Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Merit of a Mass

The Merit of a Mass
by Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P.
The Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture 12.3 (Summer 2003)

Among the traditional faithful there appears to be a kind of intuitive sense that the old rite of Mass is more efficacious than the new rite. Many believe that they derive more spiritual gain from the old rite of Mass than from the new. However, to give a more precise expression to the intuitive sense of which is more efficacious, the new or the old rite, it is necessary to make several distinctions. Since the purpose of this article is very specific, i.e. to ascertain which ritual is more meritorious or efficacious, certain issues regarding the value or efficacy of the Mass will be avoided.

Yet, to answer the question of whether the old rite of Mass is more efficacious than the new is of paramount importance. It is the point of departure between priests of the respective rites, since each holds that he is saying the Mass that is best for the faithful. Nevertheless, the question is a key one since, in the end, which ever ritual is more meritorious ought to be the one that the Roman authorities encourage. Since one of the primary obligations of those in authority in the Church is the glory of God through the salvation of souls, they have the obligation to encourage and, in some cases, require the ritual of the Mass which is most efficacious...

After reading that introduction how could anyone not want to read the rest of the article? Unfortunately, I've not been able to locate the whole article online (other material by Fr. Ripperger is available at Sensus Traditionis). If you don't have this particular issue of the Latin Mass Magazine on hand it is easy to acquire back issues. I'm going to spoil the ending for those who haven't read this: the old rite of Mass is more efficacious than the new.

As regards intrinsic merit of course any valid Mass is infinitely meritorious. But we finite creatures are unable to receive infinite grace. Therefore, the fruits of the Mass actually communicated to us are finite and they will be greater or less based on a number of factors. The holiness of the Church who offers the sacrifice affects the merit of the Mass - there is no distinction here between old and new rites, the Church is always spotless. The priest merits graces for us in offering the Mass inasmuch as he is a priest - here again there is no difference between old and new. The priest also merits as a private person - here we have fruits of the Mass ex opere operantis.

The faithful can similarly increase the merit of a Mass by their holiness - this means that being present at Mass in a state of mortal sin (even if you do not receive Communion) actually decreases the grace communicated to everyone else. Of course, this doesn't mean you should not go to Mass. It means you should go to confession. Fitting decora also serve to increase the merit of a Mass, whereas unsuitable decora decreases it. To quote Fr. Ripperger: "Ugly things please God less and thus merit less." What refreshing bluntness!

And finally, the merit of the ritual itself - which I must leave to another post! Please offer a prayer for me this week as I wade through exams. Deus miserere me!

4 comments:

Maurus said...

On the issue of attending Mass in the state of mortal sin, I believe (and I can't remember if it's in the Catechism or Canon Law) the Church says that you are not even to attend Mass in this state unless you have the true and sincere intent of going to Confession at the first opportunity. This is not to say that the opportunity is at one's convenience. I don't believe that Catholics today really know this. The feel good theology that is still dominant in our churches has diluted a lot of the traditions and teachings in this area.

Anselm said...

I've not heard that before. Surely it remains true though that one does not cease to be obliged to go to Mass just because one is in mortal sin.

If you find the references in the CCC or CIC I'd be quite interested to see how it is worded. Thanks for the insight. Pax!

Maurus said...

I found the reference, it is in Canon Law: Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

It seems pretty specific. Think of the one time a year Penance that the majority attend and the two time a year Mass attendees. And what about those that skip Penance altogether and just attend Mass once or twice a year. This is the result of "FEEL GOOD THEOLOGY." Something we've had to deal with for about 40 years. And it's getting worse in spite of the Holy Father's wishes which can be seen in his encyclicals.

just some guy said...

Maurus,

CIC 916 seems only to forbid a priest celebrating Holy Mass while in a state of mortal sin, and the faithful making a physical communion while in such state. It does not mention assisting at Mass, which we are still obligated to do.