On 21 August 1879, Our Lady appeared to 14 people at an obscure parish church at Knock in the west of Ireland. The apparition of Blessed Virgin Mary, accompanied by St Joseph, St John the Evangelist, and an image of Christ as the Lamb of God quickly became famous as a place of healing and pilgrimage for Ireland and the entire world.
What a lot of people do not know is that Our Lady did not just appear on just any day. The saintly parish priest of Knock, Archdeacon Cavanagh, had just completed a novena of 100 consecutive Masses for the souls in Purgatory. Our Lady appeared on the final day of this 100-day novena.
Both Scripture and Tradition remind us to pray for the dead that they may be freed from their sins and enter the joy of heaven. Offering Masses is therefore the greatest gift we can give to the holy souls.
One hundred years later and on the opposite side of the world, a small group of Australian Catholics in the early 1980s were deeply moved by the story of Knock. In imitation of what Archdeacon Cavanagh had done, they arranged to have 100 consecutive Masses offered for the repose of those in Purgatory. After the first novena, another was organised. And then other. And out of these efforts came the Friends of the Suffering Souls.
Members of Friends of the Suffering Souls (FOSS) undertake to have one Mass offered each year for the souls in Purgatory. Each Mass offered by FOSS members is arranged on behalf of the whole association. This created a perpetual novena of Masses offered to Almighty God on behalf of the association for the benefit of all the souls in Purgatory. Every Mass is offered “for the holy souls, especially for the deceased members of FOSS.”
There are now over 40,000 FOSS members throughout the world. About half of these are in Australia with members in over 85 other countries including South Africa, Scotland, United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, India, Canada, Italy, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, France, Mexico and Nigeria.
From 2000, when record keeping began, more than 600,000 Masses have been offered for the souls in purgatory. FOSS members now arrange some 50,000 Masses each year. That is 140 Masses each day, or one Mass every 10 minutes!
Since 2020, to ensure the continuity of the association, the day-to-day administration of the novena has been coordinated by the Australian office of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need.
Benefits of FOSS membership
- In spiritual matters, merit is multiplied by participation and not divided. Therefore, each member receives the same merit as if he had arranged each and every individual Mass himself. St. Louis Marie de Montfort confirms the multiplication of merit when works are done in unison. He says in the Secret of the Rosary, “Someone who says the Rosary alone only gains the merit of one Rosary, but if he says the Rosary together with 30 other people he gains the merit of thirty Rosaries. This is the law of public prayer. How profitable, how advantageous this is!”
- The many souls who benefit from this great number of Masses will be eternally grateful. Even whilst they are still in Purgatory they will pray for the interests of members and will continue to pray for them when they are released into Heaven. They will never forget the members because the members did not forget them.
- All FOSS Masses are offered for all the souls in Purgatory but especially for deceased FOSS members. Therefore, after a member’s death his or her soul will enjoy the benefit of every single Mass organised by the association. If a deceased member has to pass through Purgatory, as most of us will, they will be grateful they took care of others so that now others take care of them.
Requirements of FOSS members
The only requirement to be a FOSS member is to arrange one Mass each year “for the holy souls in Purgatory, especially the deceased members of FOSS” and to confirm this Mass has been arranged with FOSS. Members can also enrol family and friends as third-party members and arrange the annual FOSS Mass on their behalf. You can arrange all your FOSS Masses through Aid to the Church, helping the poorest priests around the world, by clicking this link or through a priest of your own choosing.
Each member is allocated one day of the year on which the Mass is arranged for the souls in Purgatory. Each year, shortly before the due date for the Mass, a reminder is sent to the member. The Mass does not need to be offered on the precise day allocated but around that time.