QUAERITUR: Gregorian Masses and Gregorian Masses and Gregorian Masses

What’s up with the term "Gregorian Mass"?  Or "Gregorian Rite"?

The other day in London Dario Castrillon Hoyos spoke of the Gregorian Rite saying "this is the just [correct] name for the Extraordinary Form,".

I think we can call the older form of Mass many different things.  However, surely will be seeing more of the label "Gregorian".

Some people called the Mass in the form we find in the various editions of the Missale Romanum from before the changes in the 1960’s, "Gregorian", rather than "Pian" (after St. Pope Pius V), because its essential structure and many of the prayers go back to the time at least of Pope Gregory I (+604).   Gregory did a great deal to codify liturgical law and practice for the Church of Rome.  His influence endures today, in an even greater measure again, now that Summorum Pontificum is in force.

However, hard on the heels of this Card. Castrillon’s statement, I received a question today by e-mail:

I had a call referred to me by the diocese of "x" in regard to a request for Gregorian Masses.  I told the woman who inquired about the matter that I would look into some possibilities.  She had a couple of questions.  First, what is the usual stipend for such a request?  Second, is it possible to have the Masses said for two deceased individuals who were husband and wife in one series of Masses, or must the intention of the 33 consecutive Masses be only for one person?  The questions I have in regard to Gregorian Masses include:  Is it 30 or 33 consecutive Masses?  Must they all be requiem Masses?  (That would not seem possible given the liturgical calendar).  Must Gregorian Masses be said consecutively by the same priest?  Given the nature of Gregorian Masses where might I be able to direct this woman to have these Gregorian Masses said?  Thanks for any assistance rendered.

Let’s get to the bottom of this.

What are "Gregorian Masses"?

When you hear "Gregorian Masses" you are usually talking about the celebration of thirty Masses for thirty consecutive days for the soul of someone who has died.  It is thought that St. Pope Gregory I (+604) spread this practice, which was already a tradition by his day.  Pope Gregory had these Masses said for, at least, a fellow Roman monk named Justus (Dialogorum 4,57: Vade itaque, et ab hodierna die diebus triginta continuis offerre pro eo sacrificium stude, ut nullus omnino praetermittatur dies, quo pro absolutione illius salutaris hostia non immoletur.)  At the end of the thirty days the dead monk appeared to his brother to let him know he was free from Purgatory.  In any event, this became a widespread practice after Pope Gregory.  I believe that the Dominican’s even had special Mass prayers in their Rite for this practice.

In any event, there are some basic guidelines. 

First, thirty Masses must be said on thirty consecutive days for the same intention.  If the priest can’t say one the Masses himself, for any reason, he must arrange for another priest to say the Mass for that same intention on that same day so that the series is not broken.  They are said only for the dead.

The Masses can be said anywhere, and they need not be Requiem Masses.

Because this is a heavy commitment, the stipend offered should usually be pretty generous.  Given that very few priests are able to take their own chosen intention every day for 30 days, that is fitting.  The stipend can be whatever is agreed on, of course.  How much should it be?  That can’t really be fixed down.  I have done Gregorian series three times.  On one occasion I was offered 450 euros, and the person who offered the stipend was very pleased to have found a priest who could do it.  On another occasion I took far less, because it was requested by an elderly woman on a limited income for her dead husband.  So, it depends on the circumstances.  Whatever is decided, if the stipend is accepted, in justice the priest is strictly bound to fulfill his part of the commitment.

So, there is one way "Gregorian Masses" can be understood.

Another way also relates to the dead, though these are less commonly called "Gregorian Masses".

There is a custom in the Roman Church for Requiem Masses to be said on the third, seventh and thirtieth days after the death of a person.  In this case, these are indeed Requiems.  The third, seventh, and thirtieth days can be counted either from the day of death or from the day of burial, exclusive. 

Yet another type of "Gregorian Mass" is a Mass said at a "Gregorian altar".

