QUAERITUR: More than one intention with stipends for one Mass.

From a reader:

Over the years, parish practice has allowed that there be several
intentions listed at Mass. These collective intentions are a daily
occurrence with some Masses having four or five intentions. Our bishop
has recently begun to enforce the Canons concerning Mass intentions. I
was hoping that you could expand on the theological basis for having
only one intention be the norm. It seems that the priest could have as
many intentions as is possible as long as he personally does not
receive a stipend for them. If you could help or at least point me in
a good direction I will buy you a cup of Mystic Monk Coffee.

The Code of Canon Law says: Can. 948 – Separate Masses are to be applied for the intentions of those for whom a single offering, although small, has been given and accepted.”

This is the general norm.  However, the the Holy See authorized bishops to allow the celebration of Masses with several intentions at once.   My understanding is that these “cumulative” intentions should not be the usual practice.  Also, the local bishop determines how this is to be handled (i.e., who keeps the stipend, etc.).

There is a 1991 document of the Congregation for the Clergy which deals with this.

It is harder and harder for people in some places to have Masses said for their chosen intentions.  This is due, of course, to the dearth of priests and therefore daily Masses.

Pray for vocations!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. profcarlos says:

    Down here in Brazil, Mass intentions can usually be requested just before Mass. Some parishes charge a small stipend (R$1 – R$5 = US$0.40 – US$2), but most don’t.

    Sunday Masses, therefore, will normally start by a veeeeeery long reading of intentions, as quite often there will be 50+ of them. A lay reader, before the priest enters, will announce something like “This Mass will be celebrated in the intentions of: John Doe, 7th year of death; all the dead of the Smith family; Saint Rose, for a grace attained…” and so on, for several minutes.

  2. Oneros says:

    There is only supposed to be one Mass Intention strictly-so-called, to which the priest applies the “special fruit” of the Mass.

    An important quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Sacrifice of the Mass:

    “The question now arises whether in this connection the applicable value of the Mass is to be regarded as finite or infinite (or, more accurately, unlimited). This question is of importance in view of the practical consequences it involves. For, if we decide in favour of the unlimited value, a single Mass celebrated for a hundred persons or intentions is as efficacious as a hundred Masses celebrated for a single person or intention. On the other hand, it is clear that, if we incline towards a finite value, the special fruit is divided pro rata among the hundred persons […T]he Church has entirely forbidden as a breach of strict justice that a priest should seek to fulfil, by reading a single Mass, the obligations imposed by several stipends (see Denzinger, n. 1110) […I]n as much as the Church has spoken of strict justice (justitia commutativa), the overwhelming majority of theologians incline even theoretically to the conviction that the satisfactory — and, according to many, also the propitiatory and impetratory — value of a Mass for which a stipend has been taken, is so strictly circumscribed and limited from the outset, that it accrues pro rata (according to the greater or less number of the living or the dead for whom the Mass is offered) to each of the individuals. Only on such a hypothesis is the custom prevailing among the faithful of having several Masses celebrated for the deceased or for their intentions intelligible.”

    The priest (and congregation, of course, privately) are allowed to add their own specific intentions under the “general fruit” (and, for the priest, even his “personal fruit”?) of the Mass that always accrue to them, but the priest must make it clear that such additional prayers on his part are quite distinct and separate from the Mass Intention being offered under the special fruit. So one will hear a lot of people mentioned in the General Intentions who are sick or who have died…but that’s different than the specific Mass Intention (in my dioceses, there always seem to be two official Intentions attached to each Mass, except at the pro populo Mass on Sundays)

    So…unless people agree to it (for example, a donor might specify a whole group of people as their single intention) priests should not be combining Mass Intentions. People have a right to expect that a whole separate Mass will be offered for their intentions (lest the circumscribed and limited fruit be divided pro rata among the various intentions).

    This is one huge scandal of concelebration that always makes me really mad. Each priest who concelebrates is allowed by canon law to offer a separate Mass intention for a separate stipend! And yet, concelebrations are not several Masses. They are supposed to be several priests celebrating the SAME Mass. Allowing dozens (or hundreds) of priests to all take a stipend for just sticking their hands out at the right point (thus dividing the special fruit among hundreds of intentions) seems unjust. Perhaps the Vatican adopted some theory that the limit and circumscription of the special fruit had something to do with the finite nature of the priest himself (and thus more priests means potentially “more” special fruit) but that seems far from conclusive theologically…

  3. ALL: Let’s try to keep to the topic. Other concrete questions about stipends and intentions should be dealt with in separate entries.

