My parish priest told me that only one Mass was needed for a dead person to be released from Purgatory and so I have not had Masses said for my deceased father. After finding alternative views on the internet, I wonder whether this advice was correct.
I am afraid that I do not agree with the advice that your priest gave, though I am sure that he meant well. Although the Mass has an infinite value, our capacity to receive God’s grace is limited. Therefore it is proper for us to offer Masses regularly for a deceased relative or friend.
In the early third century, Tertullian spoke of the practice of “making oblations for the dead as birthday honours.” (De Corona 3) He was referring to offering Mass on the occasion of a person’s anniversary. He similarly referred to a widow “offering” on the anniversary of her husband’s falling asleep. (De Monogomia 10) He even mentioned that although the practice was not in the scriptures, it had the authority of tradition and custom, so we may assume that it was being done some time before. In book 9 of the Confessions, St Augustine gives a moving account of the psalms and prayers, and the Mass that was offered for his mother who requested that she be remembered at the altar, which she had served without missing a single day.
A particular person for whom we offer Mass, may already be in heaven and our prayers may no longer needed for them. In such a case, those prayers would not be wasted, but would benefit other holy souls who have nobody to pray for them. At secular funerals, and even at many Christian funerals, there is no concern to pray for the repose of the deceased person but simply to remember a few anecdotes about them and “celebrate their life.”
So do have Masses said for your dear Father. If your own priest prefers not to accept Mass intentions, you could send them to Aid to the Church in Need which would pass on your offering to a priest suffering poverty or persecution.
Catholic Dilemma 250 published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox.