Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Greatest Gift for Faithful Departed Souls

"All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
because they are the works of men;
but the Mass is the work of God.
Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God;
but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man."
~ Saint Jean Vianney ~

The greatest gift that anyone can give their faithful departed loved ones is the gift of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Even though they are no longer with us, we can have Masses said for them to show our love. If they are in Purgatory, they will be greatly helped by having Masses offered for them. If they are in Heaven and not in need of the Masses, they will know of the offering made out of love on their behalf.

The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska shares this information:

Since we do not know when a soul is released from purgatory, when should we stop having Masses and prayers said for a deceased person?

Unless God were to give us a special revelation, which He generally never does, or a person is canonized by the Church, we do not know if the soul of a particular person is in heaven, hell or purgatory. We know that it is very useful and even important to pray for the souls in purgatory. It is considered the general consensus of saints and theologians that if we are praying for a soul already in heaven or one that has been damned to hell, our prayers will be of value to ourselves and our own salvation, even though prayers for souls in heaven and hell have no value to them. God will give us personally the benefit of our prayers for them. No prayer is ever "wasted." Therefore, there is really no time limit for our prayers and Masses for the deceased. (For more information about Purgatory from the Diocese of Lincoln, click here.)

The Gregorian Masses are thirty consecutive days of Masses said for one individual. The souls receive the benefit of the Masses quickly instead of being spread out over months or years. They are what I would want for myself or loved ones. However, any single Mass or number of Masses would be most welcome if we were in Purgatory waiting for relief and hoping our loved ones will not forget to help us! Tears and fond memories will not help us when we are in Purgatory. What are needed are Masses, prayers, sacrifices, and acts of charity.

The sooner the Masses are said the better. At Catholic funerals, usually there are donations made in memory of the deceased that can be used for Masses. Arrangements should be made to have Masses said as soon as possible. After arrangements are made for those first Masses, that does not relieve families of the obligation to continue helping their departed loved ones. I wonder how often family members enjoy their monetary inheritance without a thought of the neediness of their departed loved ones.

Unfortunately, in this day and age many Catholics do not believe in Purgatory or do not take it seriously; so there might be little thought of making reparation for their own sins or helping souls in Purgatory. Probably many younger Catholics know very little about Purgatory, and older Catholics might not like to think about the reality of a not so far in the future day of reckoning.

We need to do for others what we would want done for ourselves if we were in Purgatory; and we need to make reparation for our own sins while we can, so we hopefully will not need to be purified in Purgatory when our time comes to leave this world for the next. Since none of us know when God will call us home, we need to take advantage of the time we still have now to help others and to help ourselves by making reparation for our sins.


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