Monday, 20 April 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 36a.
§ 51. Is there a Special Fruit Derived from Masses Celebrated in Gratitude towards Benefactors?
288. Sin having entered this world and laid a heavy burden on us exiled children of Eve, the predominant religious sentiment of the soul is a craving for pardon, reconciliation and atonement. " Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my iniquities." (Ps. l. 34.) This cry ascends to heaven from the heart of sinful man desirous of reconciliation ; and it finds its truest expression in sacrifice. Hence sacrifices of propitiation were the most numerous and conspicuous of the Old Law. Holy Mass, as being the consummation of all pre-Christian sacrifices, embraces all ends for which sacrifice is instituted, and must consequently also be a sacrifice of propitiation. In this respect the truth and essence of the New Law can not be inferior to the type and shadow of the Old Law. What was achieved on the cross for all mankind is applied in Holy Mass to individuals ; for it is both a sacrifice of atonement and of impetration. Hence fervent Christians are intent on assisting at Mass as often as possible, and on having it offered for themselves and for others; they moreover improve every opportunity to gain a special share in the various Masses said for confraternities, societies, sodalities, etc., and offer the atonement merited thereby in favor of particular persons. Such societies are the Pious Union of Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Ingolstadt, Bavaria, for the members of which about 250,000 Masses are said every year, and in which they share if they order a Mass annually and observe the other rules of the Union. The "Work of Atonement,' , called also the "Charity," is a society for the relief of the Suffering Souls, for whom it has 50,000 Masses said every year. There are a great number of such pious associations.
289. Besides, there are other good works that engage the charity of the faithful, for instance the support of home and foreign missions, the conversion of unbelievers, the maintenance of hospitals and charitable asylums, etc. The founders and directors of such pious works for the relief of spiritual and temporal distress generally show their gratitude towards their benefactors by saying Masses or having Masses said for them. What better return could these godly persons make to their benefactors than to offer up for them the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, this inexhaustible source of grace? In our country there are many such institutions—asylums for homeless children, hospitals, colleges and seminaries for poor students etc.— for the charitable support of which a specified number of Masses are said every year.
290. In many confraternities, societies, etc., the members are very zealous to share in the spiritual benefits accorded to them by the Church. These benefits are very numerous. For instance: The members of the "Work of Atonement," during life and after death, share in all the meritorious works of the Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Redemptorists and Trinitarians in all their branches.—The members of the Confraternity of the Scapular of Mount Carmel, according to the Bull Ex dementi, of August 12, 1530, share in all the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Order. —The members of the Archconfraternity of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ have a special share in all the good works and penitential exercises of all religious Orders and Congregations. (Rescript of September 20, 1852.) Moreover, the Holy See granted to these pious unions a great number of plenary and partial indulgences to be gained by the members on fulfilment of the conditions prescribed. Hence thousands upon thousands have united and still continue to unite themselves with these aggregations for the purpose of sharing in their merits.
291. By the communion of saints every member of the Church, when in the state of grace, partakes of all the spiritual benefits of the whole Church and every other member. Our spiritual advantage common to all members of the Church is faith. Faith itself has its source in the superabundant and infinite merits of Christ. To the merits of Christ are added the merits of the saints, who as living members of the mystical body of Christ often gained more merits by their labors and sufferings than were sufficient for themselves. True, their merits are limited and cannot be compared with the merits of Christ in whom they originate and who gives them their value; nevertheless they are an addition to His merits. These merits, which they gained over and above their own needs, are placed to the credit of the faithful on earth for themselves and the souls in Purgatory; not indeed in such a manner that the sanctity of the saints may be shared in by the faithful living in this world—for no individual can be good and holy for another—but in such a way, that the superfluous merits of the saints are ceded to the faithful on earth for the partial or entire remission of their own temporal punishments, or those of the Suffering Souls. The infinite merits of Jesus Christ and the supererogatory merits of the saints, taken collectively, form the spiritual treasury of the Church.
292. The communion of the faithful on earth imparts this advantage to the members thereof, that all who are in a state of grace share in all the Masses, prayers and good works which every one individually offers and performs. The faithful on earth therefore participate in all the spiritual goods of the Church, which derive their efficacy directly or indirectly from the merits of Jesus Christ and the saints. They all hear the preaching of the word of God, and are led on toward heaven by the priests, the representatives of the Good Shepherd; they have access to the holy sacraments, the conduits of heavenly grace; they receive by means of indulgences the partial or full remission of temporal punishment, and through the sacrament-als various benefits for soul and body; they share in the prayers of the Church, and especially in all the Holy Masses celebrated every day throughout the whole world. What a wealth of treasures, Christian soul, treasures far surpassing in value the whole world with all its perishable goods!
293. But this is not all. The faithful on earth share also in the prayers and good works which they perform and offer up for one another individually. For instance, a friend many miles away prays that God would grant you such and such a grace; another gives an alms with the intention that God should let you have its merit. God hears them both. He may not grant you the grace implored, but He will give you one far more salutary for you. Since the day when St. James wrote the words, "Pray one for another, that you may be saved, for the continual prayer of a just man availeth much ,, (James v. 16.)—since that day there always have been devout souls who made the general needs of Christendom the object of their special intercession. Thousands upon thousands pray for the young people, that they may not be misled; for the rich, that they may make good use of their wealth; for the sick, that they may profit by the visitation of God. Half a million priests daily recite their canonical office for the whole Church; there are confraternities for the assistance of the dying by prayer and good works; the convents that practise the Perpetual Adoration day and night implore divine mercy for the welfare of the whole Church. In all these prayers and works of individual piety and charity the faithful at large have a share.
294. Sinners also profit by the communion of saints; for sin does not wholly exclude from it, because by sin we do not lose faith and hope, but only charity. But the spiritual benefits conferred on sinners through the communion of saints are restricted to the means and graces of conversion placed at their disposal. Excluded from the communion of saints are all those who do not belong to the Church, unbelievers, heretics, schismatics and excommunicated persons. The Church preaches and prays for them; but if they continue in separation, she cannot grant them further benefits; she must leave them to their fate. . For the salvation of sinners within the pale of the Church the faithful offer up prayers and good works to obtain their conversion. The Church herself continues to exhort them, inviting them to reconciliation with God by the sacrament of Penance. She also prays for them, and offers for them the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
295. It is therefore the will of Christ and of the Church, that the Holy Sacrifice should always include the whole communion of the faithful. The general fruit of the Sacrifice is awarded to them by the very act of sacrifice performed by the priest, and hence a formal intention on his part is not necessary. Those who are excluded from the communion of saints have no share whatever in the general fruit of Sacrifice. Those who are in a state of mortal sin partake of these fruits in a less degree than the just who are full members of the mystical body of Christ; for Holy Mass always produces its effect for the benefit of the whole Church, for all still in need of the help of grace, living or dead. The chalice of the Precious Blood of Sacrifice is daily lifted heavenward for the salvation of all. Jesus Christ shed His Blood and suffered the torments of the cross in order that all mankind might receive the knowledge of the truth and be saved by His grace and atonement. The source of grace and salvation flows incessantly and everywhere in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and dispenses blessings to all the world. Into thousands of hearts—hearts that are perhaps not even aware of it—the rays of supernatural illumination go out from the altar, to lead back to Christ, the great Bishop and Shepherd of souls, the erring sheep of His flock; to bring them back into the one fold, to the bosom of their Mother the Church, where the treasures of grace and the means to draw therefrom are open to all.