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From the Pastor 11/11/18

Mass Offerings
What it means to have a Mass “offered” for someone. An individual may ask a priest to offer a Mass for a particular intention for several reasons: in thanksgiving, for the intentions of another person (such as an anniversary), or for the repose of the soul of someone who has died. This is the particular intention the priest brings to the Mass, but he brings other intentions as well, including those of everyone in attendance.

When a priest offers Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he is guided by three intentions: (1) to offer the Mass reverently and validly as prescribed by the Church; (2) to offer the Mass in union with the entire Church and for the good of the whole Church; (3) to offer the Mass for a particular intention, such as the repose of the soul of someone who has died.

Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated, it embraces all mankind, both living and dead. It is not limited to one person or one intention. The benefits of each Eucharist are infinite and include the whole world. Never forget the infinite graces that flow from the Sacrifice of the Mass which benefit one’s soul! Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Mirae caritatis (1902) describes this point eloquently, stressing the connection between the Mass and the communion of saints:

“Besides all this, the grace of mutual charity among the living, which derives from the Sacrament of the Eucharist so great an increase of strength, is further extended by virtue of the Sacrifice to all those who are numbered in the Communion of Saints. For the Communion of Saints, as everyone knows, is nothing but the mutual communication of help, expiation, prayers, blessings, among all the faithful, who, whether they have already attained to the heavenly country, or are detained in the purgatorial fire, or are yet exiles here on earth, all enjoy the common franchise of that city whereof Christ is the head, and the constitution is charity. For faith teaches us, that although the venerable Sacrifice may be lawfully offered to God alone, yet it may be celebrated in honor of the saints reigning in heaven with God who has crowned them, in order that we may gain for ourselves their patronage. And it may also be offered ― in accordance with an apostolic tradition ― for the purpose of expiating the sins of those of the brethren who, having died in the Lord, have not yet fully paid the penalty of their transgressions.”

Pope Saint John Paul II says in his last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia,

“In the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Church prays that God, the Father of mercies, will grant His children the fullness of the Holy Spirit so that they may become one body and one spirit in Christ. In raising this prayer to the Father of lights, from whom comes every good endowment and every perfect gift, the Church believes that she will be heard, for she prays in union with Christ her Head and Spouse, who takes up this plea of His Bride and joins it to His own redemptive sacrifice.”

This tradition of offering Masses for others, particularly the dead, can be seen in the early Church. Inscriptions discovered on tombs in second century Roman catacombs demonstrate this practice. For example, the epitaph on the tomb of Abercius (d. 180), Bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia, begs for prayers for the repose of his soul. Tertullian (c. 200) attested to observing the anniversary of a spouse with prayers and sacrifices, viz., the sacrifice of the Mass: “Indeed she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship with him in the first resurrection; and she offers her sacrifice on the anniversaries of his falling asleep.” (On Monogamy, X) Hippolytus (c. 235) explicitly mentions the offering of prayers for the dead during the Mass. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), in one of his many catechetical discourses, explained how at Mass both the living and dead are remembered, and how the Eucharistic Sacrifice of our Lord is of benefit to sinners, both living and deceased. St. Ambrose (d. 397) said, “We have loved them during life; let us not abandon them in death, until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord.” St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) preached, “Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” St. Augustine (d. 430) remembers his mother’s, St. Monica, final wishes as she was dying, “One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) stated, “Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”

This article will continue next week.

A Blessed Week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P. Pastor