  4. Fr Martin Fox says:

    My understanding is this:

    One and only one stipend may be accepted for a single Mass; and with that stipend comes whatever intention (for the soul of my mother) or intentions (for Jane, John and Sally) the donor specifies.

    However, I have not seen a reason a priest cannot include other prayer intentions, provided he did not accept any stipend for it. I.e., while offering the Mass, he also prays for his parents, or for more vocations, etc.

    The document linked seems–to my reading–to key in on the issue of multiple stipends, and prohibit that unless all donors are in agreement with a single Mass satisfying them all. But that is not in conflict with my understanding, it seems to me.

    In my prior parish, the pastor would list many intentions for a particular Mass–but he always explained–to the priest offering the Mass as well as the faithful–that no more than one stipend had been accepted, and the stipended intention was listed first. I don’t do that in my parishes; I list but one intention. But if someone asks me to include an intention, I do so, but without accepting any additional stipend.

  5. catholicmidwest says:

    This is one of those things that makes converts go “tilt.” Just saying.

    A unscrupulous priest could possibly accumulate a lot of donations this way. Maybe this is the reason for the rule? I wonder how old the roots of the rule are?

  6. dcs says:

    A unscrupulous priest could possibly accumulate a lot of donations this way.

    I believe a priest is only permitted to keep one Mass stipend per day.

  7. Dear catholicmidwest,

    The logic of the “one stipend per Mass per day” is that, in origin, a Mass stipend was supposed to cover the *entire living expenses* of the priest for one day. Ergo, one stipend for the one Mass a priest is permitted to say is sufficient for his maintanance. This is also why, historically, when priests had to binate or trinate (say two or three Masses, e.g. for pastoral need on a Sunday), any stipend beyond the first had to go to some other entity (e.g. a hospital, religious house, parish), not the priest. He had already received his daily living.

    Now that stipends are generally so laughably low compared to what they were originally intended to be, I think that Rome should allow combining stipends for a single Mass up to the point where the sum equals the daily living expense of the priest — which, of course, would be different in Manhattan than in Zambia. It would also mean that many more people could get their intentions attached to a Mass in a place where there was only one priest available to say the Masses.

  8. Father Flores says:

    The document mentions that all appearances of profiting from saying Mass should be avoided. However, most priests in the US are salaried and do not live off of their stipends. Do the faithful still associate their donation with the wallet of the priests?

    The number of intentions offered per Mass would seem inconsequential if the donation does not go directly to priest or even have the appearance of going directly to the priest celebrant (rather to the general fund, or to struggling missionary priests). Even as a priest this question confuses me, especially when the document mentions adaptations for shifting situations.

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not so sure it’s that clear-cut in many parishes, even in my own rural area. We’ve had our share of “irregularities” even here. This “one stipend per mass” is a good policy in my view, when it’s adhered to, that is.

  10. Jack Hughes says:

    What really annoys me is when one person/family hogs the parish schedule i.e. at my parish one family is having 200 Mass’s said for the souls of its deceased members and anout 100, that leaves practically no room for other people since in Justice the priest must fulfill the obligations that he has undertaken.

    I would say leave this to the Bishop but Abb Leferbve’s and Card-Designate Burkes are rare these days.

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    Wait. Let me get this straight. You are bearing a little bitty grudge because other people “hog” up the prayers that can be said? And somehow it’s a zero-sum game, as God sees it. Tilt. Maybe you should ask your friends to pray for you and stop trying to accumulate …. um…. points.

  12. jkm210 says:

    When my grandpa died a few years ago, friends and family gave donations for many, many Masses. The funeral home, which, I believe, deals primarily with Catholic funerals and so knew what they were doing, arranged to have many of the Mass cards and stipends sent to Africa, which seems to be a win-win in my mind. I would think the stipends would do a lot more good there, where the priest would truly need them. It is funny to think about some African priest probably stumbling over my grandpa’s German name and wondering who he was!

