Traditionally, the church has a custom of saying out the intention for which a family or an individual wishes that a mass be offered for. Booking of mass is one of the ancient traditions of the church.
One part of the catholic culture that is sometimes hard to understand and most times misunderstood is the custom of mass intention and why we pay for them.
In this edition of our weekly Catholic Catechism, we will look at the History of this custom and understand it and know why this ancient custom is trending in this modern age.
History of Mass Booking/Intention
Mass intentions refer to the particular purpose for which a specific Mass is offered. This may be to honor God or thank him for blessings received. But technically a Mass intention means that the sacrifice is offered for some person(s) living or dead.
The intention for which a priest offers a Mass is determined either by the common law of the Church, or by specific precept, or, most often, by the intention of the donor of a Mass stipend, or by the priest’s own devotion.
The practice of offering Mass for particular intentions is an ancient one, dating back to the early Church.
Fr. Williams Saunders one of the Catholic scholars when asked about the history of mass intention explained that “An Inscriptions discovered on tombs in Roman catacombs of the second century gives evidence for this practice: for example, the epitaph on the tomb of Abercius (d. 180), Bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia, begs for prayers for the repose of his soul. Tertullian (c. 200) attested to observing the anniversary of a spouse with prayers and sacrifices, i.e., the Mass.”
This tradition is also seen in St. Augustine’s Confessions (c. 397), where Monica asks Augustine, “One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.”
Does the Church permit money for Mass Intention?
The church encourages members to offer intention for every and any mass they attend. Also, the church in her wisdom approves that individual pay money for mass intentions.
The Canon Law confirms this practice and states, “In accord with the approved practice of the Church, any priest celebrating or con-celebrating is permitted to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a specific intention” (Can. 945 §1).
Furthermore, it continues by saying, “” (945 §2).
Do we really pay for the mass or the grace?
Many people in these modern days, upon hearing about this practice might presume it to be “simony,” the selling of sacred things for money. However, the Baltimore Catechism explains that “It is not simony, or the buying of a sacred thing, to offer the priest money for saying Mass for our intention, because the priest does not take the money for the Mass itself, but for the purpose of supplying the things necessary for Mass and for his own support.”
While it is true that this custom has been abused in the past, the Church lays out specific rules regarding the money paid for Mass intentions.
Each council of bishops determines the amount acceptable for the region or diocese, but it is important to note that a priest will offer a Mass for an intention even if someone doesn’t have the money for it.
The important part is to remember that you are not paying for the graces from God (which are of infinite value and cannot be paid for, but for the material things that are involved with celebrating that particular Mass. With that in mind it makes much more sense and is not something that should cause scandal.
Pope Paul VI said, “The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer!” It has immense power and countless miracles and conversions have occurred throughout the centuries by offering Masses for a specific intention or person. Mass intentions are a great treasure of the Church and have a spiritual weight that is incalculable.
As we begin a new year, we are encouraged to make booking of mass a practice and also, we should always try to offer money for it.
We should remember that the sacrifice of the Holy Mass is the highest form of prayer and at every mass, Christ is physically present to hear our intention.
We Should also understand that booking mass with money is not bad but a good practice and we should live by this good custom.
We can book mass in any Catholic church we find ourselves for mass and not necessary our own church.
Mass booking with a stipend or money should be part of our 2022 new year resolution because the angels we learnt about in our last week article are always present at every mass to carry our petition to God.
Lastly, we are to remember that if one wishes to offer a mass for a particular intention and has no money the priest can not deny the individual that privilege.
May God bless you dearest and grant all your intention as you book mass for them this year, Amen.