All About Mass Intentions

Mass Intentions. Now that we are following all the diocesan rules for Mass Intentions, we have more requests than we have available Masses. That is why, in addition to the one public Intention allowed for each Mass, we have an unlimited number of private Special Intentions included in every Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered for all of our Intentions, both public and private, at the same time. For more information, and to make your prayer requests, please contact the parish office. You may also write your Special Intentions in the Narthex Prayer Book, located by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Prayer Donations. The stipend for a public Mass Intention is still only ten dollars. Although there is no stipend for Special Intentions, any donation given for a Special Intention will go into a fund for installing vigil lights in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Prayer Cards for Mass Intentions and Special Intentions are available at the parish office as well. Let us continue to pray for each other’s intentions at every Mass. Thank you as well for your kind offertory donations at Mass, which fund the spiritual, educational, and charitable ministries of our parish community. May God reward you for your generosity to his church!

Your Intentions. At the Offertory of each Mass that you attend, symbolically put your prayer requests on the paten with the host as the priest places it on the altar. Then symbolically pour all your tears of joy and sorrow into the chalice with the water and wine as well. When you come forward to worthily receive Holy Communion, remember the words of the priest at the Offertory, that both his sacrifice and yours are acceptable to God the almighty Father. This means that, while only the ordained priest consecrates the Holy Eucharist, all of us are prayerfully offering the same Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together as one!

Scheduling Priorities. The assignment of Mass Intention requests follows certain established rules. Church law requires the priest to fulfill all the Mass Intention requests, which he accepts, within one year. However, the priest is not required to accept, and sometimes cannot accept, every Mass Intention or scheduling request presented to him. Here are some of the scheduling protocols for accepting and scheduling Mass Intentions here at our parish.

  1. Prayers for the dead take precedence over all other requests. “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.”
  2. Month’s Mind Mass – About one month after a person’s death, there is a custom of offering prayers for the faithful departed.
  3. Anniversary Mass – About one year after a person’s death, there is a custom of remembering the faithful departed in prayer.
  4. Current Anniversaries – As scheduled in previous years, death anniversaries are usually reserved for coming years as well.
  5. Wedding Anniversaries – Silver and golden Wedding Anniversaries may become either Mass Intentions or Special Intentions.
  6. Requests on Hold – Prayer requests without assigned dates would automatically be used to fill any available openings.
  7. Other Intentions – Besides Mass Intentions for the Faithful Departed, other Mass Intentions may be scheduled as available.

Other Situations. Each Sunday and Holy Day, one Mass is always offered for all of our parishioners, as required by church law. Mass Intentions for the same person should not ordinarily be repeated during the same week, in fairness to all. For the month’s mind and anniversary Masses, more than one donor may sponsor the same Mass. The Mass Intention requests, and the donors’ names, are published in the Narthex Prayer Book each week. The Mass Intention names are printed in the bulletin and are announced by the priest at each Mass. Although not announced, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is also offered for all the Special Intentions in the Narthex Prayer Book, as well as all the personal intentions held in the quiet of the hearts of everyone in attendance at that Mass.

Future Challenges. As dioceses combine parishes for demographic reasons, the Mass Intention obligations of the closed parishes are inherited by the merged parish communities, creating an even greater backlog of Mass Intention requests. The reduction of Mass schedules at individual parishes, based on Mass attendance, creates similar problems for scheduling Mass Intentions at the local level. As these issues come to a head, the handwriting is already on the wall. The future of Mass Intentions is simply Special Intentions, without the scheduling problems that we are now experiencing. Some parishes have already arrived at this point, and more will be arriving there soon. Finally, as the generation of parishioners who are most interested in scheduling Mass Intentions passes away, these issues resolve themselves. Then, as it was before individual intentions were invented in the Middle Ages, all our Eucharistic Liturgies can once again become the sacred occasions for everyone to pray for everybody, as they worship together in spirit and in truth, as it was always intended to be.

A Short History of Mass Intentions in the Catholic Church

Every Mass is offered by everybody and for everybody! As such, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is all-inclusive. All of our prayer intentions really count. All of our petitions are of infinite and equal value before God. That is how important all our prayers are to God. God lovingly hears all of our prayers!

In the Middle Ages, some priests discovered that parishioners were willing to pay them to pray for them. Some entrepreneurial priests took advantage of this pray-for-pay opportunity and became quite wealthy in the process.

In fact, the mass-marketing techniques of these priests were quite lucrative. Priests set their own prices for their Masses, and were able to obtain numerous paid intentions for the same Mass. They even celebrated additional Masses each day to further increase their stipend revenues.

The Council of Trent reformed questionable practices like this by first of all prohibiting the sale of Indulgences altogether. In retrospect, they probably should have forgone the sale of Masses as well. However, they decided to regulate Mass stipends instead, which created a different set of problems.

The result of these stipend reforms was a complicated set of rules about how much a priest could charge for each Mass, how many times a day he could celebrate a Mass, and what he had to do with the extra stipend money if he had to celebrate a second Mass on the same day for pastoral reasons.

So, although the priest would still pray for as many intentions as he wanted at every Mass, he could only accept money for one intention for each Mass. Somehow, people mistook all of this to mean that the Mass for which they paid was only offered for their one intention to the exclusion of all others.

To make up for the loss of stipend revenue caused by these reforms, some priests began publishing and announcing Mass Intentions in order to fill all of the available openings for Mass Intentions. However, church law only requires priests to keep a special accounting book for their Mass stipend income.

