July 23, 2017

MASS INTENTIONS: What they are and our need for them for the rest of 2017

The object for which a priest offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the Mass intention. 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. The publically acknowledged Mass intention is distinct from the effects of the Mass which benefit those who take part in the sacrifice and attend the Mass―these are called the special fruits of the Mass and extensively are without limit.

It is important to note that, the graces of the Mass being infinite, many intentions can be offered up at a single Mass. While a priest may accept an offering (or stipend) for only one intention at a single Mass, he may have many other intentions not attached to an offering. In addition, the faithful may (and hopefully do) bring their own intentions to the Mass, which they each carry privately and place upon the altar spiritually. This is a genuine exercise of the royal or common priesthood of the faithful.

The intention announced prior to the start of Mass and during the Prayers of the Faithful refer to the particular stipend for which that Mass is offered. Frequently, this is for some person(s) living or deceased. Mass intentions may be offered for the baptized or non-baptized, a special need, to honor God thanking Him for blessings received, or to celebrate a wedding anniversary of significant importance. The intention for Mass is determined either by the intention of the donor of a Mass stipend or it is determined by the law of the Church. Every parish pastor is required, by Canon Law, to offer at least one Mass on Sunday for the needs and intentions of his parishioners (Can. 534 §1).

Historically, the purpose of offering a Mass stipend for a particular Mass intention has been twofold. On the one hand, the money that a priest received for saying his daily Mass for a specific intention has been his source of income. At the same time, by giving a stipend, the person requesting that a Mass be celebrated makes a sacrificial offering of his/her own. This stipend also allows for the one who gives it to contribute to the good of the Church, for they share in the Church’s concern for the support of its ministers. However, to ensure that no priest abuses this source of income, and to prevent the appearance that Masses are being bought or sold, a priest is only allowed to receive one Mass stipend per day regardless of the number of Masses celebrated. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh any additional Mass stipend money is used to support Saint Paul Seminary.

We currently have many Masses for the remainder of the year that do not have a specific Mass intention. So, if you would like to offer a Mass for someone special, living or deceased, or for a special intention, either visit the Parish Center Office or mail your request. Telephone requests for Masses are not permitted. Mass stipends are $10. Remember, there is no greater prayer than that of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to have a Mass offered for your specific intention is a wonderful way to embrace the glory and power of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.

Information on Mass intentions (and to see resources I consulted for this article) visit: EWTN Zenit daily dispatch, stmaryoldtown.org, canonlawmadeeasy.com, and CatholicCulture.org.