What is there to merit from attending daily mass in a state of mortal sin?

Hi all,

Would really appreciate some help on this one:

What is there to merit from attending daily mass in a state of mortal sin?

Your replies will me most appreciated!


Your heart will be inflamed with love, you will go to Confession more frequently, you will unite yourself to Jesus more often, and you will sin less.

Undoubtedly the desire to once again be unified with Christ and his Church in a state of grace is greatly intensified by attending daily Mass, but why would you not just go to Confession beforehand?

Going to confession beforehand should be a no brainer but unfortunately it can be quite tough for someone contemplating that final step. But are there any graces to be merited? Can one still offer the mass for a particular intention?

One cannot merit anything while in a state of mortal sin. You best get yourself to Confession.

Aquinas: Summa; I-II, 114, a.5c

I answer that, The gift of grace may be considered in two ways: first in the nature of a gratuitous gift, and thus it is manifest that all merit is repugnant to grace, since as the Apostle says (Romans 11:6), “if by grace, it is not now by works.” Secondly, it may be considered as regards the nature of the thing given, and thus, also, it cannot come under the merit of him who has not grace, both because it exceeds the proportion of nature, and because previous to grace a man in the state of sin has an obstacle to his meriting grace, viz. sin. But when anyone has grace, the grace already possessed cannot come under merit, since reward is the term of the work, but grace is the principle of all our good works, as stated above (109). But of anyone merits a further gratuitous gift by virtue of the preceding grace, it would not be the first grace. Hence it is manifest that no one can merit for himself the first grace.

Aquinas: Summa; I-II, 114, a.7c

No one can merit for himself restoration after a future fall, either condignly or congruously. He cannot merit for himself condignly, since the reason of this merit depends on the motion of Divine grace, and this motion is interrupted by the subsequent sin; hence all benefits which he afterwards obtains from God, whereby he is restored, do not fall under merit–the motion of the preceding grace not extending to them. Again, congruous merit, whereby one merits the first grace for another, is prevented from having its effect on account of the impediment of sin in the one for whom it is merited. Much more, therefore, is the efficacy of such merit impeded by the obstacle which is in him who merits, and in him for whom it is merited; for both these are in the same person. And therefore a man can nowise merit for himself restoration after a fall.

The person may become inspired to ask the priest after Mass to hear his/her confession.

God has been known to provide a priest to someone in need of confession. And daily Mass is as good a venue as any.

The desire to attend mass, even in a state of mortal sin, reflects the indwelling of God’s grace within the human person and is a call from God, who first loves us, to turn to him in repentance and in love. The desire to attend mass, to pray, is a sign that one longs to communicate with and be united with God. This desire is in itself holy and is the first step toward reunion. It proves that nothing can separate us from the love of God, including mortal sin, and that God constantly struggles to draw us to himself. He does not abandon us.

Grace is neither merited, earned or deserved. It is free gift from God and calls only for response. Yes, even the greatest sinner may offer prayers to God for another if done in love and rest assured that God hears his voice. Indeed, I believe God’s ear is especially tuned to the prayers of sinners who pray in love. God actively seeks and listens to those who are separated from him.

Sanctifying grace (the life of God in our soul) is completely lost by mortal sin. One must go to confession to restore it. The Holy Spirit will not dwell where He is not welcome (in a soul deadened by mortal sin). We cannot gain sanctifying grace by attending Mass or doing other good works while in the state of mortal sin. (It still grieves me to think about how I “wasted” years of going to Mass and unworthily receiving Communion when I was not in the state of grace. I thank God that, in His infinite mercy, He brought me back through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)

There is another kind of grace, though — actual graces. These are like “interventions” God gives us when we need them: inspirations to do a good work, to pray, to repent, to go to confession. These can be received even when we are not in the state of sanctifying grace. This may be what is happening to you now (if it is yourself you are asking about; you might be writing on behalf of someone else, or out of curiosity). Responding to actual graces can lead us to repentance and to restoration of sanctifying grace.

