Skip to comments.Catholic Liturgy - Mass Intentions
Posted on 03/01/2005 6:11:47 AM PST by NYer
ROME, FEB. 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: I seldom ask my parish priest to offer up Masses for a particular need such as a sick person or someone that has just died. Usually I offer up myself the Masses I attend for these needs, but a friend told me this was not valid. My friend said that for the graces to be received by the person in need, a priest had to offer up the Mass. So my question is, may we offer up our Masses for departed souls or those in need without specifically asking the priest to say these Masses? -- A.K., Sacramento, California
A: Actually it is not a question of either/or but of and/and.
Any Catholic may offer up the Mass in which he or she participates for any good intention. Certainly, graces will accrue in accordance with the intensity of that person's participation and sincerity.
This is a genuine exercise of the royal or common priesthood of the faithful.
However, the custom of requesting a priest to offer the Mass for a specific intention, even when one cannot be physically present at the Mass, is a longstanding tradition in the Church.
This is because the Church considers the Mass as the greatest possible prayer of intercession insofar as it is the perfect offering of Christ to the Father by making present the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection.
Because of the particular role of the priest as mediator between God and man, acting "in persona Christi" when offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass, it is usually considered that special graces may be obtained when he applies the Mass to a particular intention.
The faithful generally make an offering, called a stipend, to the priest in order to apply the Mass to a specific intention. By making this offering, the faithful, by parting with something that is their own, associate themselves more intimately with Christ who offers himself in the sacred Host, and obtain thereby more abundant fruits (See Pope Paul VI's letter "Firma in Traditione" of June 13, 1974).
This sacrifice has an infinite value and indeed there is no objective limitation to the number of intentions that can be offered at any Mass.
The offering of a stipend is also a means whereby Catholic may contribute to the upkeep of the clergy, and the Church in general.
However, so as to avoid even the appearance of commerce in sacred things, the Church regulates the practice of offering and receiving stipends in canons 945-958 of the Code of Canon Law and in some later decrees on specific applications of the code.
Thus, in normal circumstances, a priest may only accept one stipend for any one Mass even though he may offer up the Mass for several intentions.
Likewise, if he celebrates more than one Mass a day he may keep only one stipend for his personal use and must apply the others to some charitable cause determined by the bishop, often to help support the seminary.
When a Mass cannot be celebrated in the place it was requested, the excess intentions are passed on to other priests or the local bishop. They must assure that all Mass requests are fulfilled within the space of one year.
Some places, dioceses, sanctuaries, etc., that receive more requests than can be celebrated within a year, often entrust these intentions and their stipends to other priests who may not have regular intentions, such as monks and retired priests.
In some cases the extra intentions are also sent to the Holy See, which distributes them throughout the world.
The stipend is usually a fairly small sum by the standards of the developed world. Yet, until recently, Mass intentions distributed by the Holy See to poor missionaries often proved to be of no small help in their endeavors.
Unfortunately, recent years have seen an increasing dearth of requests for the celebration of Masses in Western society and even the Holy See has felt the pinch.
Among the fruits hoped for from the current Year of the Eucharist is a renewed faith in the Mass as intercession and a consequent return in the faithful to the practice of asking for the celebration of Mass for specific intentions. Such a practice can be of such benefit to the faithful themselves and to so many other souls.
Does anyone else have this practice in their parish?
Is it customary in your Maronite parish for the pastor to offer one Mass on Sunday "For the people of the parish"? The Latin Rite requires the pastor to offer at least one Mass per week for the intentions of the the people of the parish.
As an aside, our parish gets so many Mass intentions that the pastor "farms them out" to the rural priests. I went to offer a Mass for my deceased uncle, and was told it would be three months if I wanted it offered at St. Michael's, or two weeks if it didn't matter who offered it.
Our Catholic maiden aunt-in-law in New Jersey has been sending us Mass cards for years . . . I finally got her back and sent HER one. ;-)
On to topic of intentions as a whole, my university center drives me nuts. The head of Liturgy planning, who also runs the music program, won't use intentions that reference abortion for fear of angering people, nor do we ever have intentions for the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is kinda upsetting. We have a period for the community to say aloud their intentions, which can be quite interesting. Some of the stuff I've heard. I usually pray for an "End to Abortion" which either gets me evil eyes, a response intention for "pregnant women" or my favorite, a confrontation with an associate over my simplistic world view. (rolling the eyes). The drama I go through on Sunday.
The he is a she.
Yes, I've seen this in many parishes. In fact, some of my family members prefer Mass intentions to traditional gifts for Christmas or birthdays. The is no gift greater than Christ's Sacrifice.
We only have one mass on Sunday. The intentions of the parishioners are included at that liturgy. There is one other liturgy, on Saturday evening.
I just had two Masses said this past weekend for a friend of mine who has cancer and another who has several problems and is not getting better.
I have a Mass in April for my deceased cousin and the next one I will have for the souls in purgatory.
A good one would be to have a Mass for your local priest and all priests.
If you have a will, you might consider having Masses said for yourself. I'm sure we will all need them.
I believe your are referring to the "petitions", not to be confused, as Dominick pointed out, with Mass Intentions.
In our parish, the lector writes their own petitions. I never realized how challenging this was until it was left up to me.
Having listened to so many mass petitions over the years, there were some I wanted to avoid, like "For world peace!" There has not been peace since Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. That said, the Church does pray for peace and, as you noted, an end to abortion.
Last week, I found the Pope's petitions listed on EWTN and added them to my list. Since it was my turn to write the petitions, I borrowed 3 from the pope and added one of my own. It was Prodigal Son Sunday so my intention read:
For those Catholics who have wandered astray, may this Season of Lent be a time of reconciliation with their faith and a return to the church.
Father rarely says anything but he said the mass petitions were especially good. (Thank you, Holy Father!)
What a beautiful gift!
Another parish practice are the monthly offerings. For a small stipend, we can have the Sanctuary Lamp, the Altar Bread and/or the Altar Wine, offered up. These are usually done in memory of deceased relatives or entire families. Throughout the month, each time I look at the Sanctuary Lamp flickering through the red glass, one cannot help but pray for those individuals.
BTW - our church has its own antique press for making altar bread.
At my church -- we sometimes have to wait four months to have a Mass intention be fulfilled. There are a lot of them!
**intentions that reference abortion for fear of angering people, **
Do you mean intercessions? The intentions refers to the person for whom the Mass is being said.
**In fact, some of my family members prefer Mass intentions to traditional gifts for Christmas or birthdays. The is no gift greater than Christ's Sacrifice.**
I'll have to pass this on to my kids! LOL!
Yes, intercessions, my point remains valid I believe.