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Liturgy Corner October 21 2021 - Preparing for Mass: Intentions

Last week, we briefly talked about the importance of preparing properly for Mass. But we did not talk about this particular aspect of preparation: prayerfully formulating the intentions for which we want to offer at this particular Mass.

This is a privilege we have as Catholics because we have been united to Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. He is the head of the Church, and we are His Body. This allows us to participate in Jesus' offices of priest, prophet, and king. According to the Second Vatican Council: "The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that...they may offer spiritual sacrifices..." The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he has, consecrates the bread and wine so that they become the body and blood of Christ. In doing so, the thing sacrificed by Jesus Christ on the Cross (that thing being Himself in His life, suffering and death) becomes present on the altar, and the priest, standing in persona Christi offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. ...Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.

The laity exercise their priestly role by offering themselves as a sacrifice to God in union with Jesus Christ. We all know that we should ‘sacrifice’ our entire lives to God. While we must live that reality every day, this is how that sacrifice is actually offered up to God: through union with Jesus Christ.

Also, just as the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice for a particular intention (we hear it announced), we too, can and should offer it for a personal intention.

This means to apply the infinite, redeeming Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to a particular person or cause.

While we can and should mentally gather and offer in prayer our intentions before the Mass begins, there is a particular place in the Liturgy where we see that the intentions of the laity (and the priest) are prepared for their offering to God.

The place in the Mass where this happens is the Offertory, which immediately follows the Prayers of the Faithful. The bread and wine are brought before the altar, and the priest begins the preparation and blessing of the gifts.

The priest says: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." The phrase "and yours" refers to our personal sacrifices and intentions that we unite with the one sacrifice of Christ. The people reply: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church."

Then the priest prays over the offerings (including ours) after which the people say, "Amen."

If you are anything like me, you struggle sometimes to remember to pray for people for whom you have promised to pray persistently. The offering of intentions at Mass is not only a convenient opportunity to bring to mind these people (and also to mentally entrust to the Lord all whom you have forgotten), but it is also the BEST way. Your Mass intention can be anything that you would normally pray for. For example, your family or friends; those who have asked you to pray for a special intention; help with a personal problem; the salvation of souls; to receive a special grace; to overcome a particular sin; for a particular apostolate or ministry, etc.

There is no prayer in the world that can even hold a candle to the power of the Mass, which is the prayer of Christ Himself.

It cannot be overstated the power of God’s grace and what it can achieve in the world when it is invited by the offering at Mass.

It is important to remain a few minutes after Mass to offer God prayers of thanksgiving after having made our intentions. Most Roman Missals include prayers to recite before and after receiving Holy Communion, such as this prayer to the Holy Trinity: "May the tribute of my humble ministry be pleasing to you, Holy Trinity, Grant that the sacrifice which I—unworthy as I am—have offered in the presence of your majesty, may be acceptable to you. Through Your mercy may it bring forgiveness to me and to all for whom I have offered it: through Christ our Lord. Amen."

We will someday look back on our lives in perfect clarity, having passed from this world, and we will see the veil of our lack of spiritual vision pulled back. We will see the effects of every prayer anyone has offered, the power of God’s grace flowing into the world. If other prayers opened streams, the offerings at Mass opened rivers. We only get a limited number of opportunities to participate in the Mass and to receive Holy Communion in this life. We must make good use of these precious gifts, and not miss out on our chances to apply the infinite merits of Jesus to ourselves, those we love, and those people in the world most in need of God’s mercy.


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