To this day, people still routinely come into parish offices to buy Masses. Some are only willing to make their purchase if they can have their Mass at certain times on certain dates. This is becoming increasingly difficult, due to the fact that there are less priests and thus fewer Masses these days.

What difference is there between a paid Mass Intention and all the unpaid other Special Intentions at a Mass? Since all our prayer requests are of infinite and equal value in the eyes of God, there is no spiritual difference!

Since the verbiage of buying and selling Masses is rather off-putting, some people try to rebrand it as support for the charitable work of the church. However, that is what the offertory collection at Mass is for. So, please give generously each week at the offertory when you attend Sunday Mass!

As a result of the National Eucharistic Revival, we should realize more fully than ever what it means when the priest prays that “my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father” before he begins the Eucharistic Prayer. All of our prayerful intentions are included at every Mass! All of them!

With the Vatican critique of price lists for sacraments, is it ethically moral to continue the mass-marketing of stipends for prayers? Aren’t we all just fellow disciples, praying with and for each other, as we celebrate the holy sacraments together as one faith community? Think about that! Pray over it too!

As an historical note, Mass Intentions were not publicly announced before the Second Vatican Council, as the Mass was in Latin. Only after the introduction of the Vernacular Mass did these public announcements begin to be expected and demanded. And there were many other sad liturgical abuses as well.

Once you know the complicated history of Mass Intentions, you can see how today, with less priests and less Masses, these mass-marketing techniques for stipends are increasingly problematic. And, as demand outpaces supply, the trafficking in stipend money for Masses is becoming rather frustrating.

Can’t we all just freely pray for each other at Mass? Can’t we see that a “special” intention is a misnomer? All our prayer intentions are not only special, but they are all of infinite value when we offer them up together during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is what our prayer requests are really all about!

So, please keep your prayerful intentions in mind each time you participate at Mass. Write your intentions in the book of prayer requests in the narthex, so that the priest and all your fellow parishioners can pray for you as well. Then keep your prayer intention in mind as you worthily receive Holy Communion.

Like salvation, which is the free and unmerited gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ, everything is already ours in faith. Through the holy sacraments, our prayers are answered as heaven takes notice of all that we truly need and want in faith. Whatever we ask for in Jesus’ holy name, God lovingly grants us!

In the meantime, we will continue having paid Mass Intentions in accord with all the church regulations, until people start realizing that they already have everything that they think they are paying for – that is, prayers for all their personal intentions at Mass. Let us pray with them and for them at Mass!

May God answer all your prayers, whether at Mass, or during your own personal devotions throughout the day! Come to Mass, pray the Rosary, light a candle, spend time in meditation, contemplation, adoration, and more. Make the Mass the high point of your daily prayer life, and you will be truly blessed! 

God hears all our prayers when they come from faithful hearts. What is in your heart today? Although God already knows what is in your heart, he loves it when you speak to him softly in prayerful petitions for all your needs. God is always listening and is waiting for your response to him in prayer each day.

So, at Mass, when the priest lifts up the bread at the offertory, prayerfully place your intentions on the paten as well. And when the priest pours the water into the wine of the chalice, prayerfully pour your tears of sorrow and joy into the chalice as well. Then come to Holy Communion with all of this in mind!

Prayer Requests at our Church

Saint Dennis Church welcomes all your prayer requests. We are happy to pray for you and your intentions, and we have four ways of doing so. Please make use of all these prayerful opportunities. They are all important.

First, we have an online prayer list that we email to our parishioners who have subscribed to this service. To join, please contact the parish office.

Second, we have a book of prayer requests in the narthex of the church. Please write your intentions in this book so that we can all pray for you.

Third, the parish office can write your prayer intentions in this book for you, for any day you request. Please contact the parish office for this service.

Fourth, we are still accepting a limited number of Mass Intentions for the openings reserved for this purpose. Please contact the parish office.

Every Mass is offered for all of these prayer requests together, whether public or private. All our prayer requests are of equal spiritual importance. In that sense, every prayer intention is truly “special” to God our loving Father.

Mass Intentions at our Church

There are limited openings in our parish calendar for Mass Intentions. Only one intention may be scheduled for each Mass. If your requested date and time are not available, please use our book of special intentions instead.

The quantity of Mass Intentions that may be requested at any one given time is at the discretion of the parish secretary in consultation with the pastor. This is to leave room for more people to schedule other Mass Intentions.

The full prayer requests of the Mass Intentions and the names of their donors are published in the book of special intentions in the narthex. Please write your additional intentions in this special book each time you come to church.

The names of those for whom we are praying will be published in the church bulletin, for the priest to announce at Mass. However, the Mass Intention is only one among the many intentions that we pray for at each Mass.

No Mass is ever offered for only one intention to the exclusion of all others. All our prayer requests are of equal and infinite value. Whether announced or not, God hears all our prayers when we lovingly turn to him in faith.

Vigil Lights for our Chapel

Lighting a candle for a Special Intention is also a traditional religious practice. As part of the Eucharistic Revival in our country, we would like to install vigil lights in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel. If you would like to make a donation toward this special project, or to obtain more information about them, please contact the parish office. Thank you again for all of your prayer requests!

Please reach out to us with all your prayer requests and spiritual needs.
May God lovingly answer all your prayers! God bless you!

Saint Dennis Church . . . Looking Upward in Faith, Moving Forward in Hope, Leading Onward in Love . . . to New Life in Christ!
We are a faith community of prayer, learning, and service. Come and join us as intentional disciples of Christ!