Getting a Mass Card
One of the most characteristic features of the Catholic “way of death” is to bring a “Mass Card” to the Wake or to send one to a bereaved family on the occasion of the death of a loved one.
We speak of the “Mass Book” being open for people to “get Masses said” for their deceased or living family members.
At almost every Mass the name or names of the” Mass Intentions” are announced.
What does this mean?
First, it is rooted in the theology of the Mass as the representation of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday. As our theology matured over the centuries this was often described as the one Sacrifice of Himself offered by Christ in a “bloody manner” on the Cross once and for all; and the Mass as an “unbloody” Sacrifice that renews or “re-presents” the Cross for us in our churches until the end of time.
It is important to bear in mind that from the earliest writings we have from the New Testament itself to the “infant Church” the Eucharist is always described in sacrificial language. The Eucharistic Liturgy is seen as making the Sacrifice of Christ present under the outward forms of bread and wine, transformed by the Lord’s own words into His Body and Blood.
The Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered by the Lord through the consecrated ministry of the apostolic priesthood.
Catholic theology discerned what were termed “fruits of the Mass” as
“the spiritual and temporal blessings obtained through the Eucharistic sacrifice. The general fruits of the Mass are applied to the whole Church, in which all the faithful share, both the living and the dead. The special fruits are applied first to the priest who celebrates Mass, then to those for whom he offers it, and finally to those who participate in the Eucharistic liturgy”
The Mass Card represents that a Mass will be offered either at a set date or time, or at an unspecified date, for a named person or intention by a priest who will apply his ministerial intention or fruit to the intention of the donor.
The donor offers a “Stipend” or donation to the priest for his sustenance and prayers. A long-standing axiom in the Church is that the priest should off the altar.
This is most often arranged through the parish office.
Another important point can be put this way: “God-ward” the fruits of the Mass are infinite in that the Mass is Christ’s own offering of Himself to the Father in an unbloody manner by the hands of the priest for the redemption of the world. However, “us-ward”, our capacity to benefit from the fruits of the Mass is limited by our finite ability to receive these benefits and by the actual or residual effects of our sins as well as the passage of time. Hence Masses are offered again and again till the end of time.
Most Masses are offered in, practice for the deceased.
This again is seen in ancient Christian practice from the earliest days that in some fashion the dead can benefit from the offering of the Mass. They are still bound to us on earth, and to the Saints in Heaven, by the communio sanctorum. This Latin phrase from the Creeds is often translated as the “Communion of Saints” but can literally mean the “sharing of holy things”.
As with any human person, the ability to benefit from the fruits of the Mass is conditional upon the faith and devotion of the person and many Masses are often offered for the same person as a help to their final salvation.
A man’s gotta’ know his limitations…
The words above, taken from a movie, were spoken to me last November as I sat in a dentist’s chair with a throbbing and aching wisdom tooth.
The dentist who said them was compassionate and professional as he explained to me that this particular tooth was different from most and he did not feel quite comfortable at taking the responsibility of extracting it. He recommended a specialist who subsequently did the job competently, confidently, and painlessly.
I was grateful to that dentist for his honesty and genuine care in not subjecting me to a procedure of which he did not feel himself completely confident.
His words got me thinking.
There was a long-standing impression among many Catholics that the parish priest was omnicompetent in all matters: theological, doctrinal, liturgical, canonical, social, and psychological.
There are occasions when I am asked to intervene in delicate and already painfully inflamed family or marital situations usually along the lines of talking to a spouse or family member to presumably solve a long-running issue or to “straighten them out.”
I have to tell you what that dentist told me last year. A man has to know his limitations.
40 years of practice as a parish priest have taught me what I believe to be my strengths, and, sometimes painfully, what are not my strengths.
Ask me questions that have answers and I’m fine. Ask me about matters theological, historical, liturgical, sacramental, educational, and possible programs and setting policies, and I’m fine.
I can give you some general advice and if there is such, a reasonably simple solution. But if there is not, there are priests who have experience and training in these matters and many lay professionals to turn to.
However, life coaching, intense marital and family disputes, significant mental and emotional counseling, prolonged grief counseling, intense personal “spiritual direction” outside the Confessional, etc., are not my strong suits. I simply do not possess the academic, professional, or temperamental traits necessary to actually help people in need of such. I’ve tried in the past, but a man’s gotta’ know his limitations.
“Outrage” and indignation are certainly an increasing reaction to things if they do not go our way.
Well, I am outraged.
Outraged by a story currently on Lifesite News found at lifesitenews.com
It concerns a recent event held at GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY in Washington DC, the country’ “oldest Jesuit and Catholic university.”
