I recently re-discovered a small prayer book I acquired, entirely by accident, 17 years ago. It was given to me by an elderly woman in Idaho. I had taken a job with a friend’s family business installing well pumps during our last summer before college, and we were doing some work at her home. As it turned out, she was a Catholic, and more than a little talkative. After conversation about various and sundry things, she shoved a pair of small, leatherbound “Purgatorian Manuals” — in mint condition despite their considerable age — into our hands. We accepted politely, not really knowing what they were or what to do with them. She was full of conspiracy theories and unusual theological opinions, so I think it was fair to say that or skepticism was fairly high about whatever value the little books might possess.
Curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I thumbed through the book. I discovered that it in fact contained some very good prayers, and for some time thereafter I habitually brought it with me to Mass for the communion prayers alone. But there were other prayers as well. Prayers I didn’t understand what to do with. Prayers to be said during Mass – at the Confiteor (what’s that?) or when the priest kisses the altar (he does?) or goes to the Epistle side of the altar (there’s an Epistle side?) or at the Introit, the Orate Fratres, etc.
Written as it was in 1946, the booklet was set up to follow the structure and form of the Church’s ancient liturgy, now most commonly known as the “Extraordinary Form.” At the point in my life when I came into possession of the book, however — I was almost 20 years old at the time — I had no familiarity with the Traditonal Latin Mass.
As the years wore on, I began to forget about the Purgatorian Manual. I found new prayers I liked better for various reasons (including but not limited to personal laziness) and I started to neglect bringing it with me. Before long, it wound up in a box somewhere with other things I didn’t use but couldn’t bring myself to throw away. After I got married and had a home of my own, it made its way into a nice little dust-collecting spot on one of my many shelves of religious books.
Only this year, for some reason, did I take notice of it again.
The book is literally pocket-sized, and looks like this (after nearly two decades of wear and tear):
On a recent visit to the adoration chapel, I brought it with me. Full of indulgenced prayers, I found new treasures in it I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate as a younger man, particularly since I was, at the time, so ignorant of traditional Catholic spirituality.
One of the things that really struck me about the book on my most recent perusal was the membership information pertaining to the Purgatorian Society that was responsible for publishing it. This was contained in the last few pages:
Purgatorian Society In Honor of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Established in the Church of the Immaculate Conception 389 East 150th Street New York 55, N.Y.
To afford to all the means of securing the benefit of daily Masses for themselves or their friends, living and deceased; especially to relieve the souls in Purgatory.
1. Fifty Cents is the annual contribution. This contribution may be paid as often as one wishes to do so; and when the offerings have reached the sum of ten dollars, the membership becomes perpetual and continues after death. The offering for perpetual membership may be paid at once.
2. Living as well as deceased persons may be enrolled at any time during the year; and absent persons may be enrolled by mail. The year begins with the day of enrollment.
Annual Membership …………..$ .50
Perpetual Membership ………. 10.00
Family Membership ………….. 25.00
(Family includes parents and children only)
3. When contributions are renewed, he certificate of membership should be presented, in order to find the name in the roll-book and receipt the payment.
4. The members should seek to assist the souls in Purgatory by their prayers and good works, especially by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and they should strive to promote this charitable devotion in others.
Seems sensible enough. Where it gets good is the advantages to members:
1. Every day eleven High Masses are offered for the living and deceased members.
2. The members share in the prayers offered by the Redemptorist Father for their benefactors, especially in the Solemn Requiem celebrate annually in November.
3. When a member dies, a special Mass will be offered for his or her soul upon the return of the certificate.
4. The Rosary will be recited every Saturday evening in the Church of the Immaculate Conception for the deceased members of the Purgatorian Society.
Every well instructed Catholic knows that the Sacrifice of the Mass is of infinite value. Members of this Society enjoy the inestimable grace of having the Holy Sacrifice offered for them every day. They have also the consoling assurance that after death this will be continued for the repose of their souls. Charitable persons will also find in this Society an excellent opportunity of having the Holy Sacrifice offered every day for their friends, living or dead.
Kindly explain to others the great benefits of the Purgatorian Society.
Never let a day pass by without saying some prayer or performing some penance for the dear souls in Purgatory. When you are dying they will not forget you, and when you are suffering in Purgatory, they will not cease to pray for you until you are released, and united with them in Heaven. Remember the most abandoned souls, who have neither friend nor relative to pray for them.
inestimable grace indeed! ELEVEN HIGH MASSES A DAY?! Where in the world, literally, are eleven High Masses said today? Is there a single place? Or, if not, are eleven High Masses said per day even at multiple chapels for a single cause?
How about a guaranteed Mass said upon death? Or a rosary said in perpetuity for the repose of your soul every Saturday night in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
I decided to give the Church of the Immaculate Conception a call today. Yes, the parish (located in the Bronx) is still open. Yes, there are still Redemptorist Fathers there. But the receptionist had never heard of the Purgatorian Society. She said she’d take my number and have Father call me back.
What happened to these devotions after the Second Vatican Council? Here and there, I’ve heard stories about what was: societies, sodalities, and guilds. About the 40 hours devotion. About various aspects of the life of faith that brought the people into the parishes — outside of their Sunday obligation — to pray, to worship God, and to serve their neighbors.
