Wednesday, 22 April 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 36c.
§ 51. Is there a Special Fruit Derived from Masses Celebrated in Gratitude towards Benefactors?
302. The receivers of charity can therefore apply the Holy Sacrifice especially for their benefactors, as long x as the latter are not subject to excommunication. It was already observed that the selection of the persons for whom the priest wishes to apply Mass is left exclusively to him. He may remember in it the living and the dead, without regard to number and condition. Benefactors are remembered as a special class in the Holy Sacrifice which is offered for them. They receive a share in the general fruit of the Mass, because like the rest of the faithful they are members of the communion of saints; and in addition to this they obtain a special share in virtue of their good work of alms-giving and through the application of Holy Mass made especially for them. The priest may find it impossible to remember the benefactors all by name, as the Memento is not to be protracted beyond a reasonable time; but he makes a more explicit Memento of them before Mass, which he renews briefly at the proper time during the celebration at the altar, when he remembers them in general as a special class of persons. This mode of procedure does not diminish in the least their special fruit of the Sacrifice. The faithful are aware of this, and hence they are anxious to contribute to such unions of Masses or other good works. To participate in the special graces of Holy Mass they excel in good works, because God rewards in a special manner every good work performed by man. They are convinced that the best means a Christian can make use of to share in the blessings of Holy Mass is to give alms for its celebration.
303. There may be a considerable number of Christians who are led by a wrong view in contributing to such unions of Masses or charitable institutions. Being deficient in the knowledge of their religion, they contribute a certain small sum of money with the view of obtaining an ample return of spiritual benefits for their slender contribution. They pay an almost insignificant sum of money in order to have a share in a large number of Masses; and some even imagine that by doing so they are satisfying their obligation of having a certain number of Masses celebrated, without paying the stipends as ordinarily prescribed. For so small a contribution they share in such a large number of Masses—a great many more than they are bound to have celebrated! They desire the largest possible return for the smallest possible contribution. They show thereby that they are both avaricious and niggardly. There is no doubt that such persons are guilty of simony, because they try to set a price on the Holy Sacrifice—the lowest price possible. Their contribution cannot be considered as an alms, because they speculate on a return for their money, because they desire and expect to receive more for their small contribution, than by contributing the alms or stipend fixed by the bishop. Persons acting in this wise grossly deceive themselves. If anyone calculates on receiving more spiritual benefit for a dollar at one place than at another—what else can this be called but reducing spiritual goods to a commodity ? Moreover, how badly distorted must be the religious views of a person who imagines that he can gain God's blessing by covetousness and avarice!
304. This culpable and usurious practice of trying to obtain spiritual goods by purchase or commercial transaction is a most detestable crime. In ecclesiastical parlance it is called simony, from Simon Magus, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles: "And when Simon saw that by the imposition of the hand of the Apostles the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I shall lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said to him: Keep thy money to thyself to perish with thee: because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast no part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Do penance therefore for this thy wickedness, and pray to God, if perhaps this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. For I see thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity." (Acts viii, 18—23.) Persons attempting to fulfil their duty towards their deceased by joining unions of Masses and confraternities in order to receive a great number of Masses for the least possible money, would be guilty of this vice of simony. If deceased persons have willed certain sums of money for Masses, and the heirs would send this money to Europe or elsewhere for the purpose of having more Masses said than they could procure for the same amount of money at home—that also would be simony; and if they would send away only just enough of the money to have the required number of Masses said, and this for the purpose of saving and keeping some of the money for themselves—this would not only be an outrage, but also a defraudation of the dead; and consequently such heirs, in this latter case, would be obliged to make restitution. And whosoever attempts to influence a priest to accept a lower stipend than the one fixed by diocesan statute, makes himself guilty of simony.
305. But not only the attempt to purchase spiritual things for a temporal price is spiritual usury, but also the attempt to sell them is a great crime; for things spiritual are desecrated and debased by being bartered for things temporal. Nevertheless there were cases in which this was done. To collect money for the building of churches, or for other purposes good in themselves, a certain number of Masses was promised for those who would contribute a certain sum. The Second and Third Plenary Councils of Baltimore vigorously condemned this practice. In the Acts of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, page 169, number 269, we read: "It is to be deplored that the Decree number 370, issued by our Venerable Predecessors in the last Plenary Council was in many cases not observed. We now declare again and again, that it is an intolerable abuse and a desecration of a sacred: purpose that Masses are announced in newspapers and circulars to be said for such as contribute money to the building of churches, convents or similar edifices, for the purpose of paying off the debts thereof, or for any other good purpose. We most strongly condemn and prohibit this abuse. We urge bishops and prelates to have the said abuse corrected where it is still practiced and to render it impossible for the future." It is plain from these words of the Council, that all promising of Masses for the purpose of collecting money, offering a purely spiritual good for money or its equivalent, is prohibited and therefore sinful.
