FRUITS OF THE MASSBy Fruits of the Mass we mean the effects it produces as applied to men. The merits of the Victim in the Sacrifice may be directed in various ways to different people ; hence we have a threefold kind of fruit, namely, the General, the Special, and the Principal.
1. By the General Fruit is meant the benefit which accrues to all the members of the Church, in so far as the Sacrifice is offered by the priest acting in the name of the Church. The Faithful all benefit by this, in virtue of the Communion of Saints, whereby all the members of the Church may and do assist each other by their prayers and good works. A larger share of this fruit will be obtained by those who have a closer connection with a particular Mass, as, for instance, by being present at it, and still more by ministering to the priest who says it; but, in every case, the measure of this fruit depends on the merit and devotion of each one.
2. The Special Fruit is that which belongs to the celebrant himself, just as special merit is gained by anyone who does any good work
for God, being greater, again, in proportion to his actual dispositions and devotion.
3. The Principal Fruit is that which is gained by the person or persons for whom the Mass is offered, in the intention of the priest. The value of the Mass is infinite in itself, and cannot be exhausted in its application to men, for it is the same as the Sacrifice of Calvary ; yet it is probable that the fruit of a Mass is determinate in quantity, so that, if offered for many, each would receive less than if it were offered for himself alone. In any case, two or more obligations for particular intentions may not be fulfilled by a single Mass. The application of this principal fruit must be the act of the will of the priest who celebrates it, that is, he must predetermine and dispose of the fruit in favour of him for whom he offers the Mass.
When this personal benefit is asked for by any of the Faithful, it is customary to make an offering on the occasion of the request. In the early ages of the Church, offerings were made in kind, such as bread, fruit, wine, etc. In the course of ages, such offerings fell into disuse, and the Faithful began to make money offerings instead, towards the support of the Clergy, and this long established custom prevails at the present day. It is not, in any sense, a price paid for the Mass, as though it were being-bought for money ; this would be the hateful crime of simony, that is, buying or selling spiritual things for a temporal price or reward, and is named from Simon Magus, who offered money to the Apostles, that he also might have, like them, the power of bestowing the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands (Acts viii. 18). Thus it is not a purchase, but an offering made as a means of support for the Clergy, on the occasion of the spiritual favour being granted.
In this country, the offering sanctioned by the Bishops of the Province of Westminster is five shillings, though, in the case of the many who cannot afford this sum, one-half is all that is expected. This is but a way of fulfilling the fifth precept of the Church : to contribute to the support of our pastors, a duty based on the Natural law of assisting those in temporal goods who devote their lives to our spiritual welfare ; on the Divine law, as expressed by S. Paul to the Corinthians: "The Lord ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel" (i Cor. ix. 14). And finally, on Ecclesiastical law, as seen in this fifth command of the Church, a principle confirmed even by the civil governments of the world.
The intentions of the Faithful, for which this application of the Principal Fruit may be asked, are as various as the spiritual and temporal wants of men. Sunday by Sunday, such intentions are announced for the Masses of the following week, whether for the living or the dead, either in specified form, or under the more general term of "private intention."
Seeing that the Holy Sacrifice is the highest act of Religion, and honours God more than anything else we do, it should be the ambition of the Faithful, from time to time, as they are able, to secure for themselves this precious gift, and offer it to God in fulfilment of all their obligations, to call down His favour upon themselves, their homes and families, and to implore the great grace of a holy death. They should never neglect the sacred duty of having Holy Mass offered for their deceased relatives and friends and benefactors. That was the custom clearly inspired of God in the Old Testament, (see 2 Mach. xii. 43), though the only offering they could make then was the sacrifice of animals. And the same pious remembrance of the dead, by the offering of the Sacred Mysteries on our Altars, prevailed