I ask these questions because I honestly don’t know the answers: where did these practices go? Are they completely extinct? Do they still happen in certain far-flung corners of the Catholic world? What would it do for the faithful if these things were brought back? What would we need to make that happen? How would it change what we believe or how we practice? Have we lost our grasp of the concept that prayer — particularly dedicated, communal prayer — is efficacious? What impact did these practices have on vocations? On family life?
I, for one, would happily make a donation to join a revived Purgatorian Society. Masses said every day for both the living and deceased members? Where do I sign up?
If you know the answers to any of the questions I’ve raised, please leave them in the comments, or if you feel more comfortable, contact me privately using our contact form. I’m not asking these things rhetorically. Together, perhaps we can figure out how we can start reviving amazing devotions like this.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
I have what I believe is the same book in re-print form. It is at home, so I can’t check to be sure. It can be obtained in paperback here: http://www.loretopubs.org/purgatorian-manual-the.html
Your question is a very good one. I ask myself the same one regularly about such groups as well as Catholic Action societies. So many are gone it seems. Many others changed to barely resemble their former selves. And Vatican II called for MORE of this! I really don’t get it. The Council calls for Catholic Action to be the model and to be expanded and these societies and sodalities are praised…and poof. Odd isn’t it? Kind of like how Gregorian Chant is praised too by the Council.
The Redemptorist Fathers of Papa Stronsay still have those devotions and the Purgatorian Archconfraternity into which you can enroll departed or living people. Mass is said for them until the end of times as long as there are Redemptorist Fathers. All conditions and spiritual benefits are listed on their website: archconfraternity.com.
This is it?
I don’t know where they went, but I want them back.
Another great (basically unavailable) resource is Fr. Francis Lasance’s “Prayer-book for Religious.” I have a copy in decent condition—I found it in an old used book store. I turn to it from time to time to supplement my daily recitation of the Divine Office.
I was so happy to find many of the Fr. Lasance prayer books at the Angelus Press website.
And I was wrong—it’s somewhat available online. You can find it here: https://archive.org/details/prayerbookreligi00lasauoft
YES!! there are a zillion old good Catholic resources on Archive. I have downloaded this prayerbook and many others [including Fr Lasance] too. Capturing these old works is the best and fastest path to understanding real Catholicism. Go to the source folks. Forget arguing on blogs – look to your personal spiritual growth first.
Technical note: The Kindle versions can be a bit screwy, though useable, due to old fonts and inserted footnotes. The PDFs offer the most readable format. Also, if you grab the text-friendly PDFs [Google versions not so easily used], these can be searched, copied and pasted for citations and quoting.
Read these PDFs on your computer or move them to your devices through iTunes or whatever app transfers files to your specific device – although these take up more space than an ePub or mobi format.
Hello Steve. I just found & purchased a 2013 reprint of the 1946 Purgatorian Manual on eBay. Thank you for pointing me in this direction.
Great post. It’s is indeed a shame at the loss. So much richness. By the way, the Purgatory Society lives on but online at Rorate Caeli http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2012/09/mondays-pray-for-souls-in-purgatory.html
Full of indulgenced prayers
Sadly, not anymore. Pope Blessed Paul VI ditched them and reduced the indulgenced prayers significantly and he had the authority to do so.
So where did all those prayers,devotions and ecclesiastical traditions go?
Into the Bugnini Bonfire that was fueled by new theology/modernism
Read this. It will explain some things.
You say you want a revolution…
These new norms regulating the acquisition of indulgences will become
valid three months from the date of publication of this constitution in
the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Indulgences attached to the use of religious objects which are not
mentioned above cease three months after the date of publication of this
constitution in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
The revisions mentioned in n.14 and n.15 must be submitted to the
Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary within a year. Two years after the date of
this constitution, indulgences which have not been confirmed will
become null and void.
We will that these statutes and prescriptions of ours be established
now and remain in force for the future notwithstanding, if it is necessary
so to state, the constitutions and apostolic directives published by our
predecessors or any other prescriptions even if they might be worthy of
special mention or should otherwise require partial repeal.
Given at Rome at St. Peter’s on January 1, the octave of the Nativity of
OurLord Jesus Christ, 1967, the fourth year of Our Pontificate.
Steve, one year ago I discovered Traditional Catholicism; but I always liked “devotions”. I have not read your article yet, but this old devotions are a proof more against the Vatican II new religion: Nowadays two religions live inside Catholic Church, side by side, in many ways, opposed one to each other. I started talking about my “discovery”, because since that moment, I realize about it, there´s a new religion, “anthropocentric”, instead of the old “Christcentric” Traditional Catholic Faith.
Weird how these things work. I wrote in my journal just this October about what happened to all the Confraternities, how there aren’t any new ones and the old ones are neglected. I even wrote:”I think I’ll do some research, maybe try to revive them or at least promote them”. There really are no coincidences.
You can thank Vatican 2 for the removal of all these devotions and prayers.
I have that book also. It’s a treasure.