306. Every good Catholic will abhor such a scandalous proceeding and resolve never to be guilty of it. The best way to avoid it is always to have in one's heart a great reverence for God and for everything consecrated to His service. A person imbued with this reverence will show it by his whole demeanor. When he assists at Mass he indicates by his reverential bearing that he is conversing with God r His Redeemer, Lord and Judge. He manifests his faith also by having Masses celebrated for his intention by his own pastor; for he judges rightly that the fruits of a Mass are granted in proportion to the number of persons for whom it is said. Nevertheless he is eager also to gain a special share of other Masses and good works by a faithful and active membership in pious confraternities, and societies. He is particularly careful to avoid every sin against the reverence due to God. Whosoever perseveres in the grace of God shares in all the good works performed in the Church of God; and this participation corresponds in measure with the zeal personally shown in the performance of such works. He avoids the dreadful crime of spiritual usury and is solicitous to fulfill the will of God in all things.
307. What an ineffable blessing to be a faithful, true and obedient child of the Church and in living communion with ,Christ! Those members of the Church militant, who preserve in their souls the life of grace, can acquire the full share of inexhaustible blessings and mercies inherent in the innumerable Masses celebrated every day throughout the world. And how consoling the thought: "If I should die even in the remotest corner of the earth, if I should be forgotten by all the world, our Holy Church will not forget me. She will pray and offer the Holy Sacrifice on thousands and thousands of altars for my poor soul; and so she will pour the Most Precious Blood of Atonement into the flames of Purgatory for the alleviation and lessening of punishment." This is an inestimable, undeserved privilege for which we ought to be most grateful to God. At the same time we ought to praise and glorify God's mercy for ordaining that one person may atone for the other; and particularly ought we to be thankful that He gave us in Holy Mass so. excellent and efficient a means to assist one another in this world, and to come to the relief of the Suffering Souls in their banishment and torments. Holy Mass is indeed a spiritual treasury, to which we are permitted to have recourse at all times. But where is our faith and love ? Most assuredly we have reason to repent of much, to repair a great deal!
308. The Annals of the Society of Jesus relate that in 1583, at Biturka, a heretical mother was nursing her child, when suddenly the infant exclaimed, "To Holy Mass! To Holy Mass!" Full of consternation the mother obeyed the call; and while assisting at Mass and hearing the announcement of the word of God, she was enlightened by grace so that she abjured her errors and became a fervent Catholic. Are not many amongst us in the same deplorable state in which this mother had been? Do we esteem sufficiently the great source of grace that is open to us in Holy Mass ? Is the sacred, blessed hour of the Holy Sacrifice the favorite and most cherished part of our time ? Do we regard the celebration of and assistance at Mass as the most supreme and important work of the day ? Consider, O Christian soul: "Jonas arose and went to Ninive according to the word of the Lord.. . And the men of Ninive believed in God, and they proclaimed a fast. . . And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and God had mercy with regard to the evil which He had said that He would do to them, and He did it not." (Jon. in.) When Solomon had finished the temple, "the Lord appeared to him by night, and said: I have heard thy prayer, and I have chosen this place to Myself for a house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven, and there fall no rain, and if I give orders, and command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people: and My people, upon whom My name is called, being converted, shall make supplication to Me, and seek out My face, and do penance for their most wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal this land." (II. Paralip. vii. 12—14.) Therefore, heed you also the call, "To Mass ! To Mass!" Let the sound of the bell remind you of that infants call "To Mass!" If you hasten to it with interior and exterior devotion, the grace of God for soul and body, blessings and favors in abundance will descend upon you from on high. As often as the Lord, by His sacred ministers, invites you to contribute your share to the Holy Sacrifice, do so willingly and generously, in order that God may give to all of us, and particularly to lukewarm and impenitent Christians, the grace of conversion, penance and justification. Be convinced that in virtue of the communion of saints you share not only in the general fruits of Holy Mass, and in the prayers of the Church—all Catholics do so, even if they do not perform special good work for the purpose; but also in all the particular and specific fruits of the Holy Sacrifice that are common to all members in virtue of their special good works. "To Mass !" Hasten to offer the true propitiatory Sacrifice • for the faithful departed, who cry from the depth of Purgatory: "Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me." (Job xix. 24.) "To Mass!"— that God may be moved to release our deceased parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends from their torments by the power of this Holy Sacrifice, than which there is no more efficacious means of help.