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Catholics/What is acts of reparation?

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Question
Hi!

First of all, I'm not a Catholic, but lately I've been studying the Catholic Faith. I'm originally a Lutheran, but I agree with the Catholic Faith more than I realised! However, something I cannot wrap my head around, is so-called "acts of reparation".

First of all, I understand that we as Christians are "in Christ" and therefore partake in Christ's death and ressurection in Baptism (Romans 6). So in this sense, we suffer with Christ and are saved by participation in His death and suffering (which is made present to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, and so on).

However, when I read about these acts of reparations (e.g. the Sacred Heart, the Holy Face, the Golden Arrow prayer ...), it seems as if our reparations "removes" His suffering. As if enough people did enough reparations, Christ's sufferings would be completely "paid down" by our human actions, and render the Cross void.

I understand that, in a childlike piety, we would like to repair for the wrongdoings of Man done to God. It is natural. We don't like seeing our Savior insulted so greatly in this world, and we want to fix that. This mindset is godpleasing, I believe. But I never thought that this ACTUALLY "repaired" the sufferings of Christ, so He "suffered less" on the Cross!

I really hope I have misunderstood something, for the Catholic Faith is so beautiful, but this just seems to emphasise Man's action and de-emphasise the salvific work of the Cross.

I thank you in advance for answer.

- Mark (Norway).

Answer
You have to keep in mind that what you are referencing (Sacred Heart, Holy Face, Golden Arrow Prayer) are all DEVOTIONS and are based on what the Church calls "Private Revelation."  

Private Revelation is something that is given to individuals of a certain time and place for the purpose of drawing emphasis to some Truth revealed in Supernatural Revelation as handed on in Scripture and Tradition. The only Revelation binding on any Catholic are the Truths handed on in Supernatural Revelation.  Private Revelation is NEVER binding on an individual.

As such if the "Acts of Reparation" spoken of make you feel uncomfortable, or you don't like them, that is perfectly fine.  You are free to dismiss them. You are in no way bound to accept them as binding on your Conscience.  

That being said, I can assure you the "Acts of Reparation" spoken of DO NOT lessen the suffering of Christ, if we are limiting our discussion to the suffering of Christ the head alone. However, we must keep in mind that the Church is the Body of Christ.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.  Thus, in a broader sense we CAN speak, I think, of lessening the suffering of Christ as it refers to the participation of the suffering of Christ in the Body the Church.  

By doing acts of reparation we can lessen the temporal punishment due our sins or the sins of others in imitation of Jesus Christ.  Notice I refer to "Temporal Punishment" due sin and NOT "Eternal Punishment."  Christ alone atones for, suffers for, and makes up for "Eternal Punishment."  However we can suffer for, atone for, and make up for the TEMPORAL effects of our sin.  Acts of Reparation apply to this aspect of redemption. Thus, I can perform a Sacred Heart Novena in reparation for the sins of someone else, or myself.  Doing so and the Temporal Punishment is lessened, or mitigated.  This in no way lessens of minimizes the sufferings of Jesus Christ the Head of the Church as only he can atone for and mitigate the Eternal Guilt (Our sins against God.)

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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