Pope St. Gregory and Gregorian Masses

St. Gregory the Great is loved and honored on many accounts bringing us the Gregorian Chant, his Dialogues, he codified the Roman Canon Mass and was the first to organize Church alms for the poor.  More than that, he handed down to us the famous offering of Gregorian Masses (thirty Masses) for the holy deceased which are considered the chief source, of the devotion to the Holy Souls.  No prayers, no suffrages can assist the holy souls as the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.

The Mass is the greatest wonder in the world.  There is nothing on earth equal to it.

Saint Thomas teaches that the Mass is nothing less than the Sacrifice of Calvary renewed on the altar, and that every Mass brings to men the same benefits at the Sacrifice of the Cross. 

St. Bonaventure says:  “The Mass is a compendium of all God’s love, of all His benefits to men, and each Mass bestows on the world a benefit not less than what was conferred on it by the Incarnation.”    

St. Padre Pio says:  “It would be easier to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Mass.”

Our Lady in Medjugorje tells us:  “The Mass is the greatest prayer of God.  You will never be able to understand its greatness.  That is why you must be humble at Mass.  The Mass is the most important and the most holy moment in your lives.”  (Visionary Vicka’s talk on June 1, 2011)

 Our Lady says: “What I want from you is to show me your love by coming to Mass, and the Lord will reward you abundantly.”  (11/21/85)

“I wish to call you to a living of the Holy Mass.  There are many of you who have sensed the beauty of the Holy Mass, but there are also those who come unwillingly.  I have chosen you, dear children, but Jesus gives you His graces in the Mass.  Therefore, consciously live the Holy Mass and let your coming to it be a joyful one.  Come to it with love and make the Mass your own.  Thank you for having responded to my call.” (4/3/86)

“God wants to make you holy.  Therefore, through me He is inviting you to complete surrender.  Let holy Mass be your life.  Understand that the church is God’s palace, the place in which I gather you and want to show you the way to God.  Come and pray.  Neither look at others nor slander them, but rather, let your life be a testimony on the way of holiness.  Churches deserve respect and are set apart as holy because God, who became man, dwells in them day and night.  Therefore, little children, believe and pray that the Father increase your faith, and then ask for whatever you need.  I am with you and rejoicing because of your conversion and I am protecting you with my motherly mantle.  Thank you for having responded to my call.  (4/25/88)

Here is a message the Blessed Mother gave regarding the clergy on July 21, 1982:  “There are many souls in purgatory.  There are also persons who have been consecrated to God-some priests, some religious.  Pray for their intentions, at least the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be seven times each, and the Creed.  I recommend it to you.  There is a large number of souls who have been in purgatory for a long time because no one prayers for them.  “Remember your deceased.  Give them the joy with the celebration of the Holy Mass” (11/6/86).

Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604), the first Pontiff to receive the name “Great,” the first Benedictine monk to become pope, tells us in his “Dialogues” that he ordered thirty Masses to be celebrated on thirty consecutive days for the repose of the soul of Justus, a monk, who had died in his monastery of St. Andrew on Mount Celio in Rome, where the church of St. Gregory now stands. (Justus died without the sacraments for violating the vow of poverty for three gold coins he possessed in his cell.)

At the end of the thirty Masses, Justus appeared to his blood-brother Copiosus, who being a physician, had assisted him in his last illness, that he had been delivered from the prison of purgatory.

Copiosus shared this with the monks and they realized on the 30th day of the celebrated Masses, Justus was released from his sufferings by the merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  On that same day, St. Gregory was assured of the deliverance of the soul of Justus. In the church of St. Gregory on Mt. Celio, is the original altar where these masses were first offered.  This same altar is where Pope St. Gregory offered Masses for purgatorial souls.

  Inscriptions on this strikingly beautiful altar record key events that took place at this altar in three relief panels that read in Latin:  Left panel:  St. Gregory has freed the soul of this monk by thirty masses.  Middle panel:  The suffering Jesus Christ is seen here by Pope Gregory celebrating (Mass.) Right panel:   In this room Pope Gregory celebrated Masses to release souls from Purgatory.

Pope St. Gregory had a fervent devotion for purgatorial souls so much so that he lamented that after his death he would not be able to assist them.  Tradition holds that Our Lord spoke to him and said: “My friend 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.”

Many are astonished that thirty Masses offered consecutively can obtain the grace of the release in purgatory.  Although this practice is approved by the church, there is no official guarantee.  This hallowed tradition of more than 1300 years has been declared “a pious and reasonable belief of the faithful” on the authority of the Roman Curia.

Still it is a custom that both underscores the power and efficacy of the Holy Mass and reminds us there are souls in purgatory who are in desperate need of our Masses.

What is certain is that the custom of offering prayer for thirty days for the dead without interruption dates back to the Old Testament.  We read that the Israelites wept and prayed for thirty days after the death of Moses and Aaron.  St. Gregory revived this custom and the revelation given him, confirmed to him that he was acting justly.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1032) it states:  “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.”   

Our Lady point out that when we pray for the holy souls they become our “new intercessors” (11/6/86).  The Catechism confirms (#953):  “Our prayers for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

From that time on religious orders had the practice of offering a series of Gregorian Masses for every religious in their order who died.   Why not adopt a priest or religious, especially those deceased priests who baptized you, or the bishop who confirmed you; the priest whose masses you assisted and who gave you Holy Communion; the priest who absolved you from your sins.

In Exodus 20:5-6, God says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Offer Gregorian Masses or a novena of Masses for healing your family tree back to the fourth generation.  Offer Masses for ancestors back to Adam and Eve.  Include those not yet conceived or born.  Anyone who has left a negative or positive impact on our lives should be included even those who have injured us or given a bad example.  Remember teachers, supervisors, government leaders.  Remember your enemies!

Were we nonbelievers in purgatory of the ordinary type they permit only heaven and hell.  Without any previous purification, without any cleansing or preparation, where do we go?  Or as a tombstone in Ohio simply puts it—“Too bad for heaven, too good for Hell, where he went I cannot tell!”  Purgatory as Dante puts it “provides training for the leap to celestial joy!”

Remember to have Masses offered for yourselves, on special occasions, and holidays.  It is a refreshing surprise to give someone the gift of prayer!  The Mass obtains for us a happy death.  Our Lord assured St. Mechtilde that He would comfort and console all those who were persevering in hearing Mass and the He would send as many of His great saints to assist them when dying as they had heard Masses in their lifetime.

Arrange for your will to specify Gregorian Masses be offered for you.  Go to Mass as often as possible and offer it for the purgatory souls.  Only by the means of the Mass can we nourish the hope of being received into Heaven immediately after death, without having to pass through the cleansing rigors of purgatory.

For Masses visit: www.pusj.org

Susan Tassone, often referred to as “The Purgatory Lady,” is an award-winning, best- selling author of eleven books including: St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, The Rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, The Way of the Cross for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

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