From: The National Catholic Register.
Author Susan Tassone notes the importance of prayer and offering Masses for the deceased.
Susan Tassone won’t admit it, but she is one of the experts on the souls in purgatory.
Her credentials speak for her. She has written six books on the subject, among them one co-written with Father Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Cardinal Ivan Dias, former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, wrote the foreword to her latest book, which has an imprimatur, Praying With the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. She has recently begun her seventh book.
She recently spoke about what we can do to help the souls in purgatory.
What is the best devotion to help the souls in purgatory?
The holy sacrifice of the Mass is the chief source of devotion for the holy souls.
So, the most powerful means to relieve or release a soul from purgatory is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You’ll find that in the Catechism. It says it in 1032: “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.”
In Praying With the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, I have Pope Benedict XVI’s writings that point to having Masses offered for the souls in purgatory. [One extensive quote is from Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Charity).]
After the Mass, the next most powerful way to help the souls is the Rosary, the most powerful Marian prayer on earth — in her approved apparitions, Mary says pray the Rosary for peace in the world, in your hearts, in your family — and the Stations of the Cross, because they’re indulgenced. You have to be in the state of grace to help the souls in purgatory.
When we pray for the souls, we’ve got to remember we’re giving them paradise, the face of God, when we get them out sooner from purgatory. Our prayers are shortening this horrible suffering of being without God. They then show us their gratitude in the same proportion to their joy.
You recommend Gregorian Masses be offered for souls. What are they, how did they come about, and why are they important?
Gregorian Masses are absolutely the best way to help souls out of purgatory. The background behind them is a fascinating story.
Pope St. Gregory was a sickly man and had a physician who took care of him throughout his life. The physician, named “Justus,” was also a Benedictine monk in Rome, where the Church of St. Gregory remains today. When Justus was dying, St. Gregory told Justus’ blood brother to take care of him because he also was a physician. While taking care of him, the brother found three gold coins in Justus’ cell. Benedictines took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The brother told the monks, and they told St. Gregory. He was really upset because he expected the monks to take the vow seriously. Because Justus violated the vow of poverty, Gregory would not allow any of the monks to visit him during his last illness and console or pray with him. Justus was crushed. He wept and was repentant for keeping the coins.
Gregory knew he was in purgatory. He ordered 30 Masses to be said for the soul of Justus. Why 30? Why not 40 or 50 Masses?
The reason is: Gregory was bringing back the tradition from the Old Testament — Israelites mourning for the dead 30 days, such as for Moses and Aaron.
After the 30th Mass, Justus appeared to his blood brother and said he was released from purgatory. The brother had no idea Masses were being said for Justus. He ran to the monastery and told the monks, who told St. Gregory, who already knew because he already had a private revelation that Justus was released from purgatory.
Word spread all over Rome. People came to the monastery to have Masses said for their loved ones — then priests from France and Spain, and then priests from all over came to Rome to offer Masses at that altar for their loved ones. That altar still exists to this day in the Church of Sts. Andrew and Gregory in Rome. These first Gregorian Masses were offered at this altar.
The altar has three panels, all in relief carvings and engraved in Latin saying St. Gregory had freed the soul of this monk by 30 Masses. The middle panel shows our suffering Lord appearing to Gregory at the altar. The third panel says, in Latin, that St. Gregory is offering Masses in this room to release souls from purgatory. It’s strikingly beautiful.