Would one devout Gregorian Mass account for 30?
Can a Mass be offered for several people and be as efficacious for each individually as it would be if it were offered for one?
I was unable to find direct answers to these two questions. St. Leonard gives an example of a very efficacious Holy Mass by saying that “through one single Mass, attended with singularly perfect devotion, it might possibly happen that the justice of God would remain satisfied for all the transgressions of some great sinner.” With this and the notion about the fifty Masses it seems probable that one Holy Mass can profit a group of persons more individually than another Mass benefit one person, especially if the former Mass is very devout and the applied group not too large. Likewise one Mass might be more powerful than a series of others. As with the Sacraments mathematical precision can be hard to reach while devotion definitely matters.
The Hidden Treasure:
“And truly, while I exhort you to the best of my knowledge and power to attend many Masses, I yet admonish you to have far more regard to devotion in hearing, than to the number heard; because, if you shall have more devotion in one single Mass than another man in fifty, you will give more honour to God in that single Mass, and you will extract from it greater fruit, in the way called ex opere operato, than that other with all his fifty.”
Summa Theologica (III:79:5):
“But in so far as it is a sacrifice, it has a satisfactory power. Yet in satisfaction, the affection of the offerer is weighed rather than the quantity of the offering. Hence our Lord says (Mark 12:43; cf. Luke 21:4) of the widow who offered “two mites” that she “cast in more than all.” Therefore, although this offering suffices of its own quantity to satisfy for all punishment, yet it becomes satisfactory for them for whom it is offered, or even for the offerers, according to the measure of their devotion, and not for the whole punishment.”
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludvig Ott:
“As the Sacrifice of the Mass does not work mechanically any more than the Sacraments, the receiving of the fruits of the Sacrifice demands certain due moral dispositions, and the measure of the fruits received is dependent on the quality of these dispositions (cf. D 799).”*
Does the value of the Mass offered depend on the priest and the congregation together? For example, if a priest was not displaying a strong level of devotion during the Mass, does that have a detrimental effect on the prayer value of that Mass regardless of the devotion of the congregation, and vice versa?
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma makes three distinctions as to the efficacy of the Mass:
“a) As the self-sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice of the Mass works quasi ex opere operato, that is, independently of the moral worthiness of the celebrating priest and the co-sacrificing faithful. The Council of Trent declared: “This is that clean oblation (Mal. I, II) which no unworthiness or turpitude of those who offer it can stain.” D 939.
b) As a sacrifice of the Church the sacrifice of the Mass works quasi ex opere operato, because the Church, as the Holy and immaculate Bride of Christ (Eph. 5, 25 et seq.), is always pleasing to God.
c) As a sacrifice of the celebrating priest and of the co-sacrificing faithful the sacrifice of the Mass, like every good work, works ex opere operantis corresponding to the intensity of their personal moral disposition. S. th III 82, 6.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia both the active participation of the celebrant and of the congregation are relevant:
*"With Christ and His Church is associated in third place the celebrating priest, since he is the representative through whom the real and the mystical Christ offer up the sacrifice. If, therefore, the celebrant be a man of great personal devotion, holiness, and purity, there will accrue an additional fruit which will benefit not himself alone, but also those in whose favour he applies the Mass. The faithful are thus guided by sound instinct when they prefer to have Mass celebrated for their intentions by an upright and holy priest rather than by an unworthy one, since, in addition to the chief fruit of the Mass, they secure this special fruit which springs ex opera operantis, from the piety of the celebrant.
Finally, in the fourth place, must be mentioned those who participate actively in the Sacrifice of the Mass, e.g., the servers, sacristan, organist, singers, and the whole congregation joining in the sacrifice. The priest, therefore, prays also in their name: Offerimus (i.e. we offer). That the effect resulting from this (metaphorical) sacrificial activity is entirely dependent on the worthiness and piety of those taking part therein and thus results exclusively ex opere operantis is evident without further demonstration. The more fervent the prayer, the richer the fruit. Most intimate is the active participation in the Sacrifice of those who receive Holy Communion during the Mass since in their case the special fruits of the Communion are added to those of the Mass.*
St. Leonard follows similar line in The Hidden Treasure:
“It is true, according to St Thomas (3 p. qu. 82. a. 6.) that all the sacrifices are, as sacraments, equal in rank; but they are not, therefore, equal in the effects resulting from them; when the greater the actual or habitual piety of the celebrant, so much the greater will be the fruit of the application of the Mass; so that not to recognize the difference between a tepid and devout Priest in respect to the efficacy of his Mass, will be simply not to heed whether the net with which you fish be small or great. The same reasoning applies in regard to those attending the Mass.”