  13. Jack Hughes says:

    Catholic Mid-west

    OK bad choice of words but at the moment very few people can get this Priest (one of the few in the Diocese who I would trust) to say Mass for thier intentions, anyway my understanding is that the Holier Fr. X is the more likley the greater the effacacy of the prayers said at X Mass. Also it seems to me to be scandolous to think that Ted Kennedy’s (assuming he was saved) stay in purgutory would be shorter than some average Joe just because his Family could afford to ‘book’ 200 Mass’s for his sould whereas the family of average Joe is very poor.

    Its like the middle ages in Europe when the family of a nobleman would ’employ’ a Priest to say Mass exclusively for the family and thier deceased ones. If its not simony then it smells like it. What happend to the likes of St. Leanord of Port Maurice and the fransicans of his day when they would never accept a Stipend?

  14. Jack Hughes says:

    Just to clarify it is not the Kennedy family but booked this priest but I used it as an analogy

  15. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    A unscrupulous priest could possibly accumulate a lot of donations this way.

    I believe a priest is only permitted to keep one Mass stipend per day.

    Here in The Spokane Diocese, the stipend goes to the parish. Or did anyway according to rules enacted by Bp. Skylstad, our former bishop. Even a gift — a chedck made payable to the name of the priest — for a “special” Mass, such as when our pastor said a Mass on a Sarurday afternoon when we had our daughter’s Quinceanara, goes into the parish’s bank account not the priest’s.


  16. Random Friar says:

    See the text below. My queries with the Chancery led me to believe that any extra monies received would ordinarily be given to the diocese (usually, in most places, for the seminarians’ education). Never sure what the “extrinsic title recompense” would entail. But, except for the cumulative Mass stipend (in which case, I tell the secretaries to inform the faithful that it may well be a cumulative stipend, which I did in some places for Mothers’ Day, etc), one and one only.
    Can. 951 §1. A priest who celebrates several Masses on the same day can apply each to the intention for which the offering was given, but subject to the rule that, except on Christmas, he is to keep the offering for only one Mass and transfer the others to the purposes prescribed by the ordinary, while allowing for some recompense by reason of an extrinsic title.

    §2. A priest who concelebrates a second Mass on the same day cannot accept an offering for it under any title.

  17. Oneros says:

    “The logic of the “one stipend per Mass per day” is that, in origin, a Mass stipend was supposed to cover the *entire living expenses* of the priest for one day.”

    Maybe, “in origin,” but it came to be because donors had the right to expect that the entire fructus specialis of a Mass would be applied to their intention.

    “Now that stipends are generally so laughably low compared to what they were originally intended to be, I think that Rome should allow combining stipends for a single Mass up to the point where the sum equals the daily living expense of the priest”

    And divide the special fruit pro rata among all those intentions? No way. Especially since priests get their full salary from other sources these days, and this truly would look like “paying for Mass.”

    The purpose of the stipend nowadays is simply to set a sort of basic market limit on Masses. If they were totally free, someone indeed might “hog” a parish’s schedule and say, “Father, say 1000 masses for my intention!” But if there is even a small token barrier-to-entry (even just $10), then that generally limits how many requests people can make to something more reasonable. It isn’t EXACTLY supply-and-demand, but it seems to work well enough on similar principle.

    “Also it seems to me to be scandalous to think that Ted Kennedy’s (assuming he was saved) stay in purgatory would be shorter than some average Joe just because his Family could afford to ‘book’ 200 Mass’s for his soul whereas the family of average Joe is very poor. ”

    No one’s stay is shorter or longer than anyone else’s. We can’t think of it in terms of Time, as there is no Time there. But rather, perhaps, intensity. There are a certain number of “pennies” that must be paid, there are a certain number of “expiatory EVENTS” that must take place. Let’s say each Mass pays one penny or something like that.

    A person who owes 400 pennies still has a “worse” experience in purgatory even if he has a rich family who has 400 Masses said the day after he dies by 400 priests…and the person who owes only 1 penny still suffers less from their expiation even if the Mass for their soul is not said until the end of time. Because the first person still had to undergo the payment of 400 pennies, still needed to go through that much expiation. Yes, relative to Earth-time in the sequence of causality, the richer person was out “sooner”…but that’s only from our perspective, it doesn’t make it any better for him.

