Saturday, August 20, 2005
Why have a Mass for a Deceased Loved One?

Q: What is the Mass?

Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and for that reason, it is by definition efficacious.  We are present at Calvary.  Rather than merely remembering the life and death of Christ, we are present at it and partake of its eternal fruits which flow to us from the altar when the priest stands in the place of Christ and offers the Eternal Victim on the altar to God.  

Q: What is the value of the Mass?

The Miraculous Value of the Holy Mass is well documented by a number of the saints whose inspiring writings and visions bear testimony to this: “My son, if men only knew the value of the Holy Mass, they would be forever on their knees listening to it” (Padre Pio to Vittorio Chimetto)

The Holy Mass is the renewal of the sacrifice of the Cross”. It is the sacrifice that detains Divine justice, that rules the entire Church, that saves the world. In the hour of death, the Masses that you have devoutly attended will be your greatest consolation. In each Mass the temporal suffering due to your sins is diminished in accordance with the degree of commitment you bring to it. In each Mass, Jesus forgives you the venial sins you have not confessed but have repented. In each Mass, Satan’s dominion over you is reduced. One Mass heard by you in your life does more good than many that may be heard for you after your death. In each Mass, you are given protection against dangers and misfortunes that would otherwise have befallen you. With each Mass your time in Purgatory is reduced. The Holy Sacrifice is the most effective of prayers, over and above all other prayers, good works and penance; by its own virtue it immediately and infallibly produces effect in favour of souls. Each Mass procures for you a higher grade of glory in Heaven. And you are blessed also in your personal affairs and interests. “If we only knew the worth of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,with how much greater zeal we would listen it” (the Holy Cure of Ars).

“You must be aware, Christian, that the Mass is the most sacred act of religion: you can do nothing more glorious for God, nor more advantageous for your soul, that to piously and as frequently as possible attend Mass” (B.B Eymard)

“It is worth more to hear a single Mass that to distribute all your riches among the poor and to make pilgrimage throughout the whole earth” (St. Bernard).

“The Lord grants us all we ask of him in the Holy Mass, and what’s more, He grants us even what we do not think of asking but which we also need!" (St Girolamo).

“Be sure”, Jesus said to St. Gertrude, “that to the one who listens devoutly to the Holy Mass, in the last moments of life, I will send him many of my Saints to comfort and protect him, in accordance with the Masses he has attended well” (Book 3, chapter 16.)

So to summarize, we wish to make clear that the Mass truly is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  

Q. Since the Mass is the same as the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, Why Is One Mass Said Not Necessarily Sufficient to Free A Soul From Purgatory?

On this question, The Purgatorian Manual well explains:

"The Sacrifice of the Mass is the great devotion of the Catholic Church, and, of all means to assist the souls in Purgatory, none is more valuable or meritorious; for there Jesus Christ offers Himself and His infinite merits to His Heavenly Father, by the hands of the Priest, in behalf of the suffering souls. The unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass does not essentially differ from the sacrifice of the cross, but only accidentally as to the mode of oblation, and no limit can be placed to the effect of this great sacrifice, which contains in itself all graces. From this inestimable efficacy, however, we may not infer that the offering of one Mass is sufficient to release the souls we love; for, though the Sacrifice on Calvary was infinite, we cannot conclude that the application of it, through the Mass, must also be infinite. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, it was not the intention of Jesus Christ to bestow the full efficacy of His suffering and death, which is celebrated in every Mass, upon us; His merits are applied according to His Adorable Will, for the ways of God are often inscrutable. It is very salutary, therefore, to have the Holy Sacrifice offered frequently for the repose of a soul. Should the souls who are dear to us, for whom we intercede in this manner, be already in the enjoyment of eternal will bestow the merit of the Masses offered on other suffering souls."

Q: When a Mass is said for the soul of a deceased loved one, does this help lessen the soul's time in purgatory?

A: Just as we pray for others here on earth, we are encouraged by the Church to pray for souls who may be in purgatory. Why? We are all in need of grace to come into the perfection of charity. We cannot enter heaven if we have not been completely cleansed of sin and all punishment due to sin.

