Monday, 23 March 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 20.
§ 36. Application of the Fruits of Holy Mass to the Suffering Souls in Purgatory.
192. By His passion and death on the cross our Savior redeemed us from sin; and when He ascended into heaven, He left us the whole treasure of His merits and all the graces He had acquired for us. But these merits and graces must be applied to the individual souls of men, if they are to be saved by Christ's redemption. To make this application of our Savior's merits and graces is the office of the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost who communicates to every individual soul, till the end of the world, the merits of Christ's passion and death, thereby rendering it susceptible and worthy of the redemption. Before His death our Lord therefore, said to His apostles: "It is expedient for you that I go : for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John xvi. 7.) To redeem us, to regain for us the grace lost by our first parents, to open for us once more the gates of heaven—to procure for us all these blessings, our Savior had to die but once. After this one sacrifice on the cross He could return to His Father who had sent Him. But not so the Holy Ghost. His work of sanctification is not completed by one single act; it must and will be carried on continually till the end of time. One generation after another appears in this world; and of all these human beings there is not one born without the blight of original sin on the soul, not one who is free from the evil consequences of this sin. All these souls must share in Christ's redemption by having His merits and graces applied to them, if they are to attain eternal salvation. Now it is the Holy Ghost who must render every one of these souls capable of participating in the merits and graces of the redemption ; that is, He must sanctify every individual soul to make its salvation possible. The Holy Ghost is therefore called the Paraclete, that is, the Consoler ; and this He is in a special manner for the Suffering Souls who, being sanctified, languish to enter their heavenly abode.
193. The Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is the means by which the Holy Ghost applies to us the graces of the redemption. In the sacraments, that seven-fold stream of grace, the Precious Blood enlivens the Church, the mystical body of our Lord. Hence the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, that Blood which was shed on the cross, and which is shed mysteriously in every Holy Mass, is the abode and treasury of the Holy Ghost. Among all the dispensations of grace for the direct sanctification of man, Holy Mass holds the first and most important place in consequence of its relation to the sacrifice of the cross. The sacrifice of the cross is the fountain-head of all grace, the general source of all spiritual aid; for in the sacrifice of the cross all blessings of redemption have their origin, and from it all means of grace receive their power and efficacy. Now in Holy Mass this inexhaustible fountain of grace and salvation flowing from the sacrifice of the cross is transferred from the past to the present, from a distance into our immediate presence. For this reason and from this view Holy Mass may be called the cherished abode of the Holy Ghost; it may be regarded as the source of the means of grace, namely the sacraments and sacramentals, by which the sanctification of individuals is accomplished. Holy Mass can therefore produce directly, or at least indirectly, all divine graces and blessings, not only for its minister, but also for those for whom it is offered.
194. In its relation to us Holy Mass aims at our sanctification and salvation; hence it is a means of grace, or rather the source of grace, by which the wealth of divine blessings is transmitted to us. The grace flowing from Holy Mass is due principally to its character as a Sacrifice of Propitiation and Impetration. According to the Council of Trent the propitiatory effect of Holy Mass embraces "sins, punishment and atonement.'' Christ offered Himself on the cross as a Sacrifice of propitiation and impetration for the redemption of the whole world. Before this sacrifice there was no salvation; by it the price of ransom for the whole world was placed in the hands of the Heavenly Father. This reconciliation with God, effected for all mankind, is applied individually to man in Holy* Mass. This Sacrifice appeases the just wrath of God, it disarms His avenging hand, and renders sinful man an object of divine favor and mercy. The effect of this propitiatory Sacrifice is to move God to condone, wholly or in part, the punishment incurred by the person assisting at Mass, or for whom it is celebrated. This remission of punishment is gained in virtue of the vicarious satisfaction or payment made to God by Christ; for in Holy Mass the price of atonement and propitiation is continually paid anew to the Heavenly Father, and this for particular persons, that He might avert from them the punishment they have incurred, and favor them with increased mercy. Holy Mass therefore draws down upon man grace to enlighten him, to impel him to turn to God in faith, hope, charity and contrition, "and to receive worthily the holy sacraments, by which he is sanctified interiorly and becomes again a child of God. This is expressed by the Council of Trent as follows: "Reconciled by the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, our Lord imparts the grace of penance, and remits sins and vices, however great they may be." And, in the gospel of St. John we read of the Holy Ghost: "He shall glorify me: because He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you." (John xvii. 14.) Accordingly the Holy Ghost impart? the redemption of Jesus Christ individually to man by leading him to share in it.