It was billed as ” Dismantling Reproductive Injustices: The Hyde Amendment and Criminalization of Self-Induced Abortion”. Under that jargon, it was a session in which pro-abortion speakers decried restrictions on Federal funding for abortion and “do it at home”non-surgical abortions. In other words, a PRO-ABORTION symposium at , again, let me say it: the country’s “oldest Jesuit and Catholic university.”
You can find the full story on Lifesite News website.
If I were an alumnus I would not give one penny to this institution.
A totally imaginary dialogue between two priests.
– Well, George, what’s this I hear about you hopping a plane to Sweden?
– YES! I’m very excited, never been there before!
– Going to be cold this time of year.
– Really, well, it’s a BIG event!
– The Nobel Prizes?
– No!! Going to Lund to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation!
– You mean, LUTHER and all that?
– Yes, I want to accompany them!
– But, George, we’re CATHOLICS. Luther broke the Church apart, denied the Seven Sacraments, prayers for the dead,
and started all that chaos in society.
– Oh? Well… that was a long time ago.
– Yes, George, I know. Of course we are courteous to Protestants as individuals and as Christians, but the THING itself was a disaster.
– Oh, really?
– Well, George, maybe where you come from there weren’t any Protestants, at least until recently. You DO know of course that
well-financed, well-organized, “missionaries” are flooding into your part of the world from America, both “Born Agains” and
Mormons, specifically to convert your Catholic nation into their religions? Right?
– CONVERT??? No, no!! That is proselytism, solemn nonsense, venom on the path of ecumenism!
– Well, George, maybe that’s what YOU think, but THEY don’t seem to see it what way. THEY see it as “gaining souls for Christ”.
You know, like WE used to say before we got all modern and ecumenical.
– But, surely, there is something of value in those 500 hundred years?
– Yes, some pretty good music for sure, you know Bach, Buxtehude, Anglican chant, and so forth.
– Well, Robert, you know I’m not some sort of Renaissance prince. I have no time for concerts.
– Yes, George, I know, you keep telling me that.
– So, you’re not going with me?
– No, George, I’m not.
– Well, George, some of my ancestors came from Ireland and Wales, others from Sweden actually as well. My people lost the Mass,
the Sacraments, their parish churches, some their homes, farms , even their freedom and lives all because of what Luther started.
No, George, as we say here “Count me out!”
– But, but…
– I know, “throwing stones. Rigidity…etc…” I’ve heard it all before.
– Yes, and perhaps you have no MERCY in your heart!!!!
– George, my own father converted to our Faith, perhaps he caught a whiff of the Truth that we Catholics, I hope, possess.
Nope, no Luther “celebrations” for me, George. Have a safe flight.
The Lifesite News website is worth visting on a regular basis. The article cited above is thought provoking, as it ought to be.
I pass it along for your own reflections and, I hope, renewed prayers for our increasingly troubled and confused Church.
The day before and the day after
I write this on the evening of September 11.
For us the shorthand “9/11” has entered into our lexicon.
This fifteenth anniversary of all that 9/11 means leads me to reflect on the days before and after in our Liturgical Calendar. If we examine those dates we see an interesting theme.
September 10th was until 1969 the feast throughout the Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, a medieval Augustinian Friar who spent many years preaching and celebrating the Sacraments. A feature of his life and spirituality was a deep devotion to the Souls in Purgatory and the need of the faithful on earth to pray earnestly for the release of those caught by death suddenly and unexpectedly into the joys of Heaven. He also preached about preparing for a good and holy death. He was graced with the foreknowledge of the date of his death and for days heard Angels singing as the day approached and arrived. He died on September 10, 1305 and was canonized in 1446. In the liturgical reforms of 1969 he was regarded as not being “of universal significance” and his feast was removed from the General Calendar. However, he is STILL a canonized Saint and venerated in Tolentino in Italy and in churches and institutions named in his honor.
September 12th was, and still is, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. Like the feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentino the feast was removed from the calendar in 1969 but happily restored by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2002. As we all know, that Pope had a deep love and veneration for Mary. The feast is of course devotional and part of the Church’s extolling of the Blessed Virgin. However, the date, September 12th, is no accident. It was on that date in 1683 that a Christian army under the leadership of the King of Poland, John Sobieski, and Charles Duke of Lorraine attacked and routed a vast Turkish army that had been besieging the city of Vienna. The army of the Sultan had come to destroy the capital of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor and to begin the long-awaited Islamic conquest of Christian Europe. The crushing defeat of the Turks marked the high water mark of Ottoman jihad against the Catholic Church and Papacy. Not again for over 400 years would militant Islamism pose a serious threat to the culture and religion of the West.
It has been said that there are “no coincidences for a believer”.
Surely these to feasts, before and after September 11th, give us food for thought and prayer. A declining and increasingly desiccated and religionless West seems not to know how to meet the latest challenge today.
