Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Offering a Mass for a soul: the perfect gift

Recently a friend asked several people to advise her on an appropriate gift for a nephew about to be ordained to the priesthood. Many suggestions were very good but the very best was to arrange a Mass to be offered for the seminarian.

Don't wait for someone to die before offering a Mass for him!

Zenit's Father Edward McNamara offers some sound reasoning for this.

In the case of the deceased in purgatory any benefit is received passively, since the soul is no longer capable of performing new meritorious acts. While such a soul is already saved, it cannot increase in sanctity but only purify those imperfections which impede its definitive entrance into glory.

A living person, however, is still capable of growing in sanctifying grace. And so a Mass offered for a person already in God's grace has the effect of offering a gift of increased grace which the person may willingly receive in order to become more Christlike.

As an intercessory prayer, a Mass offered for a person in a state of actual mortal sin may yet supply the grace necessary for repentance even though conversion is always a free acceptance of the grace that is offered.

While the Mass may be offered for other intentions as well (for instance, for those who are ill), I believe that the discourse regarding whether the Mass for the living is more powerful than for the dead lies principally in the above point regarding the possible increase in sanctity. The offering of the Mass may also assist in this increase of sanctity by helping people face their sufferings and trials more deeply united to Christ.

So while it's a good and holy thing to offer a Mass for the deceased, a living person can receive no greater gift.

Do continue to pray—and pray hard!—for the holy souls in Purgatory.

But remember those who are living and have still the opportunity to become holier.

The Mass...the Perfect Gift for any occasion.