§ 44. What Formulas does the Church Use in Masses for the Dead?
257. The Church through her priests not only celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, but joins with it various prayers and ceremonies. True, any formula of Mass can be used in the celebration of a Mass for the faithful departed; but the Church in her tender maternal solicitude for the Suffering Souls ordained the use of certain formulas which are more efficacious in attaining their object than the Mass of the day. The Roman Missal .contains four formulas of Masses for the Dead: one for All Souls' Day; one for the day of death or burial, which is also used with proper orations on the third, seventh and thirtieth day after the death or burial; one for the anniversary of death; and the daily Mass of Requiem, which may be said on all days when the rubrics permit it. It is a praiseworthy custom, observed by all good Christians, always to unite a Mass of Requiem with the burial service; some even have Masses said for their deceased the day before the burial. The Mass on the third day is intended to remind us of the symbolical meaning of the figure three: on the third day Christ rose from the dead ; the departed soul also expects and ardently longs for the coming resurrection ; even now we are engaged in praying for its delivery from the abode of purification. The soul is moreover the image of the Triune God, and as such is to to purified by the efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice, so that this image may shine forth in full splendor. And lastly, the departed soul incurred guilt in a three-fold manner—by thought, word and deed; against God, the neighbor and self.—The Mass of the seventh day symbolizes the eternal sabbath, the everlasting rest of the departed; hence the Church prays to God that He would in His mercy grant eternal rest to the departed soul by receiving it into the everlasting mansions.— The thirtieth day is observed in imitation of the Israelites who mourned Moses and Aaron for thirty days.
Besides this Christ was baptized in His thirtieth year, and with the thirtieth year we ourselves attain the age of maturity.—And finally, the character of the anniversary Mass is fully expressed in its name: it is the annual remembrance of those who have gone before us, and for whom we implore the sleep of peace.
258. Special mention is to be made of the so-called Gregorian Masses. They have not a formula of their own. They are simply a series of Masses to be said for a departed soul on thirty consecutive days. The origin of this custom is related by St. Gregory the Great as follows: Justus, a monk of St. Gregory's monastery, had retained some money in violation of the established rule. As a punishment for this infraction of the vow of poverty the saint ordered him to be buried in unconsecrated ground. After a time he felt compassion for the poor brother, and asked the Abbot Pretiosus to celebrate Mass for thirty consecutive days for the repose of his soul. As soon as this had been done, the departed monk appeared to Brother Copiosus and informed him of his release from Purgatory. And thus, observes Cavalieri, the custom arose of celebrating the thirty Gregorian Masses. It was sanctioned on the 28th of October, 1628, by the Sacred Congregation of Rites. It is observed in some European countries, and by the Benedictine Order in general.
259. Other ancient customs concerning Masses for the dead are the following: Six or seven Masses are said for the departed soul, thereby to commemorate the mysteries of our Lord's passion; hence they are called the "Passion Masses," or the six or seven "Masses of St. Gregory, who is regarded as the originator of the custom. The first of the Masses is said on Palm Sunday, to honor the voluntary capture endured by our Savior, and to implore Him to break the bonds of the captive souls in Purgatory. The second is said on the following Tuesday in memory of Christ being sentenced to death; and He is implored to mitigate His rigorous but just punishment of the deceased. The third is said on Wednesday in memory of our Lord's crucifixion ; and He is implored by the pangs He suffered while being nailed to the cross to grant relief to the Suffering Souls in their torments. The fourth and fifth are votive Masses during which the Passion of our Lord according to St. John is read. The sixth is said on Holy Saturday in memory of the resurrection of Jesus, to obtain for the Suffering Souls a participation in the triumph and glory of the Redeemer. The seventh Mass commemorates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to implore her intercession for the souls in Purgatory.