My Dear Friends,
The Catholic tradition of offering Masses for our loved ones, especially those who have died, can be traced to the beginnings of the Catholic Church. In the Eucharist we are united in a unique way with the faithful departed and the Communion of Saints. Why do we offer Masses for our loved ones? Let’s look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (1030).” Our prayers help them achieve the glories of heaven and the perfect prayer is the Mass. Pope Leo XIII reminded us well over a century ago that if our loved ones have already achieved their eternal reward, they pray for us during Mass in a “mutual exchange” of prayer.
Praying for the dead is also one of the spiritual works of mercy. I remember not too long ago when an elderly parishioner was coming in to offer Mass for her parents, and she was worried if her children were going to offer Masses for her when she passed away. That is why a clever lady I once visited when she was dying left the parish I was assigned to at the time a modest sum of money, specifically so that Masses would be offered for the repose of her soul once she died. When I received that check once she had passed, I solemnly opened our Mass intentions book and separated Masses for her. It is a solemn act. It is truly an act of mercy.
Offering Masses is an important part of our tradition as they can also be offered in thanksgiving for the health of a loved one and for special intentions. It is an honor and a duty for me and my brother priests of the parish to offer these intentions during the Sacrifice of the Mass as part of our priestly ministry. We are blessed in this parish for we offer many intentions weekly during our daily and Sunday Masses that are set aside by our faithful. Our staff in the parish office do an exemplary job in organizing the Mass intentions with the sacred care they deserve.
As we begin the month of November this week with its focus on All Souls, on Wednesday, November 2, we will open the Mass Intention Book for 2023. If you want to offer a Mass on the anniversary of the death or the birthday of a loved one, please do it way in advance. The offering of a Mass is a sacred act that deserves our attention and care. Always remember that the priest, even if he doesn’t explicitly say the name of the deceased or of the intention, is still offering the Mass for that intention during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is something that we as priests take very seriously because we are bound by canon law, and you have given a stipend to apply that intention to that particular Mass. We appreciate your cooperation in this sacred and delicate process where, as a community of faith, we raise our eyes to heaven to pray for our loved ones in the great celebration of the Eucharist.
God bless you all,