A Gregorian altar is a privileged altar, that is, an altar to which certain added benefits or indulgences were attached such that when priests said Mass there the indulgence was gained.  A Gregorian altar was therefore an altar that had the same privileges as the altar of the Roman basilica of San Gregorio in the Caelian Hill, where St. Gregory the Great had his monastery.  That original Gregorian altar had a plenary indulgence for a soul in Purgatory.  No Gregorian altars, called Gregorian altars ad instar, were so blessed after 1912.  Naturally such an indulgence, a mighty application of the power of the keys indeed!, depends entirely on God’s will.

So, there are various uses of "Gregorian". 

 

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34 Responses to QUAERITUR: Gregorian Masses and Gregorian Masses and Gregorian Masses

  1. Garrett says:

    Well, the Western Rite Orthodox who use the Ancient Mass refer to it as the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist; not much of a stretch simply to shorten that to “Gregorian Mass.”

    And, more or less, I emulating the Orthodox in every manner possible isn’t the worst of ideas.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    Great post, Father! Thank you for answering a lot of questions I had myself for years. I wonder, has anyone anywhere heard of Gregorian Masses being said in the Ordinary Form? Of course it is possible, I am just curious if it has ever been done.

  3. dcs says:

    I wonder, has anyone anywhere heard of Gregorian Masses being said in the Ordinary Form? Of course it is possible, I am just curious if it has ever been done.

    You mean the 30 Masses on 30 consecutive days? Yes, there are some missions that accept stipends for these. Here is one place you can arrange for them to be said:
    http://www.seraphicmass.org/gregorian_masses.asp

    I think the requested stipend is very reasonable.

    Or you might try here:
    http://www.spiritualtreasury.org/

  4. prof. basto says:

    Great post indeed, but I’m left with one doubt:

    No Gregorian altars, called Gregorian altars ad instar, were so blessed after 1912

    The question is: why?

    Thanks!

  5. Geoffrey says:

    dcs: Thank you! I was wondering if it was a practice that had fallen out of favour since the 1960s! I’m glad it hasn’t.

  6. John F. says:

    Where might one find Gregorian Altars ad instar?

  7. RBrown says:

    A Gregorian altar was therefore an altar that had the same privileges as the altar of the Roman basilica of San Gregorio in the Caelian Hill, where St. Gregory the Great had his monastery.

    San Gregorio was a long two blocks from where I lived, and so I said many a prayer at that altar, which, if memory serves, is in what was once the cell of St Greg.

  8. John Sim says:

    I always wondered about this… Must the Gregorian Masses for the dead be specifically the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or can it be the Ordinary Form or even a mixture of both Forms?

  9. Fr. Michael Darcy says:

    I have been trying to determine if the indulgence applied to privileged altars still exists, does anyone know? There was an article in the Angelus Magazine (SSPX) saying that it had been taken away with the new Enchiridion.

  10. When my brother died last year, I promised him we would have Gregorian Masses said for his soul. The stipend was $600, and our whole family shared the expense. Since my brother went to the SSPX church in Calgary, we had his funeral there, and Father Ockerse (SSPX) said the Gregorian Masses for him.

    I highly recommend having it written in your will if you want Gregorian Masses said for your soul after you die. That way you can be sure it will be done, and you can set the money aside from your estate.

  11. GREGORIAN LATIN MASS POEM

    O tried and true, O Latin Mass, I will always be beside You.

    O Christmas Tree, O Christ’s Mass, I never take away my eyes from you.

    My Latin Mass, My Latin True, O how Very Extraordinary art You!

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    From More’s Bridge, to Campion’s Tower – to Iona and up to Crocanaffrin. O Latin MASS, Yes Latin Mass, how Gregorian art you.

    I am never nervous near you, no novus disorder turns me round,

    For O Latin Mass, O Latin Mass, it’s because I trust your Tridentine Smile.

    And so now I promise you, O Latin Mass, O My Sweetest Latin Mass, I will always be faithful.