Since the Mass is the "source and summit" of the Christian Life, we naturally look to that Holy Sacrifice of Christ, containing the perfect prayer, to offer for our deceased relatives and friends who may still need the help of our prayers. Priests are under a strict obligation to remember in a special way the person for whom the Mass is being offered. Often you will hear the priests say the name of the person in the part of the Mass which specifically remembers those who have gone before us. Sometimes the intention for the Mass is listed in the bulletin or announced before the Mass.

We can't really speak of "time" since the deceased person has entered eternity, but we can speak in terms of "final purification" before entrance into heaven. We believe that a Mass offered for a departed relative or friend may help hasten that final purification which he/she may still be undergoing in purgatory.  So yes, a Mass does help lessen the soul's time in purgatory.

And since the Mass truly is the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, it is the most perfect prayer and sacrifice.  As such, there is nothing more glorious that we can offer to God on behalf of souls.

Q: How exactly can I have a Mass said for the repose of the soul of a friend/relative?

A: Ask a priest to offer a Mass for the intention of the repose of the soul of your friend or relative. We also highly encourage having Gregorian Masses said for the repose of the deceased. These pious practices are truly worthwhile. For more information on Gregorian Masses and how to have one offered, see the American TFP Website

Separately from Gregorian Masses, see the Regina Caeli Purgatorial Society and enroll as many souls as you would like.  There is no cost. For other places where you can request Tridentine Masses for the souls of the departed, please click here.

Q. What Indulged Prayers May I Offer for the Benefit of my loved one's soul?

For a listing of hundreds of prayers with indulgences and special blessings attached to them, be sure to refer to a copy of the Raccolta oftenAnd for a list of other private works that you can do for the souls of the dead in purgatory (e.g. heroic acts of charity, fasting, etc) please click here.

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19 comment(s):

del_button June 27, 2011 at 9:02 PM
Anonymous said...

Psalms chapter 146 verse 4 states "His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish."
Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verse 4 states that "For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten."

Ezekiel states at chapter 18 verse 4 "Look! All the souls—to me they belong. As the soul of the father so likewise the soul of the son—to me they belong. The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.

A loving God does not require anything additional from a human after death especially an infant. Purgatory is not a Biblical nor scriptural doctrin or teaching. Read Isaiah chapter 8 verse 19. In Deuteronomy chapter 9 verse 11 God states that anyone doing these things (praying over dead) is detestable to him.

del_button July 1, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Matthew said...

Your misused verses have nothing to show to this issues as they are all taken out of context.

In Matthew 5:26 Christ is condemning sin and speaks of liberation only after expiation. "Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny." Now we know that no last penny needs to be paid in Heaven and from Hell there is no liberation at all; hence the reference must apply to a third place.

Matthew 12:32 says, "And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."

The same person as in the previously mentioned verse, Matthew, speaks of sin against the Holy Spirit. The implication is that some sins can be forgiven in the world to come. But not in Hell from which there is no liberation; nor in Heaven because nothing imperfect can enter it as we see in the next part. Any remission of sin cannot occur in either of these places because they are a final destination unlike purgatory.

Revelation 21:27: "...but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies." The place that is to be entered (the place to which this passage refers) is heaven (read the stuff around it for context).

The Bible clearly implies a place for temporary punishment after we die in the many passages which tell that God will reward or punish according to man's works.

del_button September 3, 2011 at 9:26 AM
Anonymous said...

As a TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC should I have a Requim Mass said for my husband who has been away from the church 40,or 50 years,who has never assissted at Mass on Sunday, never has gone to the Sacrament of Penance, recieve our Lord all those years etc, etc. How can a Requim Mass be said for a person not in santifying grace? To me this would be a scandal. Would it be better to have a Mass said with only the immediate family so we can pray for his soul? I need a truly Traditional Catholic answerer not a water down version. Thank you and God Bless, Joyce

del_button September 4, 2011 at 8:42 PM
Matthew said...


