Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 27.

§ 42. (ii) The Relative Value of One High Mass and Five Private Masses.

244. The atonement and merits of Christ come to us from the cross through the sacraments and chiefly through Holy Mass. The greater our spirit of penance, the more abundantly will the Lord endow us with heavenly grace. The more zealously we therefore perform these three kinds of good works, the more abundantly will we draw grace upon grace from this inexhaustible source of blessings. If by the performance of the least good work we receive a particular grace through Holy Mass, and thus become sharers in the sacrificial fruit thereof, then who will presume to deny that our reward will be the greater, the greater the sacrifices that we have brought and the saintlier the lives that we lead ? If an alms is given for a low Mass, and if thereby a certain measure of the atoning merits of Christ is granted to the giver, who will presume to assert that corresponding fruits are not obtained from the Holy Sacrifice, when the alms is increased five-fold, ten-fold, or more, to procure its celebration with a more solemn rite? The greater the alms that is offered, the more strongly the giver of the alms renounces the dangerous attachment to the goods of fortunes as well as their enjoyment; and he thereby also expresses his desire of uniting himself more fervently with the prayers of the Church, and his soul is thus better disposed to share in the sacrificial fruits of the Mass. The more elaborate the forms of the ritual, the greater piety and renunciation do they express, and the more highly God Himself will be pleased with such worship. When Magdalen anointed the feet of our Lord with precious ointment, He praised her for it, saying, "She has wrought a good work upon me." (Matth. xxvi. 10.) God also expressed His pleasure at the sacrifice of Abel, and His displeasure at that of Cain.

245. If the heavens were opened and the King of glory were to appear on the altar in visible splendor, how richly we would adorn the house of God to receive Him ! The fact that on the altar He veils His glory under the sacramental species, and comes to us in obscurity and humility to confer His grace, is surely no reason for honoring Him less; on the contrary the more He humbles Himself, the more strongly the gratitude of His children ought to feel itself spurred on to enhance His Sacrifice and to adorn His altars with the best and richest ornaments at their disposal. Good Christians therefore willingly offer the most select and beautiful productions of nature and art to our Savior in the Most Holy Sacrifice, in celebration of which the children of the Church militant vie with the glorious choirs of the blessed spirits who sing at the throne of the Lamb throughout all eternity a new canticle of praise and adoration : "To Him that sitteth on the throne, and the Lamb, benediction and honor and glory and power for ever and ever." (Apoc. v. 13.) The Church at all times was solicitous to surround this most sublime and august mystery of faith with all possible splendor, ordering the sacrificial act to be performed in a manner most conducive to the greater glory of God and to our own sanctification and salvation; so that it depends only on us to satisfy the promptings of our zeal and devotion for the honor of God and our temporal and eternal welfare. If a Christian therefore, in his zeal and devotion, offers not only five times, but twenty-five times the amount of the usual alms, in order to have the Holy Sacrifice celebrated with greater solemnity—should he then not be entitled to expect a corresponding increase in his share of merit? For our own spiritual good our Savior limited the efficacy of this divine Sacrifice, in order that we might personally and individually participate in its celebration more frequently and with greater zeal: why then should a Christian not share in its sacrificial fruit the more abundantly, the more generously he contributes to have it celebrated ?

246. The way of sacrifice is the royal way leading to a glorious goal in eternal life; even amid the trials, troubles and sufferings of this way the Lord refreshes and quickens the souls. Hence the Christian is not content merely with the celebration of the Sacrifice,, but he extends his zeal to the sacred vessels and vestments and to the place where the Sacrifice is offered. IF the people of Israel gladly and with willing hearts brought their offerings to build a temple to the Lord, the children of the Church must do their utmost to-honor their God veiled in the sacramental species, who for love of them so graciously condescends to appear among them in Holy Mass. It is for this reason that beautiful temples are erected to Jesus Christ, in which He is served by priests and levites in gorgeous vestments, in a splendor of lights, amid a profusion of flowers, the odor of incense, the solemn strains of chant and organ, and the harmonious peal of bells. While doing this the Church does not forget the living temples of the Holy Ghost; she is solicitous for the poor and distressed, because she recognizes in them Christ Himself. She acts on the principle of doing the one without neglecting the other. Even as early as in the first centuries the faithful made rich gifts for the service of the altar; but whenever distress prevailed, or when the persecutors of the faith threatened to rob the treasures of the sanctuary, then the Christians converted these treasures into alms for the poor; as we read for instance in the records of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence. The more liberally a person contributes to the adornment of the house of God, the greater is his share in the sacrificial fruit of Holy Mass.

247. In the life of St. Theresa we find an apt illustration from which we can learn how pleasing to God is the zeal for His house. Don Bernardino de Mendoza had donated to the saint a splendid estate in the neighborhood of Vadadolid for the purpose of founding a convent. Before the new convent was finished, he fell sick and was deprived of speech. He was unable to make his confession before death, and could indicate his contrition only by signs. St. Theresa was greatly distressed, for she was concerned for the salvation of his soul. Christ our Lord appeared to her, saying, "My daughter, thy benefactor's salvation was in great danger; but he found grace on account of the donation he so magnanimously made to thee. Nevertheless, his soul shall not be released from Purgatory until the first Mass shall have been said in the new convent." St. Theresa could not rest till the new convent was ready at least so far that Mass could be said within its walls. A temporary chapel was therefore provided, in which the first Mass was said on the following Sunday. At the communion the saint saw the soul of her benefactor surrounded by supernal splendor. He thanked her and told her he was about to enter heaven.

