Free will faculty and the Mass

I have seen quotes from Catholic writers, and some saints, which say that the Mass appeases the anger of the Father, and in fact needs to be continually offered in order to appease for our sins. However, it seems to me that such language is only compatible with an Augustinian or neo-Thomistic view of free will and grace, and not with modern Molinism.

If man always choices what is most pleasing and powerful on his will (although the operation of choosing still goes on in his will), then the Mass can be understood as just a real part of the sacrifice of Calvary. Augustinian compatible.

However, if you believe it is primarily up to the free will of the priest on whether the Mass will be offered today, then it would seem wrong to say that Mass is needed to appease God because that would mean that Jesus historical sacrifice was not enough to appease Him.

What do ye think? This is an important issue because of ecumenism.

Offering multiple masses for a cause (for the Pope for example) is tricky. Is more than the priests activity being applied for the cause? If it is the Sacrifice of Calvary itself, we have to be able to explain to Protestants why Calvary was not imperfect in spite of the repetition of its application to a cause

Why do we repeat the Mass? Because Christ ordered us to do so. “Do this in memory of Me.”

The Eucharist is not a re-sacrifice, it is a re-presentation of the very same sacrifice of Calvary:

1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.189 tr

1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory."190

Christ understood that this teaching was hard for his Apostles to accept:

1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"160 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”:161 the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has "the words of eternal life"162 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

The Catechism on the Eucharist:

Wouldn’t one presentation appease the Father? If you are Augustinian-neo-Thomistic, you could say it was all one act of sacrifice (that is, Calvary, and all the Masses). If you are a modern Molinist you couldn’t say that because it is up to the priests’ free will, not God’s grace, which determines whether the Masses are to be said. Therefore they would say God was appeased by Good Friday alone.

So how does a Molinist explain offering a Mass, say, ten times for a person? Its hard to explain. A Protestant may simply never understand it. It makes vague sense to me.

If you are confused by what I’m saying about free will, read up on Controversies on Grace in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia

There aren’t multiple “appeasements.” It’s all one sacrifice.

The only sense in which a specific Mass “adds anything” is that it applies the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice to certain people. And yes, there is free will involved there (I really don’t think that the Augustinian/Thomist/Molinist issue is particularly relevant). If a priest doesn’t offer a Mass when it’s needed, then he is making it harder for people to receive God’s grace, just as in other cases of pastoral malpractice.

But it’s not like God starts at 100 kw of anger, Jesus brings him down to 50, and then every subsequent Mass brings him down by .0000000001. Something like that seems to be assumed in your OP. That’s not how “appeasement” works. (I myself dislike the language of “appeasement,” but it’s there in the tradition, especially in the West, both Catholic and Protestant).

My own view of this is well expressed in this hymn by Charles Wesley. I welcome Catholic criticisms if you think it’s insufficiently orthodox:

Victim divine, Thy grace we claim,
While thus Thy precious death we show:
Once offered up a spotless Lamb,
In Thy great temple here below,
Thou didst for all mankind atone,
And standest now before the throne.

Thou standest in the holy place,
As now for guilty sinners slain;
The blood of sprinkling speaks, and prays,
All prevalent for helpless man;
Thy blood is still our ransom found,
And speaks salvation all around.

The smoke of Thy atonement here
Darkened the sun, and rent the veil,
Made the new way to Heaven appear,
And showed the great Invisible;
Well pleased in Thee, our God looked down,
And calls His rebels to a crown.

He still respects Thy sacrifice;
Its savor sweet doth always please:
The offering smokes through earth and skies,
Diffusing life, and joy, and peace;
To these, Thy lower courts, it comes,
And fills them with divine perfumes.

We need not now go up to Heaven,
To bring the long sought Savior down;
Thou art to all already given,
Thou dost e’en now Thy banquet crown:
To every faithful soul appear,
And show Thy real presence here!

Umm… with all due respect to “Catholic writers and some saints”, continual appeasement of the Father isn’t what the Church teaches.

Offering multiple masses for a cause (for the Pope for example) is tricky. Is more than the priests activity being applied for the cause?

Hmm… why is it ‘tricky’? Multiple people can certainly offer up prayers for a single cause. Is there more to it than that? To ‘offer a Mass for a cause’ only means that, at that Mass, the prayers at that Mass are offered for that cause – not that the sacrifice of Christ is re-directed.

If it is the Sacrifice of Calvary itself, we have to be able to explain to Protestants why Calvary was not imperfect in spite of the repetition of its application to a cause

It is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ. It does not make the sacrifice imperfect; it applies the effects of the sacrifice to the needs of the People of God.

If the Mass it perfect, to some it seems weird to offer it more than once for something, or that it needs to be offered by us for anything. Didn’t Christ do this already?

The sacrifice of Christ is perfect. Every time the Mass is offered, Christians are participating in Christ’s one sacrifice, bringing it into contact with their particular spot in space-time.

