Tuesday, 14 April 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 31.
§ 46. What is Better—to Wait for a Day on which the Mass of Requiem is Permitted, or to have the Mass of the Day Said for the Deceased ?
262. It was explained in a former paragraph, that the supplicatory efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice is enhanced by the formula of the Mass, and that the liturgical prayers of these formulas have due reference to the intention for which the Mass is said, in consequence whereof the favor petitioned for is more speedily and surely attained. Such proper formulas are those of Requiem, and such votive Masses as do not correspond with the feast of the day. Every day throughout the year the Church celebrates the memory of some mystery of the faith or of some saint, which feasts have either a proper or a common formula of the Mass. If a Requiem or votive Mass is said, the feast must give way to it and accordingly remains unnoticed. In some cases the Church permits this. And because votive and Requiem Masses have a greater intercessory power, their celebration is requested often; for instance, the Mass of the Blessed Virgin, of St. Joseph, of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, etc. For the same reason Requiem Masses are frequently solicited by the faithful. Now on certain days the Church does n6t permit the omission of the Mass of the day, and hence arises the question: What is better—to say the Mass of the day for the intention of the person ordering its celebration, or to wait for a day on which the Requiem or votive Mass can be said ?—The Church herself is our surest guide in answering this question, and her answer is contained in her decrees and ordinances.
263. On the 3d of March, 1761, the S. Congregation of Rites declared that a priest who took upon himself the obligation of saying a votive or Requiem Mass, does not fulfil this obligation by saying the Mass of the day, on days when private votive and private Requiem Masses are permitted. This must be understood as pertaining to the entire fulfilment of his obligation; for the question concerns not the proper and essential fruit of the Mass, but an incidental one. The precept of saying votive Masses on days when they are permitted binds more strictly than that of saying Masses of Requiem on such days.
Hence St. Alphonsus Liguori in his book on the celebration of Mass says, that a priest taking upon himself the obligation of saying a Mass in honor of a certain mystery or saint is by this very act obliged to say the votive Mass. If he can not do so, let him instruct the giver of the stipend to be content with the Mass of the day said for his intention. According to the same holy doctor a Mass ordered in honor of some mystery or saint is to be understood in a strictly liturgical sense, even if the faithful requesting such a Mass do not know the difference between the Mass of the day and a votive Mass. Hence it is obvious that the Church does not consider the celebration of the day's Mass as satisfying the obligation of saying a votive Mass; and therefore the votive Mass must always be said whenever there is an obligation to do so, provided the rubrics permit it to be done.
264. As regards private Requiem Masses however, the case is different. On days when they are not permitted; the obligation is fully satisfied by substituting the Mass of the day, as the S. Congregation of Rites has repeatedly declared. For the Church has decided that a priest satisfies his obligation of saying a Mass for the dead when he observes the unprivileged rite of the day, even though a Requiem Mass be allowed on that day—provided a Requiem Mass has not been expressly asked for, or such a Mass is not required by the one who gave the stipend to gain the indulgence of a privileged altar. (S. Rit. Congreg., 12. Sept., 1840.) The reason why the obligation is fulfilled in the one case and not in the other lies in the fact, that in Masses of Requiem regard is had principally to the efficacy of the atonement, which is independent of the rite; whereas in votive Masses the intercessory fruit is the first object sought to be attained.
265. This being so, a brief consideration of the torments of Purgatory will suffice to answer the question. The soul in the torments of Purgatory is in need of assistance, and Christian charity urges us to come to its aid as soon as possible. True charity permits no delay; it eagerly uses every means at hand to relieve the Suffering Soul; it discerns in Holy Mass a means more efficacious for this end than any other. Requiem Masses are more beneficial to the souls in Purgatory than are the Masses of the day because their formulas are expressly arranged for the purpose of assisting them. Nevertheless we should not defer the Holy Sacrifice because a certain day or a certain time does not allow a Requiem Mass to be said. If a member of our family or a friend were attacked by illness, would it not be cruel to refuse the application of less effective remedies in case the physician could be called only after some days ? Thus also the delay in giving relief to the Suffering Souls is an unpardonable cruelty. Their condition demands speedy relief, and they implore us for it.
266. A Dominican on his death-bed asked one of his friends, a priest, to say a Mass for him immediately after his death. He had scarcely expired, when the priest celebrated the Holy Sacrifice for him. After Mass his deceased friend appeared to him and bitterly complained that he had been obliged to suffer in Purgatory for thirty years. "Thirty years!" replied the priest. " Why, it is scarcely an hour since you died ; your corpse is still warm." The deceased answered, " Iearn from this, my friend, how painful the torments of Purgatory are, when suffering them scarcely an hour seems to be thirty years; and therefore have compassion on us."
The torture of the Poor Souls in Purgatory being most intense, it can not be urged too earnestly that we do as speedily as possible what we intend to do for their relief. If charity would prompt us to spend one thousand dollars to release a man imprisoned for debt, and we would pay only one dollar every week, it would take years before he would gain his liberty; but if the whole amount were paid at once, he would be set free immediately. Let us apply the simile. Since the Church has repeatedly declared that a priest satisfies his obligation by saying the Mass of the day instead of a Requiem Mass, is it not far better to have many Masses celebrated, either of the day or of Requiem, by a great number of priests and at various places, than only one every week, and in one place and by one priest ? Undoubtedly it is. We should however always request that the Masses be said as Requiem whenever the rubrics permit it.
267. From what has been said on this subject it is obvious how heartless those are who neglect entirely or delay beyond a reasonable time the payment of pious legacies entrusted to them. The learned canonist Reiffenstuel, citing Laymann, Sylvester and other renowned theologians, declares such persons guilty of mortal sin; also those who for the same reason fail to carry .out in due time the constitutional provisions of pious associations for the relief of the Suffering Souls. The term of six months granted to testamentary executors by canon law is a privilege exempting from statutory penalties only, not one excusing from sin.
While such an executor or officer of a pious association delays the celebration of Masses or the distribution of alms, the soul of the testator is suffering excruciating torments.
268. Such dilatory heirs and executors are sometimes punished by God even in this world for their neglect, and in the next world the full rigor of divine justice will visit these defrauders of the dead. "Judgment without mercy to him that hath not done „ mercy." (James 11. 13.)—In the time of Charlemagne a brave warrior, who had fought on all the battlefields of Europe, before dying said to one of his relatives, " My possessions consist solely in my arms and my horse; why then should I make a last will ? The arms shall be yours, but sell the horse and divide its price between priests and the poor. Let the former celebrate Masses and the latter pray for me." The relative promised to do so. After the burial he took the horse with the intention of selling it. But as it was of greater value than the arms, he bethought himself that there was nothing to prevent him from keeping it for a while. Perhaps it would bring a higher price after some time which would eventually result to the advantage of his deceased friend. So he used it to make a few journeys: why should it remain idle ? he thought. Thus days, weeks and months passed by, and the man no longer remembered his promise. But he was effectually reminded of it. One day the deceased appeared to him and reproved him severely, predicting that he would soon die of a terrible disease and amid excruciating pains, and would have to suffer still greater torments in the next world. A few days later the man fell sick. He called for a priest, whom he informed of his misdeed and of-the apparition, made a sincere and contrite confession and died penitently. There is no doubt that the other part of the prediction came true also, and that he had to suffer the penalty of his neglect.
Let us therefore fulfil our obligations toward the deceased as soon as possible; let us have the Mass of the day said if the rubrics do not permit a Requiem Mass. It is a supreme Sacrifice of atonement in whatever form it is celebrated.