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".