Let us fall back on the powerful “weapons” of our ancient and enduring Faith.
I haven’t written anything here for a long time.
I suppose I fell out of the habit and other preoccupations took over.
However, a brief entry for today:
I’m occasionally asked what would be good Catholic websites to read in these rather confusing and disturbing times.
One recommendation for good apologetic commentary of controversies in the church and in the world is
Crsis Magazine: commentary, discussion, often by engaged and educated laity. I go to it everyday.
Back in the 1980’s when I decided to join the US Airforce Reserve as a chaplain (I had been ordained in 1978) I learned the above phrase.
It meant that the US Armed Forces, the USAF, and the particular base and Command to which I was assigned had certain “customs and courtesies” which I was expected to learn and perform. No questions asked, and no variations, please.
I learned about salutes (when and how); “covered” and “uncovered”; proper alignment of uniform badges, insignia and ribbons; how to address superior officers and how to respond to others, etc. We did not make up these rules, we were simply to follow them.
We even learned to salute a passing Staff Car that bore two silver stars on a blue plate whether or not we saw anyone in it. We saluted “just in case.”
I loved it.
In a way, we all grew up with certain “customs and courtesies” even in our family life, and learned to respect those of others on their “turf”.
The opposite of “customs and courtesies” is rudeness and chaos.
Imagine a guest in your house who arrives and immediately starts rearranging your furniture because “that’s how we do it at home”. Yes, but now he’s in YOUR home.
He enters the kitchen before dinner and proceeds to tell you how to rearrange the utensils and the pots and pans “like we do it in my kitchen”.
I think we could all assume that he would be told to sit down and mind his own business and a return visit would be very unlikely.
We also have “customs and courtesies” in the Catholic Church as a whole, as well as in Saint Matthew’s Parish.
Recently at a rather busy Mass I was distributing Holy Communion to a long line of people. A man with a rather pleased air and sporting various fraternal decorations presented himself before me with a smile on his face and both arms crossed over his chest like an Egyptian pharaoh mummy. As he stood there, mouth closed and no hand extended, I finally asked “what is this?” He stared at me with indignant shock and replied “I want a spiritual blessing”. I wondered if that was as opposed to a “material blessing”. I waved him on so I could back to the proper business of giving Communion to actual communicants.
Now I know what this was all about. Somewhere, some priest told somebody that this was a lovely custom and they “should “do that.
Well, I’m sorry, but we don’t do that at St. Matthew’s.
EVERYBODY gets a blessing at the end of Mass altogether at every Mass. There is a traditional blessing gesture that some priests give over a small child not yet Communion age who comes up to the Communion rail or line with his mother. However, an adult who does not want, or can’t, receive Holy Communion is a different case. It is either sin, lack of fasting, or imperfect or non-existent union with the Catholic Church, or a simple choice at a given Mass that prevents an adult from receiving Communion, not childhood innocence or non-age. Why come up for Communion, when you have no intention of receiving Communion? If one cannot receive Communion, just remain humbly in the pew and receive the Final Blessing like everyone else. Why draw attention to oneself?
Pardon the mundane analogy, but it seems like standing on line at a busy take-out restaurant at dinner hour and then going up the busy counter-person and announcing
“Oh, I’m not going to order anything, I just like standing here looking at the menu.”
It is also confusing as some regions and nationalities traditionally used the “crossed arm” gesture precisely AS a gesture for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.
Also, at Saint Matthew’s we have other “customs and courtesies” rooted in our parish’s history, experience, and sound Catholic principles.
First, we are I think the only Parish in the Diocese that allows kneeling for Holy Communion to any who like to receive our Lord on their knees. This is done at the section of the altar rail on the Saint Joseph statue side of the sanctuary. Hence, we do not kneel in the main aisle. The genuflection some make is not necessary here at St. Matthew’s since such persons may kneel. Kneeling replaces the genuflection.
Those receiving Holy Communion standing are recommended to make a simple head bow as one approaches the Communion minister.
Also, we offer Eucharistic Exposition twice a week on a regular basis: Holy Hour Mondays 4-5 ending with the Miraculous Medal Novena and again on Wednesdays 4-5 PM ending with a Litany. Both take place in the Chapel. Other devotional groups also may have occasional Exposition, but only conducted by a priest or deacon.
Both the church and the Chapel are open for visits to the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle for 12 hours each day.
However, the Tabernacle and the Monstrance are always to be treated with a reverent distance and awe. They are not to be approached, touched, hugged or even kissed! They are NOT relics or statues but the vessels containing the Eucharistic Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Simple politeness and charity commends these “customs and courtesies” to all who might visit us or be genuinely unaware of these important matters.