  18. Random Friar says:

    And I have, and will continue to assert that Mass stipends need to have an extremely attentive eye paid to them (the Ordinary or a designate is supposed to look at the books — not sure if that ever happens). Priests: fulfill those Mass stipend obligations or have someone do it for you! Zero tolerance for mishandling the funds of the People of God, especially with regards to Mass stipends! This is a matter of justice.

  19. Random Friar says:

    PomeroyonthePalouse: Would the parish then write a cumulative Mass stipend check for the month to the priest or religious community? That’s what we essentially did as a religious community — most of the checks were made out to the parish, so there was an account for those funds. I trust my confreres, but it’s always good to be clear about funds.

  20. lmgilbert says:

    “It is harder and harder for people in some places to have Masses said for their chosen intentions. This is due, of course, to the dearth of priests and therefore daily Masses.”

    Since this is the case, I no longer even approach my parish to have Masses said, but send my intentions to a priest in the Diocese of Cuddapah, India, who once helped out in our parish. He told me that many priests in his diocese have no intentions whatever and would be happy with even $1.00, since the dollar goes much farther there.

    However, for some time I sent him stipends based on what was (when last I checked) the Mass stipend for the Diocese of Dubuque, $5.00. This enabled me to have many Masses said for the conversion and return to the faith of my siblings, nieces, nephews, etc.

    It would be so beneficial to everyone if after the parish Mass book is filled up at the conventional stipend, a second book for a sister diocese or parish were opened at a lower rate that reflects the same purchasing power in the sister diocese.

    However, there is nothing standing in the way of our communicating with third world dioceses directly. Here for your convenience is the address of the chancery in Cuddapah:
    Bishop’s House
    Mariapuram, Cuddapah – 516 003
    Andhra Pradesh,

    The postage for 1 oz. is 98 cents.

  21. It is harder and harder for people in some places to have Masses said for their chosen intentions. This is due, of course, to the dearth of priests and therefore daily Masses.

    And yet there are still priests whose people don’t ask them often enough for Mass intentions. If you are having difficulty getting Masses said for particular intentions, may I put in a plug for two very fine priests:

    Fr. Bartholomew de la Torre, O.P.
    233 Paulin Ave.
    PMB 5923
    Calexico, CA 92231

    Rev. Andrew Szymakowski
    504 Locust Ave.
    Nyssa OR 97913

    Fr. Bart uses his stipends for his charitable work in the Dominican mission. And Fr. Andrew celebrates the TLM.

  22. Fr Martin Fox says:

    In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, priests are given the choice either of foregoing their stipends and simply receiving their salary, or else they can retain them–but if they retain them, they don’t get paid more; it’s just a difference in how they are paid, I suppose. I always elect to forego them, and I imagine most priests do. Result is that all the stipends go to the parish. I think there’s something about some of them are supposed to go to the archdiocese and, um–in case someone is reading…er…I’m sure we send every penny and more!

    Personally, I’ve thought we should just get rid of the stipend altogether and just accept Mass intentions at no charge. The $5/Mass doesn’t generate that much money, and the bookkeeping is a big pain. But I realize that other priests elsewhere need the income.

  23. frjim4321 says:

    To, PomeroyonthePalouse, on the one hand it seems that the Spokane Solution is extremely wrong and unjust. But there is a possible explanation that would render it much more appropriate. Maybe there is an inequitable distribution of stipends in that diocese, with some priest receiving many more than others. Perhaps the diocese “pool” the stipends and makes sure the are distributed equitably. Or, perhaps an average stipend amount has been added on to the base salary. Perhaps someone from Spokane could assist.

    With regard to multiple intentions, the most common problem we have is someone calls because they are having a wedding anniversary and would like to be recognized in some way at a weekend mass. Usually the mass intentions are set far in advance. So, we add the name of the anniversary couple but do NOT accept a second stipend.

  24. Supertradmum says:

    catholicmidwest and Jack Hughes.

    We have a similar problem with our once-a-week Latin Mass. I wanted to have a Mass said for someone who had died in the past week, but all the Masses are “booked” through May, and by far the greatest majority of dates by two families praying for the same three people. In order to have a Mass said for the reposed soul of this person I know, I shall have to ask a priest who says a daily NO Mass. If someone is in Purgatory, May could seem a long time. This system does leave something to be desired.

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