Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral
Often times people ask us at the parish, “What does it mean to have a Mass ‘said’ for someone?” We respond that having a Mass “said” or “prayed” for someone means that the intention for that Mass is for a specific person or in some cases a group of people. This is a beautiful practice and tradition of the Church. The Church considers the mass the greatest possible prayer of intercession since during the Mass we not only remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross out of love for us, but we make that sacrifice truly present upon the altar – Christ giving us his body and blood.
You may be asking, what are the different intentions that might be offered? Many times in the Church we have Masses prayed for deceased family members where we pray for their departed soul that it would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven, which we heard in last weeks’ readings, is our greatest treasure! Theses Masses can be prayed anytime but more often than not they are prayed on the anniversary of their death or even on the day they were given the gift of life – their birthday. Parishioners have Masses said on other special days as well such as: wedding anniversaries, baptismal anniversaries, for a friend, in thanksgiving for a blessing received, family member who is ill and a variety of other reasons. On my birthday, I always like to have a Mass said for my parents “Dad and Mom” for choosing to give me the gift of life, something that is truly precious, and to thank them for their sacrifices in giving me life.
One question that often comes up is, “What does a Mass cost?” We accept an offering for Masses that are said for a given intention. Diocesan policy simply suggests a $10 offering. Masses do not cost anything; you can’t buy a Mass. This offering, called a stipend, is given to the parish and is a way in which the person making the request for a Mass to be prayed offers part of themself, making their own sacrifice for the specific intention. By making this offering, the person parts with something of their own and associates themself more intimately with Christ’s offering on the cross. The parish accepts this offering and the celebrant for that Mass commits himself to fulfilling that intention, which he is bound to in justice.
No value can be placed on the graces, which flow from the Mass and for the intention that is offered by the priest acting in the person of Christ. What an opportunity we have to give something beautiful to our friends and loved ones.If you have never read the children’s book, The Weight of a Mass, I suggest you do so. Set in a fairy tale background, but based on a true story, a poor widow begs the local baker for just a few pieces of old, stale bread. The only offering she can make is a Mass to be said which she wrote on a piece of scratch paper. Scoffing at the precious gift, the baker decides to determine how much this Mass would be worth when placed on a scale, surely no bread would be given to the woman. But to the amazement of the baker and the towns people, nothing in the entire store, not even the gigantic wedding cake made for the king, outweighs the simple piece of paper representing the true worth of the Mass.
What are some of the intentions you have that you would like the Church to pray for given the weight and value of a Mass? Call or stop by the parish office and give a gift to someone, which truly is priceless!