I would suggest that a person in the state of mortal sin continue attending Mass and offer each Mass for the courage to go to confession. Then, after finally cooperating with the actual graces and responding to God’s call to go to confession (what a joyous day that could be!), they could go to Mass every day with a clean conscience, be free to receive Communion, and offer those Masses and Communions for any intentions, with the assurance that they are gaining grace for themselves and for the people they are praying for.

I went for a period of about twenty years without making a complete confession. When I finally drummed up the courage to make a good confession, it was the most wonderful experience I can ever remember having. Yes, it was difficult and a little embarrassing, but totally worth it! It changed my life, and I found joy in things where before I had only found discontent, emptiness, or anger. The devil wants us to stay away from confession by making us think it is a bigger step than we are able to take. In fact, when I finally took that step, I wondered why I had waited so long.

I am not sure what you mean. If you are using the word merit in a popular sense, the person going to mass would not do a further sin, that is of failing to worship God on the sabbath, one of the ten commandments. However, this word, merit, means something special to Catholics. Hardon’s “Modern Catholic Dictionary” explains that “it is Catholic doctrine that by his good works a person in the state of grace really acquires a claim to supernatural reward from God.” So a person in a state of mortal sin cannot have such merit, in this sense of the word…
I can think though of some ways a person separated from God by his own moral sin can benefit by going to mass. God may use his prayer to cause the inner converstion that means that the person can be saved.
I see in looking at the preceding posts now that others have said the same things, much better than I have.

I think it should be noted that the parable of the prodigal son really starts back with an introduction that sets the stage. It is “The tax collectors and sinners were drawing close to him.”

And we see in others places that Jesus went and sat with the sinners, for what does a righteous person need him for?

Church isn’t really a place only for perfect people. It’s for sinners. Those who fall short. Those who want to draw near to Jesus.

Now they don’t always really even know why, or what is going to happen or whatever. And that’s the only issue I would take with your question is that our relationship with God is not a ledger, not a oops he sinned, take away some of God’s grace and there he did something good that’s worth a couple of bucks of grace. Such an idea takes the gospel and turns it once more into a law.

Now who can keep the law? Do you think the answer to that has changed? No, if you must live by the law then you will die by the law. So do not let the gospel get changed into law.

Anyone who goes to church expecting to get paid for it is in trouble.

A Catholic who goes to Mass every day, and yet cannot receive Holy Communion, is feeling the effect every day of his choice to remain separated from the Lord. If he does not just show up and keep a pew warm, but makes a spiritual communion, how long will the person last without finally giving in to repentance?

I remember a passage in the Screwtape Letters where the devil notes that a man in debt hates the very sight of a bankbook. If a person in mortal sin avoids Mass, they will have a much easier time denying to themselves Who is Is that they are rejecting by holding on to their sin.

I do not know if there is any “merit” by attending Mass while in mortal sin, but there is everything to be gained. I mean literally: everything, because with the life God within us, we are nothing. There isn’t an intention more pressing than that. You don’t go before the throne of grace asking for favors for someone else or help with a minor problem, when you yourself have one foot in the grave and are bleeding out all over the place. It is not that God ignores your other desires, so much as God will attend to the mortal sin first, as that is the greatest wound to be tended.

If you want to talk yourself into opening a door, then stand next to it, where the knocking is the loudest.

Absolutely…you “hang around” Jesus long enough He will eventually bring you home. You will be given the courage you need to go to Confession.

I went to daily Mass for almost three years before I went back to Confession. (Dumb as it sounds, I live in a liberal Archdiocese with really bad cathecists and was under the impression my sins–even mortal–were forgiven during Mass.) Mercifully, God set me straight and going back to Confession was the **single best thing I have ever done in my life. ** Do I still struggle with sin? Of course but my life is so much better now that it has ever been before. Even when I screw up, I know God is waiting for me, to embrace me with His forgiveness.

