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One Intention or Many Intentions?

Q: All the Catholic parishes in our area conclude the general intercessions during Mass by adding, “And for all the personal intentions that we hold in our hearts.” I consider this a questionable practice because the priest is supposed to be aware of all intentions during a Mass. When I mentioned this in a weekly discussion group in our parish, I was criticized not only for being wrong, but also for instigating unnecessary arguments.

Was I wrong? I know that I had heard or read this somewhere. Is my understanding a policy, a rule, or none of the above?

A: I’m afraid that you were wrong. It is true that a priest may accept only one stipend for a Mass. For each Sunday or holy day of obligation, a pastor must schedule a Mass “for the people,” a Mass for which no stipend is received.

The problem you raise rests on your statement, “the priest is supposed to be aware of all intentions during a Mass.” That is physically and morally impossible. As a celebrant, I cannot possibly know whether Mrs. Jones is praying for her own medical condition, that of her spouse or one of their children, some other family situation, for a friend or neighbor, or for a more general intention such as world peace.

If that is true for one person at a particular Mass, how much more true is it when dozens or even hundreds of people have joined in the same celebration?

Could the pope be aware of each person’s intention when 200,000 people might be present in St. Peter’s Square and in nearby areas for a Mass? No.

God knows the specifics of our prayer intentions. We are free to share them, but it is not necessary that anyone else knows them in detail.

Thanks for asking your question. People sometimes need clarification about something that they have read or heard. Perhaps the original writer or speaker was mistaken. You may have misunderstood the person’s response that you repeated in your discussion group. Our faith always needs to grow. One way that happens is through asking questions.

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