The Gregorian Masses

By “the Gregorian Masses” is meant a series of Masses offered, uninterruptedly, on thirty successive days, for the repose of the soul of a deceased person. The series is called a Trental. This practice arose as far back as, at least, the eighth century, and is ascribed to an incident related by St. Gregory the Great (540 604) in his Dialogues how he ordered such a series of Masses to be said for the soul of one of his monks who had died penitent, after the commission of a fault against monastic poverty, and how, at the end of the series, the monk announced his delivery from purgatory. Hence arose the belief that, in addition to the intrinsic value of the celebration of thirty Masses for the soul of a dead person, an extrinsic efficacy was added through the prayers and merits of St. Gregory, inclining God to apply more fully the infinite merits of the Mass to the deceased person, so that at the end of the thirty days he would be freed from purgatory. While the Church has never given any decision as to the truth or value of this very old belief, the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences did declare, on March 15, 1884, that “the confidence of the faithful, convinced that the offering of thirty Masses called ‘Gregorian’ possesses a special efficacy for the deliverance of souls in purgatory, is pious and reasonable, and the custom of celebrating these Masses is approved by the Church.”