It’s precisely because Christ’s sacrifice is perfect that the Mass is offered so often. It’s not adding to or competing with Christ’s sacrifice. It unites believers here and now with the one eternal sacrifice.And because times and places change, the Mass needs to be offered in many times and places.


Is it weird that we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries each year? After all, that was something that happened once. Why bother celebrating these?

The Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Son to the Father. In a sense, what we’re doing is reminding ourselves of that sacrifice that Jesus offered. In fact, Jesus knew that this is something that we need to do, in order to keep His once-and-for-all sacrifice in a place that’s front and center in our minds: He told us, explicitly, to “do this in remembrance of me.” And so, that’s what we do: every time Mass is celebrated, we celebrate a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, and we participate in it ourselves. It isn’t just something that happened way back when and therefore, is something we don’t have a personal share in: it’s something that Christ did outside of time (that is, in the presence of His Father), and therefore, it’s something that exists in eternity. Each time we go to Mass, in a certain sense we enter into the heavenly celebration of the Supper of the Lamb!

, or that it needs to be offered by us for anything. Didn’t Christ do this already?

Look to the Book of Revelation. There, we see Christ offering the Supper of the Lamb. We, at Mass, participate in the Lamb’s Supper! Does Christ need our participation in order for His sacrifice to be meaningful or valid? Of course not! Do we need our participation in it? Absolutely!

The sacrifice in heaven of Christ is one with the sacrifice of Calvary. My point on this thread is that a priest can’t say, if he is a Molinist, “I offer Masses each day to appease the Father, as sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament.” Offering up several Masses from someone is just addressing the issue from a different angle. If Jesus’s sacrifice is perfect, then one contact with a person or situation should be enough. We should find the best explanation we can to give non-Catholic Christians for why we offer Masses for something more than one time

Sorry, I still don’t see what being a Molinist has to do with it.

And I hope no priest would say that they are offering several Masses to appease the Father just as in the OT. That would run smack against the Book of Hebrews.


A believer in infallibily efficacious grace would say that the Mass is Calvary. That is, is one of the Masses that was offered was not offered, Calvary would not be Calvary. In that cause, you could say that if the only thing that keeps back the judgment of the Father are Masses being offered (which saints have said). A modern Molinists puts the decision to say a Mass in the free will faculty of the priest, primarily. Calvary was only in Jesus’s hand, so this Molinist could not say what an Augustinian can about the Mass

Can you point me to any Catholic theologian in the Augustinian/Thomist tradition who has suggested that if one of the Masses that was offered hadn’t been offered, Calvary wouldn’t be Calvary? That would strike me as a really weird view, and if it were the Catholic view, then frankly I think the Protestant criticisms of the Mass would have some merit.

As I understand it, Calvary isn’t somehow the sum total of all the Masses that have ever been offered. They depend on it. It doesn’t depend on them. But we need them.


I didn’t say all Augustinians believe that. I said believing Augustinianism is the only way to explain Catholic quotes that the Masses of each day appeases the Father through Jesus’s sacrifice

Let me ask some simple questions. Is it possible, that since the time of Christ, new sins have been committed? And further is it possible, that since the time of Christ, we have made new offerings to the Father of all that we are ( I am think of every funeral that has happened since 0 AD).

And you haven’t explained this, at least not in any way that makes sense to me.

Again, are you assuming that the sum total of all the Masses that will ever be offered is necessary to “appease the Father”? That seems to be the logical basis for your argument.

And I am suggesting that this reflects a very different understanding of “appeasing the Father” from the one I understand to be the orthodox Catholic position.

I am a perpetual “almost Catholic,” so I have no authority to speak for the Church, of course. But other posters on this thread also seem puzzled by your assumptions. Perhaps you could flesh them out a bit more.


Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future.

And there is no “new” offering. Rather, we unite ourselves to Christ’s one eternal sacrifice.


‘are you assuming that the sum total of all the Masses that will ever be offered is necessary to ‘appease the Father’?’." That’s the logical conclusion to draw from things said by Catholics in books on the Mass. If you are Augustinian or neo-Thomistic, that position seems ok. But not if you are a Molinist

I still don’t see what that has to do with it.

Why would anyone, Augustinian or not, believe such a thing?

It strikes me, frankly, as blatantly heretical for reasons that have nothing to do with one’s view of free will, and everything to do with one’s view of Christ’s sacrifice.


Its consistent with Augustinian. Why is it heretical?

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” St. Pio of Pietrelcina

I guess I was interpreting this to mean in reference to appeasing the Father directly, instead of through sanctifying people. However, the way some, especially very traditional Catholics, speak of the Mass its as if God would get angry with the world if the Mass was every day offered to Him; that is, angry in the direct sense, not just because there is no sanctification.

Anyway, I don’t know if it is a good thing to offer a Mass more than once for something. It is not part of Church discipline, right? Maybe it should become part of Church law that a Mass can only directly be offered for a petition once. That might help with ecumenism

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