This is great stuff, Steve. Thanks for this essay.
Go to the site for the Friends of the Suffering Souls (FOSS) at http://knocknovena.com/ The only requirement as a member is to arrange 1 Mass a year for the members of the organization and the Holy Souls. You can enroll others, living and deceased, with the promise that you will have as many Masses offered as you have souls enrolled. They are currently up to 112 Masses a day!! Amazing and comforting!
When I visited Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma, I assisted at NINE Masses of the Extraordinary Form at one time. There would be at least 11 TLMs there every day.
And a Purgatorial Society is ongoing at Rorate Caeli:
And a couple of years ago after the TLM was liberated, I attended one in a gorgeous church in Massachusetts. And I wept. WHY, why, O Lord, was this taken away from us?
I found this website saying we can still enroll in the society – although the parishes are different from the one you cited, Steve. I wonder if these groups have been resurrected from dormancy or have persisted all this time? I doubt these are E.F. Masses.
Redemptorist Fathers’ Purgatorian Society
Redemptorist Fathers’ Purgatorian Society
In honour of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord
RULES AND ADVANTAGES
Eleven High Masses are celebrated every day of the year, according to
the special intention of the living members, or for the repose of the
souls of the deceased.
2. The living as well as the dead, may become members at any time during
the year. Persons living at a distance may be enrolled by mail.
3. For individual perpetual memberships, living or deceased, submit $10.00 U.S. funds.
4. Membership of the living continues after death.
5. Besides the eleven High Masses daily, members share in the prayers offered daily by the Redemptorists for their benefactors.
6. Rosary will be recited every Saturday evening for the deceased
members – INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS ONLY. After the death of a perpetual
member, the Sacrifice of the Mass will be offered specially for the
repose of his or her soul, if the certificate of membership is
presented. This does not apply to family enrollments.
Family Enrollments —Offering $25
This enrollment includes only the husband, wife, and the children.
This does not include any children born after the enrollment has been
made. Rules and advantages include Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. Not included are
No. 3. Money received from the Purgatorian Society will be used for the
Redemptorist Foreign Missions.
You can enroll in the Purgatorian Society by writing to REVEREND FATHER RECTOR at any of the addresses below:
Most Holy Redeemer Church
173 East 3rd Street
New York, NY 10009
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
323 East 61st Street
New York, NY 10024
Our Lady of Fatima Rectory
6420 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21224
St. Peter the Apostle Rectory
1019 N. 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Every well instructed Catholic knows that the Sacrifice of the Mass
is of infinite value. Members of this Society enjoy the inestimable
grace of having the Holy Sacrifice offered for them every day. They have
also the consoling assurance that after death this will be continued
for the repose of their souls. Charitable persons will also find in this
Society an excellent opportunity of having the Holy Sacrifice offered
every day for their friends, living or dead.
Kindly explain to others the great benefits of the Purgatorian Society.
Never let a day pass by without saying some prayer or performing some
penance for the dear souls in Purgatory. When you are dying they will
not forget you, and when you are suffering in Purgatory, they will not
cease to pray until you are released, and united with them in Heaven.
Remember the most abandoned souls, who have neither friend nor relative
to pray for them.
The destruction of all these societies that fostered piety, prayer, good works, etc is why we have charismatics and personally-invented devotions. The Faithful have a desire for these kinds of groups, and in a vacuum people invent their own misguided practices.
You can purchase the book for $10 at http://www.daughtersofmarypress.com/subcats/prayer-books. I bought mine there a few years ago and use it, well, religiously. Check out their music CDs while you are there. The most beautiful Catholic music anywhere.
Good find. Do you know if they’ve included all the prayers? Some of the ones in the original — including those which pray for those trapped in the darkness of Islam, and for the conversion of the Jews — are not very PC according to current ecumenical practices.
Yes, on pages 168-169 “Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus”. There may also be other references but I have my favorite sections and have not yet gone through the book cover to cover.
At the risk of sounding like a salesman for the Daughters of Mary, there are two other small books listed on their prayer books page that I highly recommend: “Meditations and Reflections” and “Join Us in Prayer”.
Ooh, even the page numbers correspond!
Even though the number of indulgence d prayers was reduced, the general grants are quite broad and offer many opportunities to gain even more indulgence s. For example to offer up trials of life with a short prayer and while doing our duties gains an indulgence. This means that we can gain twice the amount of temporal punishment remitted. The emphasis in the new revision of indulgences is less on saying certain prayers than in making all of life a prayer. I think that is good. And there are still plenty of indulgenced prayers.
The indulgences are still valid. Once a Pope has established an indulgence, etc. it can not be revoked or removed by another Pope, but only by the same Pope. This can be
compared to going to confession and a priest absolves an individual from their sins, and then that individual goes to another priest, and the other priest informs him that he revokes the other priest absolution, and the persons sins are now not forgiven. The indulgences are still valid, and a individual can enroll in the purgatorian society to the following address: St. Peter the Apostle Parish * 1019 North Fifth Street * Philadelphia, PA 19123 Phone: (215) 627-2386 or visit their website http://www.stjohnneumann.org/gift-shop.html