248. The doctrine and practice of the Church both favor the theory that the efficacy of Holy Mass is enhanced by the greater solemnity of its form and by the spirit of sacrifice evinced by the faithful for this purpose. The Church proclaims this her faith both in dogmatical definitions, in her official prayers and liturgy, and in her entire public worship, which latter culminates in High Mass. The Church lives, prays, and acts in faith and by faith. The belief of the Church in Purgatory, and in the efficacy of her intercession for the Suffering Souls, as also the maternal charity with which she is animated, find expression most clearly in her whole life, but especially in a solemn Requiem Mass. She directs the faithful to increase the alms for the celebration of Mass, thereby to conduce towards an increase of its solemnity. Now, if the faithful would not receive a corresponding increase of sacrificial fruit by their increased alms, the Church would act unjustly towards them; the priest would even not be permitted to receive the full stipend for a low Mass, because in some countries more than one Mass is said for the sum to which it amounts. For this very reason some persons send their alms to other countries. They are impelled by self-interest, not by a desire of honoring God ; and so they lose the effect of the Mass. The Church's design is not unfair, but holy and just, when she asks a greater stipend for a chanted or solemn High Mass; because according to , the inscrutable will of Christ the measure of sacrificial fruit increases correspondingly with the augmentation of solemnity and the increased offering of the faithful. Jesus said, "Take heed of what you hear : In what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you." (Mark iv. 24.)

249. Sometimes, when the faithful order High Masses to be celebrated, they are accused of vanity. They are told that "Mass is Mass," and that it is useless and extravagant to have any other than a low Mass said. True, Mass is Mass; for our Divine Savior is offered in every Mass in the same manner. But the measure of sacrificial fruit varies for individuals; and therefore such expressions proceed either from want of knowledge or from indifference in matters of religion. If less costly sacred vessels etc., are used at Mass on account of poverty, or—as is the case with some religious Orders—from love of poverty; or if other circumstances necessitate a less solemn manner of celebrating Mass—such cases as these are certainly not to be censured. But if Holy Mass be thus celebrated from a. motive of avarice or self-interest, or from negligence and carelessness, then every such celebration is a sure token of disregard and contempt for what to all true Catholics is the Most Holy in their religion. Whosoever does not entertain a deep sense of appreciation for the solemnity of divine service thereby gives conclusive evidence that his religious life is at a low ebb ; and those who criticize the expense occasioned by the adornment of divine service and of the house of God, most nearly resemble the traitorous Judas. "Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray Him, said, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor ? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief." (John xn. 3-6.)

250. As a rule those of the faithful who are most charitable toward the poor are also most liberal in their contributions to the Church and for the purposes of solemn worship. They are solicitous to sanctify themselves not only for their own sake, but also for God's sake. Hence they continually grow in zeal to have Mass celebrated, and to have it celebrated often. We are commanded to "pray without ceasing" (1. Thes. v. 17.); and so also must the Holy Sacrifice be offered without intermission, in order that we may obtain its fruit and grace in ever increasing abundance. So God ordained it, because His glory and our salvation are both promoted by continual Sacrifice. Where the means and circumstances do not allow of a greater expense for Church purposes, our Lord takes the will for the deed. He was pleased with the mite of the widow, and regarded favorably the Good Thief s prayer for pardon. The greater an exertion we therefore make in gathering the alms for Holy Mass, the more favor shall we find in the sight of God, and the more abundant will be our share in the sacrificial fruit.

What has hitherto been said of Holy Mass demonstrated inexhaustible source of grace, source is easy and free to all. God in His mercy is anxious to enrich us with heavenly gifts and blessings. Oh, that our hearts were less attached to worldly matters and cares! Oh, that we would draw copiously from this inexhaustible source of Divine mercy! If we only knew how to apply the Holy Sacrifice of Mass for our benefit, how soon we should be rich in grace! Hence it is most deplorable that there are so many who have no true conception of this sublime mystery, nor proper regard for it—that mysterious Sacrifice, which is the marvel and joy of heaven, and the consolation and salvation of the world.

251. One day, when St. Francis Borgias was about to celebrate Mass, it seemed to him that he heard from far away the last sigh of a very dear deceased friend of his. He at once offered the Holy Sacrifice for him.

At the end of the Mass the departed soul of his friend appeared to him and said, "At the moment when you heard my sigh I gave my soul back to its Maker. I was sentenced to Purgatory and was already in the place of torment; the Holy Sacrifice which you just offered for me opened to me the gates of heaven. I shall never forget your charity." Oh, let us always remember this occurrence; let us hasten to the relief of the Suffering Souls! And as Holy Church, in the Council of Trent, recommended Holy Mass as the most efficient means of releasing souls from Purgatory, let us do our utmost, without ever flagging in our zeal, to make use of this means devoutly and often. Let us offer the Holy Sacrifice especially for those souls who are dear to us and have a claim on our love and gratitude. The efficacy of other means for the release of the Suffering Souls is attached to certain conditions, of whose sufficient fulfillment we can not be absolutely certain. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass however does not lose its value and efficacy even though the priest who offers it be unworthy to perform the august rite. There is nothing that can impede the effects produced in virtue of its divine essence.