195. Mortal sin is not blotted out directly and immediately by Holy Mass; and according to the opinion of most theologians, even venial sin cannot thus be effaced. We have seen however that this august Sacrifice effects a disposition by which we are drawn to reconciliation with God; hence we say that it leads us mediately' and indirectly to pardon. The guilt of mortal sin is removed from man only by the infusion or restoration of sanctifying grace. This grace of justification, and consequently also the remission of mortal sin, is usually obtained, according to the ordination of God, only in the sacrament of Baptism, or by means of the sacrament of Penance, or by an act of perfect contrition made with the desire of receiving the sacrament of Penance. The sacraments are instituted for the direct justification and sanctification of man, and serve to originate and confirm the supernatural life of the soul. On the other hand sacrifice, as such and in the first place, is a service of God. True, Holy Mass is also a means of salvation, but it was not instituted primarily for the conferring of the grace of justification ; hence it is not able of itself and without the help of some other means of grace to blot out and take away sin. And yet Holy Mass, according to the doctrine of the Church, is undoubtedly a means productive of atonement and remission of sin.
196. Fallen mankind was fully redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Thereby it was made possible for every human being to be released from guilt; nevertheless every one must individually apply to himself the means instituted for his purification. In Holy Mass the propitiatory sacrifice of the cross is renewed in favor of individual persons; but yet every one must for himself offer up his heart to God in contrition and charity. If, despite the graces we receive, we continue in our wicked life and do not abandon sin, we shall die in it; and therefore St. Augustine observes, "God, who created us without our help, will not save us against our will and without our co-operation." This truth is illustrated by the crucifixion of Christ. We know that despite the tears and prayers of Christ on\he cross but few of the many thousands of sinners present at His death were converted and said, striking their breasts, "Indeed this man was the Son of God." (Mark xv. 39.) The rest remained obdurate and refused to avail themselves of the grace offered them.
197. Judas was a witness of all the miracles performed by Jesus, he was one of. His chosen apostles ; and yet, like the malefactor who was crucified at the left of our Savior, he died in his wickedness. The Good Thief, also crucified with Jesus, died repentant and was received into paradise. In like manner the effect produced by Holy Mass is different according to the more or less worthy disposition of the person attending it. The better his disposition, the greater will be his share of the fruit and treasure derived from this Sacrifice. Hence it is necessary that they who assist at Mass do so in the proper spirit. Without our co-operation we will not experience the effects intended to be conferred by our Divine Savior in this Holy Sacrifice. In a word, the effect depends on the spiritual disposition of the person assisting at Mass, or for whom Mass is offered. Those well disposed receive through this Sacrifice the grace to perceive and to be very sorry for their sins. A renowned spiritual writer says, "Holy Mass does not blot out sin, but excites contrition or a desire for contrition. This contrition is sometimes excited at the very time when Mass is celebrated; at other, times it is granted later, yet as a result of this Holy Sacrifice. Thus it happens that many are converted by a special grace of God without being aware that they owe it to the efficacy of Holy Mass. Sometimes sinners are not converted at all, because they refuse the grace of God, or abuse it instead of co operating with it."
198. What a consolation to know that our brethren deceased in the Lord are capable of receiving the atoning effects of Holy Mass! The Suffering Souls are in need of our help, because they have incurred temporal punishment, which they cannot mitigate or shorten by their own merit. But they are susceptible of our assistance, because they are in a state of grace, and are united with the faithful on earth in faith and charity. While Holy Mass is only an indirect means' for the remission of sins, it is a direct means of obtaining remission of punishment, in virtue of the atonement made by Christ on the cross, whose merits are vicariously applied to us. For on Calvary "He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was on Him." (Isai. liii. 4. 5.) For our peace He suffered, averting from us the wrath of God. -The merits of His passion and death are applied to us for the remission of our punishment.
