Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 36b.

§ 51. Is there a Special Fruit Derived from Masses Celebrated in Gratitude towards Benefactors?

296. The more the faithful endeavor by virtue and piety to render themselves capable of receiving these treasures; the more closely they unite their own prayer with the prayer of their brethren on earth, with that of the Church, and with the Holy Sacrifice: the more abundant will be their share in the general fruits of the Sacrifice. For this reason good Christians every morning renew the intention to share in all the Masses celebrated throughout the world, which pious practice is a most salutary one and greatly to be commended ; for thereby they draw down on themselves the effects and fruits of this Holy Sacrifice. We remarked before that the general fruit of prayer and of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, whether offered by the faithful at large or by the Church, is not granted equally and in like manner to all the members of the Church militant. Some receive a greater, some a smaller share, every one according to his disposition. Hence it would be wrong to remain placidly inactive, thinking to have one's own indifference repaired by the zeal of others. Whosoever wishes to share in the benefits accruing to us from the communion of saints, must diligently perform his part in working out his salvation.

297. Those of the faithful who co-operate proximately or even remotely in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and in the prayers of a confraternity or society, undoubtedly receive a share of heavenly blessings proportionate to their co-operation, not only by reason of the act and spiritual condition of the persons sacrificing and praying, but also in virtue of the essential efficacy of the Sacrifice and prayer. These graces and blessings gained through the personal exertion of the faithful is sometimes called the special fruit in contra-distinction to the general fruit. Such special fruit is acquired for instance by members of Mass Associations, confraternities, etc. Through a special privilege granted by various Popes they also share in all the merits gained by the good works of the Orders and confraternities of the Church, and this not merely in an equal degree with all the faithful in general, but in a particular and much higher degree.

Consider now, O Christian soul, how numerous and manifold are the good works performed by all the confraternities throughout the world, and remember that by being a member of the Archconfraternity of the Most Precious Blood you share in all of these good works, the same and as much as if you were really a member also of all the other confraternities. And besides this, remember, you have a special share also in all the other good works performed by the faithful in general—prayers, penitential exercises, Holy Masses, works of charity, etc.,—as is evinced and confirmed by the Bulls and Rescripts of the Supreme Pontiffs.

298. To gratify their sensual desires, the rich of this world search all the countries of the earth for treasures that are vain and perishable. Should not we in like manner strive to gather the spiritual treasures of merit flowing into the Catholic Church from all parts of the earth? The holy zeal of missionaries in the remotest quarters of the globe; the penitential exercises of saints everywhere; the ardent aspirations of pious souls in strict retirement; the thousands and thousands of Holy Masses said every day—behold, all these contain priceless treasures of merit in which we can share and whereby we can enrich our souls. And having thus enriched ourselves, we can cede these blessings to others. Parents can give them to their children, husbands to their wives, wives to their husbands, and friends to friends; so we can favor one another with gifts of inestimable value. By our prayer of intercession we can exert an incalculable influence on the affairs of the world, without ever leaving the humble sphere of our daily avocations; and thereby we contribute very greatly to promote the public welfare.

Holy Mass is the most efficacious means of drawing upon ourselves and upon others the fulness of spiritual and temporal blessings. Being members of the communion of saints, we can share these blessings with others; and therefore thousands, yea, millions of the faithful have organized unions for the purpose of having Masses celebrated. Every one contributes his mite, and so he has a relative share in the many Masses that are celebrated for the various intentions of the members—for the conversion of sinners, for a sick member of some family, for the success of some undertaking, etc., or also for every member's particular intention, either made privately or sent in writing to the respective directors together with the contribution. Such persons then receive a special share in these Masses, a share larger than that of the faithful generally in virtue of the communion of saints. The participation in the fruits of these Masses depends for its magnitude on the co-operation, capability and devout disposition of the member.

299. We remarked before that both the givers as well as the recipients of a charity can mutually assist one another by prayer, by good works, and by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The directors of such charitable institutions do not collect money by promising the celebration of Masses, but they earn it honestly by their publications, the proceeds of which they devote to the education of their wards. The Masses they cause to be celebrated and the prayers which they engage to have said for their benefactors are an expression of their gratitude. These benefactors may be subscribers to the papers that are published by these institutions, or they may not be subscribers; to become benefactors and to share in the Masses and prayers, they must contribute a certain sum of money to the good work, for which they receive in return the publications that are issued. For greater gifts God Himself becomes their debtor. The benefactors of such institutions know this very well, or at least they might know it.

The recipients of charity offer up their prayers for their benefactors, imploring God to bless them here and hereafter, and to grant them for their salvation what they ask of Him ; and for this same intention the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered a certain number of times. The benefactors therefore receive a special fruit from these prayers and Masses, in addition to the general fruit received with the faithful generally in virtue of the communion of saints.—The fruit which is imparted to those for whom the priest celebrates Mass specially is called the ministerial or mediate fruit, as was observed in a former paragraph.

300. Inasmuch as the priest is one of the "ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God" (I. Cor. iv. 1.), it is not only part of his faculty to celebrate the Sacrifice, but also to determine who shall receive its fruit. The celebrant of the Mass is at liberty to dispose of the mediate fruit for his own benefit, or for the benefit of others; that is, it belongs to him alone to designate the persons that shall be specially benefited by his Mass. The learned writer Pasqualigo says, "We maintain that it is the office of the minister to apply the fruits of the Sacrifice, so that he may apply to one a greater share of these fruits than he does to another. This is what is meant by the expression 'to apply the Mass" The right and faculty of applying the Mass for the benefit of others is irrevocably imparted to the priest in his ordination. The duty of making this application may arise from various causes, as was explained before. It is beyond doubt that a special application of the fruit of the Sacrifice is permitted, profitable and salutary; for this is not only inherent in the nature of the Sacrifice itself, but is also the explicit doctrine of the Church, supported by her ancient and universal practice. The assertion, that no special benefit is derived from the special application of Mass to a certain person or to a certain class of persons, was condemned by the Church. (Constit. Auctorumfidei, Aug. 28, 1794.)

301. The mediate application of the fruit of the Sacrifice being exclusively an act of the sacerdotal power obtained in ordination, it can be made validly for all who are capable and in need of it; to be made lawfully, the decrees of the Church regulating such application must be observed. According to the will of Christ the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the property of the Church ; He ordained that it should be offered in and by her. Therefore it belongs to the supreme authority of the Church to order and restrict the priest's faculty of making the application. Holy Mass can be celebrated for all the members of the Church, whether they be in the state of grace or not. The just alone are qualified to receive the fruit of the Sacrifice to its whole extent; because the more intimately one lives in communion with Christ and the Church, the greater will be his participation in the fruits of the Sacrifice. The fruit of the Sacrifice is communicated also to those who are in the state of mortal sin ; but they share in it far less abundantly. Above all Holy Mass may bring about their reconciliation with God, His mercy granting them light and strength to turn away from sin and to be replenished with grace. The salutary and saving effects of Holy Mass extend even beyond the grave, namely to the souls in Purgatory. Only those who incurred major excommunication are excluded from the Sacrifice; for the priest is strictly prohibited from applying it to any person thus excommunicated.