    Learn Thy Mass!

    http://www.lulu.com/content/2740010

  12. Gregor says:

    Great post, Father. Some questions:

    In the vein of Fr Darcy: Is what you call Gregorian altar the same as the altare privilegiatum? If so I had never heard that there was a connection to San Gregorio al Celio, nor heard it called Gregorian altar. As for the indulgences attached to them, it is my understanding that these, no longer being mentioned in the enchiridion or the CIC, can no longer be gained.

    As for the Gregorian Masses themselves, I wonder, since parish is obligated to apply the Sunday and Holy Day Mass for the souls of his parishioners, is it ok for him accept Gregorian Masses when he already knows he cannot offer all of them himself?

  13. Alessandro says:

    About gregorian altars. In the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua (Italy) a plaque on the wall beside the sacresty main door says: “all the altars of this Basilica have the same privileges of “St Gregory al Celio” altar”. All but one, I would add. Because today the celebration of masses is almost exclusively carried out on the movable altar (rather pretty though) versus populum, which of course is not consacreted and “indugenced” as the others.

  14. As for the Gregorian Masses themselves, I wonder, since parish is obligated to apply the Sunday and Holy Day Mass for the souls of his parishioners, is it ok for him accept Gregorian Masses when he already knows he cannot offer all of them himself?

    That only applies to one of a Pastor’s Sunday Masses. If he celebrates a second Mass, it can be for an intention for which he has received a stipend.

  15. Gregor says:

    Zadok,

    that may be the practice today. Legally, however, bination is still only permitted if there is necessity (sacerdotum penuria ) and the ordinary has granted permission (can. 905 § 2 CIC). And in the time when Gregorian Masses were still widely celebrated, the discipline regarding binations was much less lax.

  16. Martin OP says:

    There was a special decree from the Holy See some years ago – maybe as much as thirty years ago – regulating the matter of Gregorian masses. Importantly, it does allow the series of thirty to be interrupted for a sufficient reason. As I am away from my priory, I do not have access to the document, but perhaps someone else can track it down and post it for us.

  17. Eric says:

    I recently arranged for a series of Gregorian Masses to be said. Clear Creek Monastery offers them in the Extraordinary Form and the requested stipend is more than reasonable ($300.00). http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/
    Moreover, they arranged for the Masses to be said quickly, and although the downside is that it is far away and I won’t be able to attend, at least it was easy to arrange and I won’t have to wait months or over a year for the Masses to be said as I encountered in trying to arrange for just a single Mass at local parishes…

  18. Eric says:

    I recently arranged for a series of Gregorian Masses to be said. Clear Creek Monastery offers them in the Extraordinary Form and the requested stipend is more than reasonable ($300.00). http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/
    Moreover, they arranged for the Masses to be said quickly, and although the downside is that it is far away and I won’t be able to attend, at least it was easy to arrange and I won’t have to wait months or over a year for the Masses to be said as I encountered in trying to arrange for just a single Mass at local parishes…

  19. Andrew White says:

    I think the Gregorian Rite is a excellent term for the TLM. The use of the term Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the TLM concerns me a little. Mainly because of the term Extraordinary Eucharistic minister, here the way I understand the word extraordinary, it is meant as something to be utilized when abnormal situations require it. With that being said, I would not favor someone trying to deminish the use of the Extraordinary Form by using the same definition for the word extraordinary. The term Gregorian Rite defies that logic.

  20. Scott W. says:

    I like the term Gregorian. While I take your point Andrew, my concern with Extraordinary Form just sounds too bureaucratic. Like, “Well, it’s tax time, so you will be receiving your W-4’s. Don’t forget to pick up an Extraordinary Form.”

  21. Gregor: Is what you call Gregorian altar the same as the altare privilegiatum?

    Not really. The Gregorian Altar is a subset of the privileged altars. Just as all squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares, not all privileged altars are Gregorian altars.

  22. Alessandro: It would be great to have a photo of that plaque so that readers here could see it.

  23. Tobias says:

    When I was in Rome, I noticed inscriptions that said something along the lines
    of “Unum ex VII altaribus.” I do not recall if this was only in St. Peter’s
    Basilica or if I saw it elsewhere. Later I saw something in the Enchiridion
    about the Seven Altars in St. Peter’s. Were these altars privileged? If
    privileged, are they also Gregorian? Lastly, have altar privilges been
    superseded by the new Enchiridion? Thanks and God bless.