199. In the Suffering Souls God illustrates His justice and His mercy. Some theologians hold that the Suffering Souls all share in the fruits and suffrages of Holy Mass to the same degree; but the more prevalent opinion is, that the souls in Purgatory share in the fruits of Holy Mass according to the degree of worthiness they attained or aimed at in life. The defenders of this opinion declare that the disposition of departed souls can well differ; that there are special virtues, for instance a profound reverence for the Church's power of binding and loosing, great penitential zeal, charity for our fellow-men, especially for the Suffering Souls, and particularly a great fervor in assisting at Mass and in receiving holy communion, by which we gain during life a special claim to speedy help after death and to a particularly abundant share of the general and special works of atonement performed by the Church militant. Souls who were insensible during life to the pitiful condition of the souls in Purgatory, will in their turn find no relief while suffering in this prison; they will have to pay their indebtedness to the last farthing, and this even in case prayers and sacrifices are offered especially for them. For the acceptance of these suffrages in behalf of those for whom they are intended depends entirely on the will of the just God; and St. Augustine remarks, "Our suffrages for the deceased are not always distributed as we intend. Sometimes God makes the distribution quite differently, granting the merits of the good works which we perform for the departed to such of them as have deserved this privilege during life by their own charity for the Suffering Souls. 'For with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again'."
200. As the state of the Suffering Souls always renders them capable of receiving the mercy of God, the Holy Sacrifice offered up for them is never ineffective ; but their disposition towards it during life will affect the measure of this mercy. The better we are disposed when assisting at Mass, the greater will be the fruit we derive from it; therefore we must prepare our souls, purifying them by penance, withdrawing ourselves from earthly things, and inflaming our hearts with a desire for heavenly things. The propitiatory effect of Holy Mass is rendered so much more potent for us and for the Suffering Souls, the more earnestly we endeavor by our own efforts to appease the wrath of God. That we may be impelled to make these efforts, let us remember that the justice of God is infinite like His goodness and mercy; let us consider how displeasing to God and how culpable even the least sin and sinful inclination is; let us contemplate the rigorous and enduring punishments of Purgatory: then we will be penetrated with a wholesome fear of God's majesty and a dread of His just and holy judgments. We will gratefully and diligently make use of the gracious hour of the Holy Sacrifice to wash our garments in the Blood of the Divine Lamb; and we will not fail to sprinkle with the same Most Precious Blood the Suffering Souls in Purgatory. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Matth. v. 7.)
201. Having such a powerful Sacrifice of propitiation, possessing in Holy Mass the key of the treasury of the atoning merits of Jesus Christ—why should we permit the souls in Purgatory to continue to suffer? These souls must either undergo punishment sufficient to pay their indebtedness to divine justice, or the faithful must make vicarious payment by offering atoning merits for them till the last farthing is paid. These atoning merits are found super-abundantly in Holy Mass. Segneri says very aptly, "The Sacrifice of the cross is the general source of the remission of sins ; the Sacrifice of Holy Mass is a particular source, by which the Holy Ghost directs the efficacy of the Blood of Christ to individual souls. The passion and death of Christ have accumulated the treasury; in Holy Mass this treasury is distributed by the Holy Ghost. The death of Christ is a general treasury; Holy Mass is its key." These are consoling words, addressed to all who are truly conscious of their misery and weakness; they are a strong plea in favor of assisting diligently and devoutly at Mass. For when you assist at Mass, Christian soul, Christ gives you the key to His superabundant treasury; He permits you to open it, and to take away as much as your devout disposition enables you to receive. This treasure you can then devote to the relief of your dear ones in Purgatory.
Segneri continues, "Remark well, therefore, what is meant by celebrating Mass or assisting at it. It means that Holy Mass causes God, who is the God of all, to die again for me and for you all while assisting at the august Sacrifice, and this in such a manner as if He was dying for every one separately."—Thus does the Holy Ghost apply redemption and sanctification individually to the living, and to such of the deceased as are not yet sufficiently pure to enter paradise. Thus does the Holy Ghost sanctify souls to make them capable of entering the abode of bliss, but only such souls as are desirous of co-operating with His grace.
202. Catholics in general understand well the doctrine concerning the disposition necessary for obtaining the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass; hence they strive to become worthy of them by fulfilling well the duties of their state of life, by avoiding sin, by frequenting the sacraments, by offering prayer and alms-deeds, by making novenas, etc. Knowing moreover that the Holy Sacrifice of Mass in virtue of its own efficacy, and prayer and other suffrages offered in the state of grace, never fail in their atonement for the souls in Purgatory, they do their utmost to come to the relief of these Holy Sufferers.