Were his sins public or private? Having Mass said for a public sinner is scandalous and should not be done. But this would not be so if his sins were private.

del_button September 12, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Anonymous said...

If you look at the context of Matthew 5: 25-26, it is not talking about our debts to be paid for sins. It is merely talking about actions between our adversary who is wanting to take us to court. I believe this verse is to be taken literally, and not figuratively.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
What this is implying literally and not figuratively is that we must pay what we owe. If this were twisted to a figurative example, then it would only negate the reason for Christ coming at all. Why bother with Him if we could possibly "pay the last penny" ourselves, or with friends and family? This does not prove or lead us to the conclusion that there is a third place to go, i.e. purgatory. Christ came so that we are no longer under the bondage of sin, not that we do not sin, but that we will not suffer from the debt of sin. He died to cover sins in the past, the present, and in the future. There is no time frame or expiration date of the power of forgiveness given by Him. Every Christian will be brought before God, who will judge us based on our actions (sins) and He will see Christ in our place, who paid it all to make us perfect. Our slate is wiped clean, only because of Christ's perfect life and death.

I did come upon your blog because I had a question about why catholics have mass for one who has passed. My 2 year old passed away 9 months ago, and many people donated to the church to have the mass.

del_button September 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Matthew said...

"I believe this verse is to be taken literally, and not figuratively." Who are you to decide how this verse is to be taken? Are you Christ? Are you His representative on Earth? Are you His Church?

Let's see what Haydock's Bible commentary says on those two verses:

"Ver. 25. & 26. Agree whilst you are in the way, or wayfaring men, i.e. in this life, lest you be cast into prison, i.e. according to Sts. Cyprian, Ambrose, and Origen, into purgatory; according to St. Augustine, into hell, in which, as the debt is to be paid to inflexible justice, it can never be acquitted, and of course no release can be hoped for from that prison. (Haydock)"

So Sts. Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine as well as non-St. Origen all say that this verse refers to payment of debt for sin.

St. Cyprian died in 258 AD. St. Ambrose died in 397. St. Augustine died in 430 AD. And Origen died in 253 AD.

Who are you to say that you suddenly know the meaning of this phrase when holy men from centuries past (much closer to the time of Christ and when the Gospels were written) all read it in a different manner?

del_button September 17, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Matthew said...

You also said, "He died to cover sins in the past". False, He died to erase our sins - to cancel them out by His Precious Blood. It is protestant and heretical to say that Christ "covers up" our sins. He does not. In His goodness and mercy, He cancels out of our sins. He erases them. His Sacred Heart forgives and forgets them.

You also say, "Why bother with Him if we could possibly "pay the last penny" ourselves." But we can not do it ourselves. We do all things in union with the Sacrifice of His Cross, which is the Sacrifice of the Mass. All of our actions and offerings, when done in a union and intention of uniting them to the Cross, take on the same value of the Passion in the eyes of the Eternal Father. We do nothing on our own - God, in His goodness, allows us to "work out our redemption in fear and trembling" by so doing this.

del_button September 17, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Matthew said...

You say, "Every Christian will be brought before God, who will judge us based on our actions (sins) and He will see Christ in our place, who paid it all to make us perfect. "

Every Christian will be judged by our Lord, Jesus Christ. And He will forgive some and condemn others.

del_button August 12, 2012 at 3:12 AM
RIck said...

Does anyone here know what exactly you say for the mass for the dead, the exact words i mean. Not the modernized version but the original

del_button November 16, 2012 at 8:09 PM
tom said...

What did Christ mean, when he was dying on the cross (for my sins) and said to the criminal next to Him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise"???
I believe that He probably had some inside info on the accuracy of His statement, and if I am to believe the Bible as accurate, maybe I should believe that what He said is true. (Especially since it is in red letters.)

del_button November 17, 2012 at 3:00 PM
Matthew said...

