In their participation at Mass, every baptised person may bring with them in their heart an “intention” – something in particular for which that person is praying.
What is a Mass intention?
The Mass has four principal effects for us: worship, thanksgiving, contrition, and petition. All prayer involves “asking” God for what we need: this way, we always declare to him that he is the ultimate giver all of gifts. In the Our Father, we ask, “give us this day our daily bread” – meaning both our physical needs, and, importantly, our spiritual needs: ultimately, that Bread which never fails us.
Every single Mass is offered for the glory of God and for the needs of the Church and of the world, the living and the dead. This is the general intention offered in the Mass by the Church.
Every single baptised person participating in Mass may bring their own needs, joys, and sorrows, uniting their own life to the life of Christ on the altar. This is the personal intention offered in the Mass by those present.
The priest celebrant himself, as both a baptised person and, as priest, in the person of Christ himself at Mass, has his own specific particular intention. This is what is generally referred to when we say “Mass intention“. He himself, in the person of Christ, is applying his own personal intention to the special fruit of that “Mass intention”. This does not override in any way anyone else’s personal intention, though we may wish to unite ourselves in prayer with the priest’s own intention: a great act of charity.
It became customary for the priest’s parishioners to ask their priest to pray for their own personal intentions in this way, taking their needs to the Father; taking the person and their need by the hand and humbly showing the Lord that there is a need for his grace.
Does a Mass intention cost any money?
Since ancient times, because by asking the priest to pray for a particular intention was, in effect, the priest’s daily work, a custom developed of making a financial donation to the priest to support him in his work. Celebrating Mass is the priest’s “daily bread”, and he lived by it, not only spiritually, but it also fed and clothed him.
Today, in this diocese, the priest himself no longer keeps the financial donation, but it goes into the parish funds, which not only helps pay the priest’s simple weekly wage, but it also supports the work of the parish community more widely, and helps keep the Cathedral itself standing.
There is not a charge for requesting a Mass intention. Donations are always gratefully received, in order that we might have a priest to celebrate Mass, and a church in which he may do so. In England, it is customary to offer at least £10 for a Mass intention. However, this will never be asked for, and a Mass intention request will always be accepted.
What can a Mass intention be?
We can ask for Mass to be offered for a living person, a deceased person, for family difficulties, in sickness, in thanksgiving. If it is appropriate to publicise the particular intention, then it will be published in the weekly newsletter.
What is a Foundation Mass?
In our daily Mass intentions, we sometimes see (F) next to an intention. This means it is a Foundation Mass. This is a special Mass intention that has been established in the past with an endowment of money, which requires the priest at the Cathedral to offer Mass for that intention on or close to that date for a period of years (usually for 25 years). Sometimes, we cannot fit all our Foundation Masses in to our public Mass schedule on the exact day, or even all the time in public, but all Foundation Masses are celebrated as request, for the period of time stipulated.
What is a Mass for the Holy Souls?
It is customary in November to pray for the dead. At every Mass, we pray for all the dead, too. But we can always offer Mass for the Holy Souls, that is, a general Mass for those souls in purgatory in need of our prayers, not only our loved ones, but also those who have no-one left to pray for them. Praying for the dead is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy. In November, we always take a collection throughout the month for Masses for the Holy Souls, which are celebrated throughout the year. Some of these are celebrated in private.
How can I ask for a Mass intention?
In person, at the back of the Cathedral, or available in the shop, the sacristy, or the Cathedral Office, you can collect a Mass intention envelope, putting the details on the front, and an opportunity to make a cash donation in the envelope.
You can also call the Cathedral Office [01603 624 615] or email [firstname.lastname@example.org] to make a Mass intention request. You may make an online donation, or the Cathedral Secretary can provide you with BACS payment details if you cannot make an offering by cash.
The date and time you request will not always be available, especially if the requested date is within the next three or four weeks. We do not change Mass intentions which we have already agreed to with someone else.
Is the Mass intention announced?
Sometimes, the priest will announce to the people assembled at Mass what his intention is. Whether he does or not, the Mass intention requested is offered. If the priest makes a simple mistake when announcing the Mass intention, then it does not mean the Mass intention has not been offered. God knows and sees all things, including every single private intention within our hearts. Offered to him in love, with his divine Son on the Cross, he always receives our prayers. He loves everything that he has made.