Why have a Mass for a Deceased Loved One?
A: Just as we pray for others here on earth, we are encouraged by the Church to pray for souls who may be in purgatory. Why? We are all in need of grace to come into the perfection of charity. We cannot enter heaven if we have not been completely cleansed of sin and all punishment due to sin. See Catechism of the Catholic Church #1031 and 1472
Since the Mass is the "source and summit" of the Christian Life, we naturally look to that Holy Sacrifice of Christ, containing the perfect prayer, to offer for our deceased relatives and friends who may still need the help of our prayers. Priests are under a strict obligation to remember in a special way the person for whom the Mass is being offered. Often you wil hear the priests say the name of the person in the part of the Mass which specifically remembers those who have gone before us. Sometimes the intention for the Mass is listed in the bulletin or announced before the Mass.
We can't really speak of "time" since the deceased person has entered eternity, but we can speak in terms of "final purification" before entrance into heaven. We believe that a Mass offered for a departed relative or friend may help hasten that final purification which he/she may still be undergoing in purgatory.
Q: How exactly can I have a Mass said for the repose of the soul of a friend/relative?
A: Ask a priest to offer a Mass for the intention of the repose of the soul of your friend/relative. I also highly encourage having Gregorian Masses said for the repose of the deceased. These pious practices are truly worthwhile. More information on Gregorian Masses, and how to have one offered, are available at the website of the Friends of the Suffering Souls.