Why Do We Offer Masses for People?

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, you likely have noticed the priest say “And we offer this Mass for [name].” Offering Masses for people both living and dead is a tradition that goes back thousands of years, but it is often a misunderstood practice of the Catholic faith.

Recently, a listener named Grant called in to Father Simon Says™ and to ask about having Mass said for a particular person or intention. Grant is not Catholic, but he explained, “I am having surgery on Tuesday, and there is a friend of mine who is Catholic and he’s having a Mass said for me. I’m grateful, but I don’t necessarily understand what all of that is.”

Father Simon explained some of the history of offering Masses, pointing out that in the past it was common to pay a priest if he was going to offer a Mass for you.

“Once upon a time, a Mass stipend was a large part of a priest’s income,” Fr. Simon said. “It was a charitable contribution that maintained a monastery or an individual priest in a parish. It helped his maintenance, and you asked him to say a Mass. But it quickly became, in the minds of people that I’m going to buy a Mass.”

“People call me and ask me, ‘Father, how much does a Mass cost? And I would say you haven’t got enough money. It costs the price of the Son of God, the price of the Blood of the Son of God on the Cross.”

Fr. Simon explained that this tradition of paying for Masses to be offered has changed, and priest’s now offer a Mass for free or a nominal charge.

Using his own parish as an example, he said, “Now, in my parish we have stopped taking Mass stipends. If you want to have your beloved remembered at Mass, you come to the Mass, you come to the sacristy before Mass and you say, ‘Father, will you pray for Uncle Fritz at Mass?’ And we will mention Uncle Fritz’ name and we take no money for it.”

Illustrating to Grant why his Catholic friend having Mass offered for him was a great charitable gesture, Fr. Simon referred to the Catholic writer and teacher John Senior, who said that the point of all human endeavor and the purpose of all civilization is so that the Mass can be said constantly.

“That’s a very Catholic view,” Father Simon pointed out. “That we think of the Mass as the only fitting worship. Everything else is praise, but the only fitting worship for God is to offer the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of His dearly beloved Son. That’s the only worship. A nice prayer meeting is full of praise, but the only fitting sacrifice is Christ crucified. So to be remembered at Mass by someone is a very beautiful thing.”

Listen to the full conversation below and tune-in to Father Simon Says weekdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/11:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.