  24. Patrick says:

    There used to be an “ara privilegia” in NY, where the TLM was offered on Saturdays (I believe it was St Ann’s — it used to be the Cathedral of the Armenian Catholics). That Church was sold …..argh…… Does anyone know if the altar was preserved? I had heard that it was a Gregorian Altar.

  25. mbd says:

    I believe that the organization Aid to The Church in Need used to arrange Gregorian Masses – generally offered by priests in Eastern Europe. They may still do so.

  26. mbd says:

    To follow up on my earlier comment, on checking the website for ATTCIN, I see that they do still arrange to have Gregorian Masses said by needy priests in Eastern Europe and the Third World. The stipend is $330.

  27. John Hudson says:

    I’ve also heard (and probably used) the term Gregorian Mass informally to refer to a celebration in which the ordinaries are sung in plainchant rather than polyphony.

  28. Fr D says:

    The pious and ancient custom of celebrating 30 Masses for the soul of the deceased is also known as a “Trental” of such Masses. There’s no reason why a “Trental” of Masses applied for the souls of the departed may not be offered in the OF as well as in the Gregorian. I have done this several times – and indeed, recommend the practice to be entered into the Last Will and Testament of my parishioners. It’s certainly in mine! There’s an interesting article here for more info http://www.armeseelen.info/Gregorianische_Messen.htm

  29. joy says:

    The Franciscan missionaries offer the set of Gregorian Masses for a stipend of $150.
    Pretty sure they are NOs.

    http://www.franciscanmissions.org/M_Gregorian_history.php

  30. kaneohe says:

    You can request Gregorian Masses at Catholic Near East Welfare Association for a donation of $150.00

    http://www.cnewa.org/generalpg-verus.aspx?pageID=167

  31. Louis E. says:

    Of course the “Gregorian Rite” alluded to by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is more closely that of Gregory XVI than Gregory the Great (if not as close to that of Gregory XVI as some would like).

    Some sedevacantist/conclavist antipopes have taken the name Gregory XVII in homage to G XVI,the pope of “Mirari Vos”…I’ve wondered if an order observing the calendar and sacraments as they were wnen Gregory died in 1846 would be the spiritual home for dedicated flies-in-amber.

  32. Fr. Darcy writes: “I have been trying to determine if the indulgence applied to privileged altars still exists, does anyone know? There was an article in the Angelus Magazine (SSPX) saying that it had been taken away with the new Enchiridion.”

    And Tobias writes: “Lastly, have altar privilges been superseded by the new Enchiridion? Thanks and God bless.”

    The privilege has been abolished, which appears to have the effect of expanding it to all altars and all Masses… but not in the Enchiridion, but the document that preceded it, Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina of 1967:

    “n.20—Holy Mother Church, extremely solicitous for the faithful departed, has decided that suffrages can be applied to them to the widest possible extent at any Sacrifice of the Mass whatsoever, abolishing all special privileges in this regard.”

    See: http://tinyurl.com/ynurdz (link to document on Vatican Website)

  33. Tobias says:

    Thanks, J.R. Benedict!

  34. RBrown says:

    I recently arranged for a series of Gregorian Masses to be said. Clear Creek Monastery offers them in the Extraordinary Form and the requested stipend is more than reasonable ($300.00). http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/
    Moreover, they arranged for the Masses to be said quickly, and although the downside is that it is far away and I won’t be able to attend, at least it was easy to arrange and I won’t have to wait months or over a year for the Masses to be said as I encountered in trying to arrange for just a single Mass at local parishes…
    Comment by Eric

    And 30 indiv masses are offered, not merely a concelebrant raising his hand 30 times. Fontgombault’s policy–and I assume that of Clear Creek–is that there is to be no break: 30 masses on 30 consecutive days.