Tom, as this site explains ( ), our Lord's words on the Cross had a meaning. When He said to the Thief, "This day you will be with me in Paradise", He was not referring to Heaven. We know from the Creed, that after His death, our Lord "Descended unto the Dead" where He preached to the Fathers who died before Him, life Moses and Abraham. The thief was there with him. So why was it called paradise? Because our Lord was there. For wherever our Lord is present, that is a paradise.

Please see this note from the Scriptures: "In paradise: That is, in the happy state of rest, joy, and peace everlasting. Christ was pleased, by a special privilege, to reward the faith and confession of the penitent thief, with a full discharge of all his sins, both as to the guilt and punishment; and to introduce him immediately after death into the happy society of the saints, whose limbo, that is, the place of their confinement, was now made a paradise by our Lord's going thither. "

del_button June 5, 2015 at 7:17 AM
Matthew said...

We know that Purgatory is real because God has revealed purgatory to us. Why are protestants so intent on thinking that God stopped teaching us after the Crucifixion? Our Lord continued to reveal heavenly truths to us afterwards. And He has revealed that only the perfect shall enter Heaven and if we are not perfect, that we must be purified, even after death. That is purgatory

Purgatory is real

del_button July 28, 2015 at 11:13 PM
Anonymous said...

In 2013, my brother died at 45 years old of kidney and liver failure while in prison for bank robbery. I only learned by word of mouth as we were not close and our family had not seen him in years. The pastor said he visited him 2 days before he died in the hospital, shared the gospel and hoped he would make a decision for Christ. He did not know if my brother had received. The next day was going to return, but did not make it back there. On next day he went to the hospital, my brother had already died. The pastor said he was the only one present when he was buried. In the police photo, it is evident and it was confirmed that he had no teeth. Upon hearing of his death, I requested the 30 days of Masses online through the missionary priests. I also offer a plenary indulgence for his soul. Then 2 years later in 2015, he was enrolled in the Purgatorian Archconfraternity as part of a family application. A few weeks later, my brother appeared to me face-to-face in a dream. He said, "I have been healed because they prayed. Look! I have my teeth!" He had the most beautiful teeth. He was in the prime of life and seemed happy and at peace. He said he was home. Praise God for this glorious confirmation of the liberation of his soul from purgatory! The Transalpine Redemptorists offer many prayers for the living and the deceased members of the Purgatorian Archconfraternity.

del_button September 7, 2016 at 4:36 PM
Anonymous said...

Due to a reduction in the number of daily masses at my local church, it is not uncommon to have one mass said for multiple persons. In such an event, does a deceased person receive the same spiritual benefits as they would from a mass that is said for them alone?

del_button September 18, 2016 at 10:42 AM
Matthew said...

I would say 'Yes' since the one Mass is sufficient for the salvation of the whole world. However this article is very interesting on the matter of Masses for the living and the dead:

del_button May 28, 2017 at 1:58 AM
Malcolm Smith said...

I can't help noting that the article does not actually address the question in the heading. It answers another question: "Why do we pray for the dead?" We pray for a lot of things during mass eg for the peace of the world, good government, the recovery of the sick, to name just a few. But stating that we can pray for the dead DURING mass is not the same as saying why a mass can be held specifically for the dead.

del_button December 29, 2017 at 11:54 AM
Matthew said...

Catholic Prayer for the dead explained:

del_button June 1, 2018 at 8:49 PM
Gyrene said...

Nowhere have I been able to find anything about how many Masses should be said for a deceased loved one.
My wife passed away 5 years ago. On the following weekend of Divine Mercy, my pastor asked God to award a Plenary Indulgence to my wife. If then, all her sins, and temporal punishment for them, was wiped clean, then she went to Heaven. I have had Masses said weekly for the entire 5 years. Did the added graces lift her position in Heaven, or were those graces awarded to other souls?

del_button August 13, 2018 at 12:32 PM
Matthew said...

Gyrene, if your wife's soul is in Heaven, the extra Masses offered for her are applied to another soul in purgatory. God does not waste the graces of the Mass. So we can continue to pray for the souls of the faithful departed who we love and know that if her souls is now in Heaven, God will use all the extra prayers, indulgences, Masses, etc for souls who need them.

God bless you.

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