God doesn’t create a sacrament to harm you or scare you. Confession is a very beautiful gift of God’s grace as are all the other sacraments.

Maybe you are not going to Confession because you fear you can’t overcome the sin you need to confess, or you are too attached to a particular sin. You should still go anyway–you will NEVER overcome your sin without the help of Jesus–confession is the best weapon in spiritual warfare. It may not happen overnight–it may take years but at least God will be with you in your battle.

I really like your response. Thank you.

That is what is to be gained by attending daily Mass! :thumbsup:

Thanks for the responses guys… much appreciated!

Your comments seem to conflict with the teachings of the Bible …
[LIST]*]James 5:16 - " … The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much … "

*]Isaiah 59:2 - “ … But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear … ”

*]Proverbs 15:29 - “ … The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous … ”

*]Psalm 66:18 - “ … If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear … ”

*]1 Peter 3:11 - “ … Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil … ”

*]John 9:31 - “ … Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth … ”[/LIST] … God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous before those of the less righteous. For that reason, the prayers of the saints on our behalf can merit more than our own prayers for ourselves since who can be more righteous than those who are already in heaven and free of all stain on sin.

I have to admit that my post was poorly composed, but actually I do not think it is contrary to what Christians generally believe, namely that God’s love is present to all who call upon his name, especially to those who are separated from him. Is this not the message of the Parable of the Prodigal’s Son? Please note that in my post I said that even the greatest sinner if he prays in love can expect God to hear his prayer. A prayer offered in love presupposes the presence of grace, as well as a response, however tentative, on the part of the sinner. This means that God is present to that person and is calling him or her to repentance. Of course, as you pointed out in your scriptural quotes, God does not hear the prayers of the wicked, but then I question whether the wicked are capable of offering prayer in love. My post was refering not to those who are wicked or have chosen to separate themselves from God, but to those, who like the individual who began this thread, wonders if attending mass will help him even though he is in mortal sin. His very desire to attend mass is a sign of God working within him and granting him grace to overcome his sin. His prayer at mass, even though he has not yet experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is still valid and will be heard by God. Of course, it must also be said that all of us are sinners and, as such, are certainly not worthy of drawing close to God and seeking his blessing in prayer. And yet, God’s grace, freely offered, gives us the courage and the hope to pray and draw near our Father in heaven.

If somebody is in a state of mortal sin, then they need to reconcile themselves with God via sacramental confession because that is how Jesus set things up. I don’t understand why they would not do this if they were turning to God with “love”. And if they don’t do this, then their turning to God with love becomes questionable. Thus, invoking all of the passages that I quoted earlier with regards to God not listening to the prayers of sinner.

What final step? (Not yet fully Catholic? Afraid of the confessional? Afraid of the priest?)
Are you the person contemplating it?
What intention?

In a state of mortal sin, our souls are spiritually deprived of sanctifying grace and are in essence dead. There is nothing to be gained except for actual graces for your own soul (the desire to be in a state of grace).

However, if the person is in a state of perfect contrition, that is to say he/she is sorry for his sins out of genuine love for God and desires to go to confession, the person is already reconciled to God.

The Council of Trent declared, “The Council further teaches that, though contrition may sometimes be made perfect by charity and may reconcile men to God before the actual reception of this sacrament, still the reconciliation is not to be ascribed to the contrition apart from the desire for the sacrament which it includes.”


If you are in a state of mortal sin, no you cannot pray for a particular intention
if you have made perfect contrition, yes you can.

All of this leads back to the question:

Why can’t this person just go to confession?

If you/this person are not yet fully initiated into the Church and cannot therefore go to confession, I would suggest praying the Act of Contrition and hoping your intention is heard.

If you/this person are avoiding confession out of fear I would say, Hell is a lot more scary than an old man sitting in a box.

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