Today’s feast of the Sacred Heart led me to meditate slightly upon the outpouring of love which we all, from time to time, feel for people and things : an outpouring which we frequently manifest in prayer; and my thoughts wandered across the means by which our prayers and our intentions coincide.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the idea of ‘saying a prayer for someone’; and no doubt the layfolk amongst us have also from time to time said that we will ‘offer our Holy Communions’ for some particular intention . . . the understanding being that we cannot offer Mass for an intention, not being priests; so we offer our Holy Communions instead.
However, that apparently perfectly obvious position is not actually right; and although the phrase may be patient of a comprehensible meaning, we would do better to say that we would ‘offer our Masses’ for those intentions – although I realize that this is an expression which some may object to with some vigour.
Such objections are ill-founded, though; because it’s a perfectly legitimate expression of what is actually happening. Here is what Canon McCarthy* says about it :
‘In addition to the priest who, in the person and by the priestly power of Christ, and as the deputed minister of the Church, makes the sacrificial offering, all the faithful, who are present, participate, in a special way, in the offering of the Mass. They are real, though secondary, offerers. They all share, suppositis supponendis, in the ex opere operato fruits of the Mass. Independently of the intention of the celebrant they share in the general benefits which flow from every Mass in the universal Church. Likewise, each of them obtains also, in due measure, a share in what are called the ‘special fruits’ of the Mass at which he assist; and this latter share, for the most part, may be applied, according to the recipient’s intention, for the benefit of others, for the living and for the souls in Purgatory.’
So : layfolk too can quite properly ‘offer their Masses’ for particular intentions – and I hope that, over the next few months, there will be many who will do so for the Holy Father’s intentions in general, and the success of his visit to the UK in particular.
(* Canon John McCarthy, DD, DCL, was a Professor at Maynooth and Dublin, and a sort of ‘theological oracle’ who dealt with theological queries from the clergy in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record for many years.)