. . . is (they say) paved with good intentions !
Now; whether or not that adage be true, there is one thing that I know I am not always very good about, and I suspect that many others share my problem; and that is Intentions.
Every prayer we say, every Mass we attend, every Holy Communion we make, has clear spiritual fruits; and not only the simple one of helping us towards holiness, but also those which can be applied for others . . . be it the Holy Souls in Purgatory, or some other virtuous purpose. The trouble is that we don't always remember to make the fullest use of this wonderful treasury of Grace, either for ourselves or for others.
Seriously : how often do you go to Mass, or say your Office, or your Rosary, or anything else, without a firm and settled Intention in your minds before you do so ?
Also, how often has someone said to you 'say one for me' ? . . . and how often have you then forgotten to ? (And we should not forget that, if you have actually explicitly agreed to do so, then your omission is at least a venial sin against justice !)
It is precisely because many of us are less than well-organized in these ways that I thought it worth posting a few suggestions which may be of some us - not least, to me !
One useful idea is what Priests learn when they in Seminary : that they should, for the proper performance of their priestly duties, have certain 'Habitual Intentions', which they form at the start of their priesthood, and renew from time to time thereafter* - for instance, they should have a fixed and permanent Intention that in the administration of all the Sacraments they always intend to do what the Church intends them to do - and there used to be (I do not know if it still taught) a suggestion that one should have an Habitual Intention that, in the absence of any other specific Intention, one's Mass was offered for the Holy Souls.
It seems to me that there is something in this from which all of us could benefit.
For example, we could formulate, and periodically repeat, an Habitual Intention that our Holy Communions, unless we formulate some other specific Intention, are for the good of the Holy Souls, or of our family and friends, or some other suitable aim; and do the same, perhaps for a selection of different Intentions, for our other regular devotional practices.
That way, even if we do not formulate a specific Intention every time we go to Mass, every time we say our Rosary, we can be sure that we are doing some concrete good with it quite apart from the benefits we personally derive from it.
Similarly, if we formulate an Habitual Intention to gain whatever Indulgences are available to us each day, and at the start of each day say at least some short prayers for the Holy Father's Intentions (and, of course, make regular Confession and Holy Communion), then we can be sure that we are not 'wasting' the opportunities for Grace which Holy Church provides for us.
Also, if we have an Habitual Intention that some part of our regular prayer life is offered 'for all those who have been commended to my prayers, or have just call on them', then there is less of a worry about forgetting to mention someone for whom you have been asked - and have agreed - to pray.
I don't know, by the way, if there is any formal teaching about how often one ought to renew an Habitual Intention; but I should have thought (unless anyone better informed can correct me) repeating it at least annually would be sufficient - perhaps on one's Name Day ?
Finally, may I offer a couple of charitable suggestions ?
An Anglican priest of my acquaintance habitually includes in his prayers 'One Our Father for all those who have made no prayer or act of worship this day' - which seems to me to be a very good and Christian thing to do.
Similarly, an at least occasional Intention 'for the dying' - as opposed to those already dead - is a very good one. Apart from anything else, we shall all one day need such prayers, by which time it may be a little late to offer them for others . . . let us do it now, whilst we have time. Our loving care for them will not be forgotten.
* I do realize that an Habitual Intention is not per se sufficient for the efficacy of the Sacraments, and that an at least Virtual Intention is required; but as this post is primarily directed towards the laity, I have tried to keep it simple, relying on the clergy's specialized knowledge of these matters to ensure that they satisfy the requirements laid upon them for the effective performance of their ministry.