By Susan Tassone
Many want to know about Gregorian Masses — especially for deceased loved ones — so let us begin at the beginning:
Gregorian Masses date back to the end of the sixth century, when they were instituted by Pope St. Gregory the Great, a doctor of the Church. It is why these Masses take their name from him. He established them when he was Abbot of St. Andrew’s Benedictine Abbey of Monte Celio in Rome — and a rather strict one, I might add.
In one of his most notable works — called Dialogues — Pope Gregory spoke of a monk named Justus. “See to it,” said Gregory, “that for 30 days the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be offered for him and that not one day be missed in which the Holy Victim be immolated for his intention.”
The Abbot of this monastery for many years, and one who possessed a keen interest in the afterlife (recording the first near-death accounts), Gregory had an affectionate goodness toward the monks of the monastery and also maintained a strict adherence to the demands of the Rule — its set of guidelines.
In the case of Justus, as one instance, the future pope had his body tossed on a dunghill because three gold coins were found in his cell after his death. This was against an article of the Rule that prohibited all individual property! The three coins were thrown on the body in the presence of all the religious who had to take turns repeating the words: “Let your money die with you.”
Once this act was completed, mercy won over the heart of Abbot Gregory, who had the Holy Mass celebrated those thirty consecutive days for the monk!
Thus, the name, “Gregorian Masses.” We are told that on the thirtieth day, St. Gregory had knowledge of the liberation of Justus’ soul and was told — through a revelation — about the efficacy of the thirty liturgies, which all told comprise the “Gregorian Masses.”
Inflamed with an ardent charity for the purgatorial souls, Pope Gregory lamented that after his own death, he would not be able to do anything else for them.
“My friend,” our Lord supposedly said to Gregory, “I want to grant in your favor a privilege that will be unique. All souls in purgatory, for whom thirty Masses are offered in your honor and without interruption, will immediately be saved however great may be their debt toward Me.”
Thus is it very clear Our Lord promises that those who offer a series of Gregorian Masses for friends and loved ones in honor of Pope St. Gregory will be released from purgatory.
This hallowed tradition of over 1,300 years has been declared a “pious and reasonable belief of the faithful” on the authority of the Sacred Roman Congregation on Indulgences.
Let us also be the deliverers of those in the darkness of the hereafter. When St. John of God collected alms for his hospital in the streets of Granada, Spain, he called out: “Give alms, my brothers and sisters, for the love and mercy of yourselves.” He did not say: “Pity the poor sick!” He said: “Be merciful to yourselves! Be good to the Holy Souls, out of mercy towards them, and out of mercy towards yourselves.”
The summer months, I believe, are when we most neglect the souls in Purgatory. It is a time to relax, vacation, and enjoy the clement weather.
However, there is no respite for the souls in purgatory. They suffer day and night, and so I urge a Mass, visits to the cemetery, where one can sprinkle Holy Water on their graves, and if possible the Gregorian Masses. Remember in a special way our deceased priests and consecrated religious.
For as a dear Irish cleric recently told me, “There is no one more dead than a dead priest.” We tend to “canonize” them after their deaths and they become some of the most abandoned souls in purgatory. Please pray for them! On our deathbeds, we will have the grace of being surrounded by priests whom we have released from purgatory, and what an escort that will be!
[resources: Books on the soul]
Pray always for purity and love
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