Saturday, 28 March 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 23.
§ 39. What is more Profitable and Meritorious—to have Masses Celebrated for Ourselves during Life, or after Death?
213. Many Catholics are solicitous to have a number of Masses celebrated after their death for the repose of their souls. For this purpose they save money and devise a portion of their estate in their last will and testament. This is good and praiseworthy, and persons intending this should by no means be dissuaded from doing so; yet it is more profitable and meritorious to have these Masses celebrated during life. St. Leonard of Port Maurice exhorts us most earnestly to have Masses celebrated for ourselves during life-time rather than after our death ; and he declares that one Mass before our death is much more profitable to us than many after it. He gives the following reasons: First, if we have a Mass said for us during life-time, we are the cause of its celebration and can assist at it, which latter is impossible after our death. Secondly, if a Mass is celebrated for us during life-time, and we are perhaps in the state of sin, we may hope to receive from God's mercy, in virtue of this Mass, the grace to perceive our sinful state, to be moved to true contrition, and to reconcile ourselves with God by a sincere confession. True, God is not obliged to grant us this grace; for whosoever remains consciously in the state of mortal sin, is not capable of gaining supernatural merit. But as God is infinitely merciful, He usually grants to sinners who perform a good action the grace of true contrition for their sins. This grace or efficacy of Holy Mass cannot be obtained after death. For if we die in a state of sin, even thousands of Masses would not transfer us into the state of grace; we remain forever enemies of God and children of wrath.
214. Thirdly, Holy Mass can obtain for us the grace of a happy death, because in virtue of its being offered for us God will assist us with special aid to triumph" over the enemy of our souls in that decisive hour. Fourthly, if Masses are said for us before our death, their merit will accrue to us after it, and we shall thereby either be preserved entirely from Purgatory, or our punishment will be mitigated and lessened. For by every Holy Mass we pay to God a great part of our indebtedness; and if we hear it with special devotion we moreover blot out many venial sins, so that we may reasonably hope to escape a great part of our punishment after death. But if we defer these Masses until after our death, we shall be obliged to wait for their celebration in case we are in Purgatory, and this waiting is most distressing and painful. Hence it is better that the benefits accruing to us from Holy Mass be obtained in advance, than to wait for them in the torments of Purgatory.
215. Fifthly, by ordering a Mass in life-time we make an offering to God of our money, inasmuch as we give the usual stipend or alms for the support of the priest, thereby depriving ourselves of some means of gratification. After death however we deprive ourselves of nothing; for then our earthly enjoyments have ended, and our means go to our heirs. By making bequests for Masses after our death, our action no longer includes self-denial; we give what death will inevitably deprive us of. Hence our offering cannot be so pleasing to God and so meritorious for us, as it would have been if we had made it during life-time. Sixthly, it is to be remembered that a person performing a good action in the state of grace receives a double reward. He receives a remission of part of the punishment due for his sins; and he merits a greater reward in heaven. Thus a person having a Mass said for himself during his life-time pays a part of his indebtedness to. God, and merits a greater glory in heaven; but when he defers the Mass until after his death, though he thereby pays a part of his indebtedness, his glory in heaven is not increased. Even though thousands of Masses were celebrated for us after death, our heavenly glory would not be increased one degree; for in heaven merits are no longer placed to our credit: a truth to be well remembered.
216. Finally, we ought to consider that by one Holy Mass celebrated for us during life more punishment is remitted to us than by a great number celebrated after our death. If we have offended someone and ask his pardon immediately, we may easily obtain it; but if we hesitate and defer seeking reconciliation till the matter is perhaps taken before the. court, then one word spoken in our defense may cost us many dollars. Now we offend God often and in many ways during life: if we implore his pardon immediately and as long as we live, and manifest our willingness to atone for the offense by some good work—for instance by alms-deeds, acts of charity, a Holy Mass, etc.—this may suffice to cancel our whole indebtedness. But if we let our indebtedness accumulate until we appear before the tribunal of God, the penalty will be much heavier. In the next world the time of grace ceases, God judges everything according to the rigor of His justice; and accordingly every venial sin is punished so severely that many Masses will not suffice to cancel what one alone would have cancelled during our life-time. If we have the misfortune of committing a mortal sin after having a Mass celebrated for us during life, we shall more easily receive the grace of true contrition and sincere confession.
217. St. Bernard relates of a pious and wealthy merchant in Genoa, that the last will he had made was the occasion of most uncharitable remarks, because it contained no provision for Masses to be said for the repose of his soul. All his papers and business records were diligently searched to find an explanation how it happened that so devout a man could be guilty of neglecting so important a matter. To the great edification of all it was finally discovered that the deceased had caused thousands of Masses to be said for him during his life-time. He had taken to heart the words of St. Bonaventure, "God values a trifling voluntary penance in this life much higher than a more severe but compulsory one in the next; just as a little gold is more valuable than a great lump of lead." Hence St. Anselm asserts, "To hear one Holy Mass devoutly in life is more profitable than to bequeath so much that thousands can be said after death."
And how much more meritorious will these Masses be, if we offer them for the relief of the Suffering Souls !
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Matth. v. 7.) Hence St. Paul exhorts us, "Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid." (Hebr. iv. 16.)