Praying for the Dead - Mass Intentions

Anyone coming regularly to Mass in our parish will have noticed a few things in recent years. The main thing they will notice is of course is that the number of Masses has been reduced - just two Masses now at the weekend in Louisburgh and one in Killeen.  In a way this makes us all think about what the Mass itself is.
Here are a few things worth considering now.

  • Mass is for all the people; never for the few.
  • Mass is never for one person or family: there must be room for everyone at the table of the Lord.
  • Even if it appeared otherwise in times gone by, it was never the intention to make distinctions between some persons and others
  • There is no such thing as "the price of a Mass"; it is a totally mistaken notion. That phrase should never have been used.  

  • A few practical considerations: As we all know, there are fewer priests nowadays. A priest can only accept one Mass offering on any one day, he just could not offer all the Masses that are being asked for. Mass cards — Many people, not just priests, must have questioned the over-use of Mass cards at the time of funerals. At present, when a priest cannot offer all the Masses that are requested, he is obliged to send them to the Bishop or a Missionary Society to have them fulfilled. In time, we will work out a good and sensible way of using Mass cards. We should consider the meaning of that practice; and not to use it without thinking. In the meantime, if you are not able to have a Mass offered for someone and had intended to send them a card, wouldn't it be lovely to go and attend Mass for them in your local church, and send them a card to tell them that you will be doing so that day? That might even make the Mass more meaningful for yourself and them.  

  • There are now some changes in how we pray for our dead at Mass in our parish. These changes are;
  •  to facilitate as many people as possible who wish to have their deceased relatives prayed for at Mass;
  • to further reinforce the fact that the Mass is the Christian community celebrating the Eucharist together with their priest;
  • to highlight the fact that the Sacrament of the Eucharist is Christ’s sacrifice of Calvary for all. The Church has always stressed the importance of praying for the dead and it is the intention to continue with and promote this practice. On a personal level all of us like to remember our own loved ones and pray for them at special times. e.g. the anniversary of their death. It is hoped that the new system being put in place will facilitate individuals and families in having their dead prayed for, publicly, at a Mass as close as possible to the anniversary or indeed at a time that is suitable for them.  
    People may request to have their loved ones who have died prayed for at any public Mass in the parish. It may happen that on occasion more than one person will be prayed for at a particular Mass. This is a change from the past where only one person, or ’intention’, was prayed for at a Mass. The reason that only one intention was prayed for was due to the fact that an offering, or stipend, was given to the priest celebrating the Mass. There was a concern that if a priest was to offer prayers for more than one intention it could appear that he was profiting from multiple offerings or stipends. By Church law a priest may only celebrate one Mass each day unless there are serious pastoral reasons to do otherwise. If for pastoral reasons a priest has to celebrate more than one Mass on a day he is allowed to keep only one offering, the others are sent to the bishop to be used for charitable purposes. In order that there will be no possible perception of misuse of offerings there is no need to make an offering to the priest when requesting to have your dead family members prayed for at a public Mass in the parish. If people still choose to give an offering and more than one person is being prayed for in the Mass the offerings will be forwarded to the bishop to be used for charitable purposes.   Why did we give money in times gone by? It is explained from history. The priest has always depended on the financial support of his people: it is a priest's livelihood. That support was given as the seasonal "dues". This is a very old custom that is valuable in the right sense. Money was  given to the priest as an offering on occasions like marriages, baptisms etc. (Now a priest’s income comes from the four special collections during the year.) It also became the custom to give an offering when a Mass was being requested. But the offerings were part of the priest's salary, his income; it was certainly not as payment for a sacrament. In truth it was very easy for us all to regard it as payment.   Summary
  • Since January 2005 you can request to have your deceased family members prayed for at any public Mass. If notification is sent in advance their names will appear in the previous weekend’s newsletter.
  • Masses will no longer be reserved for just one intention.
  • More than one person, “intention”, may be  prayed for at a particular Mass.
  • There is no need to give an offering to the priest.
  • If offerings are given and there is more than one offering received these will be forwarded to the bishop to be used for charitable purposes.  
    Outcomes of New Arrangements
  • Everyone will have an equal opportunity to have their deceased family members prayed for publicly at Mass in the parish.
  • These new arrangements emphasise the fact that it is the priest together with the community that celebrates the Mass and the community, not just the priest, is praying for those who have died.
  • The fact that the Mass is Christ’s sacrifice of Calvary for all is also reinforced in that there can be no misunderstanding that the Mass is applied to just one person, or that a particular Mass is the property of any one family or person.
  • There should be no room for the perception that the Mass is in any way for sale, a perception that some people have of current practices and which undermines the sacred nature of the Sacrament.
  • The new arrangements will also mean that there won’t be unnecessary multiplication of Masses. This can happen when priests feel pressurised to ‘put on’ extra Masses, often for just a very small congregation, to accommodate people who couldn’t have their loved ones remembered at a Mass.
  • Finally, this new system should alleviate the need people feel to have to ‘book’ Masses far in advance of an anniversary.