Gandalf begins to slowly introduce their company of 15 to Beorn and he begins by calling them "several" so as not to alarm him by their large number.

Gandalf says to Beorn,

"There was a terrible storm; stone-giants were out hurling rocks, and at the head of the pass we took refuge in a cave, the hobbit and I and several of our companions . . ."

'Do you call two several?'

'Well, no. As a matter of fact there were more than two."

Gandalf eventually introduces 13 dwarves.

Hmm, I think it's time for "elevensies" and since it is hot perhaps we should have "several" cold drinks.

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