ASK FATHER: How to have Masses said for me after my death?

From a reader…


What is the best way to ensure that part of whatever funds are left in my estate are used to have masses offered for the repose of my soul?

I think we all wonder about this.  I sure do.  Will anyone pray for me after I die?  Some of us with little family of our own, and they not Catholics… well.  Who will remember us?  So many “funerals” or “post-living life celebrations” these days neglect the one thing that is necessary: prayer for the dead.

I want prayers, darn it, not balloons and jokes.

Also, it is hard for many people to find priests who can take their Mass intentions for loved ones.  Pray for more priests, good holy, devout and faithful priests.

So, now to the question: making provisions for Masses to be said for you after your death.

If leaving funds for Masses to be said, be as specific as possible about what you want.

Can. 950 of the Code for the Latin Church establishes that if there is no indication of the number of Masses to be said, the presumption is that the number of Masses is determined by the offering prescribed in the donor’s residence.  For example, I leave $1,000 “for Masses” in my will without specifying how many. Based on the common custom of $10 per Mass in the Diocese of Black Duck (where I lived), I should have 100 Masses said. Otherwise, I could specify that I’m leaving $1,000 for 50 Masses. In that case the stipend per Mass is $20.

Perhaps one solution would be to establish an agreement with a monastic community.  You might create a foundation that would provide a steady flow of money to the community with the agreement that a Mass be celebrated regularly.

Canons 1299 – 1310 cover issues for a pious foundation.  Pay attention to details.  The Ordinary (usually the religious superior) is the executor of such foundations, and no other provision is acceptable (can. 1301, 3). The Ordinary is to see that the parameters of the bequest are carried out diligently. Provisions may be made for long-term obligations, such as a series of Masses (can. 1303, 1), but the Code no longer speaks of “perpetual obligations.”

A provision might be included in the will to make provisions for the reasonable termination of the foundation, or its transfer to another entity.  For example:

“I leave from my estate $50,000 to the Abbey of St. Exuperantia, to be held in a foundation, and from the interest of which foundation, $100 is to be taken per annum for ten Masses for my soul, for at least the next thirty years. However, should St. Exuperantia Abbey close its doors before that time, or be rendered incapable of fulfilling the requirements of this foundation, the remaining funds are to be transferred to St. Aceptisimas Abbey, or another Benedictine Abbey of the Federation of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. After thirty years, if the Abbot makes a determination that the Masses should not continue, what remains in the foundation is to be dispersed to the Diocese of Black Duck for the support of elderly and infirm priests and, in particular, priest bloggists.”

Whatever provision is made in the will for something like really ought to be looked over by both a civil lawyer and a disinterested canon lawyer.

Finally, why wait until someone dies to have Masses said?  Have them said also while people are still alive!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jacobi says:

    One little suggestion, if I may. It helps if Mass request cards are made available at the back of the church. Being i/c the CTS stand in our church, I have just made available (honest, not making this up) last Sunday at the request of parishionesr a selection of Mass cards which can be filled in and passed to the PP with a suitable request. Strange indeed that we had run out of these!

  2. Mike says:

    1. I cannot recall the last time I was in a church that contained Mass request cards as described by OP jacobi. Maybe half of all parish bulletins give instructions for requesting Masses.
    2. My sense is that missionary priests are very glad to offer Masses for donors’ intentions (and no doubt very appreciative of the stipends!).

  3. acroat says:

    A priest I know was on Women of Grace on EWTN. Another guest suggested prearranging Gregorian Masses. I wasn’t sure about this son I emailed father. He explained why it was good to do this. I immediately made the arrangements with his order and they sent a certificate which someone mails back to them. I sent the certificate to a trusted relative.

  4. Gregorius says:

    Pretty much any parish anywhere will take Mass intentions, if you call their office and arrange it in advance.

    As for perpetual Mass remembrance, if you’re looking for a group that is growing/ isn’t in danger of closing down anytime soon, the FSSP are now sending out offers to have Masses said. Contact Fr. Pendergraft FSSP at the office of development for more info.

    I thought Clear Creek abbey offered Gregorian Masses (requiem Masses in groups of 30), but I don’t see any info about it on their website. I’m guessing if they do it at all they’d send info about it on their mailing list…

  5. The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales offers “A Guide to ensuring that you have the Traditional Mass at your funeral”:

    A PDF copy of the guide itself:

    ” It contains advice on the best ways to ensure that you get precisely that: what you need to do now, whom you need to speak to, and what is necessary. In compiling this invaluable booklet, we have taken legal advice on the best approach for our members to follow. The booklet also details the various liturgical options within the Traditional Roman Rite for your Requiem. It includes notes on the authoratative teaching of the Church, and on what is permitted (and NOT permitted) in the Traditional Rite, as well as much other advice.”

  6. APX says:

    While it’s true pretty much any parish takes mass requests, a number of parishes have a multi-year waiting list for intentions. Our priests will only take intentions 3 months in advance in case something happens that they can’t fullfill them all. I think with something of this nature it would be ideal to stick with religious orders for something like this.

  7. bmadamsberry says:

    PLEASE consult a lawyer for a will. Too many people think they know what constitutes a valid will, and they don’t. A lawyer will be happy to arrange Masses to be included in your will. As a law student, all I read every day are cases where people attempted to have DIY wills… and failed. The easiest way to have Masses said for you after your death is to include it in a will (I know I’m being repetitive, but it’s so very important).

  8. Sconnius says:

    Father, this couldn’t have come at a more appropriate moment. I just returned from a “post-living life celebration” for a man who deserved nothing less than to be laid to rest by the Catholic Church. Of the 80 minutes this ordeal lasted, less than 15 of those were Catholic. All of the songs were just terrible. And both the Gospel and two homilies were delivered by protestant ministers (one a woman) , wearing their rainbow stoles while Monsignor sat there and allowed this to happen in his church (in Madison, btw).

  9. msc says:

    My wife and I both want simple Requiem Masses, and have wondered how to get them. I love the text of the Requiem and its sentiments. We have come to greatly dislike what funerals have in general become, and think, as Catholics, that they should be about God, last things, and to offer solace to those that attend. Eulogies have long tended to the vulgar and have only gotten worse.

  10. ReginaMarie says:

    The tradition of the Eastern Catholic Churches is that, after the burial, memorial services are offered for the deceased on the 3rd, 9th, & 40th days after death, as well as the 3rd & 6th month, & the 1st & annual anniversary of death.

  11. Sissy says:

    If I survive you, Fr., I will most surely pray for you (as I do now) and have masses offered for your soul.

    As a convert, this has been much on my mind. I really appreciate this information; it’s very comforting.

  12. Deo volente says:

    I have had Gregorian Masses said for the deceased by the Seraphic Mass Association in Pittsburgh (Missionaries in New Guinea say these Masses) and the Trinitarians (who now have a way to arrange for the Gregorian Masses said after your death). In either case, one would have to have a trusted relative or friend make the request on your behalf after you have died.

    If a Society which says the Traditional Mass in the US ever comes up with a mechanism to arrange for Masses said after ones death following notification, I would be more than willing and happy to make a bequest for this purpose.

    I have mulled over making a bequest to the Poor Clares who have Perpetual Adoration to pray for my soul (a priest friend did something similar). The “Desert Nuns” in Arizona is the group of whom I was thinking.

  13. KateD says:

    My plan is to raise holy children who will know what to do. I don’t expect to have an “estate” when I die.

  14. HeatherPA says:

    We select a deceased family member monthly and arrange Gregorian Masses to be said for them through the Pious Union of St. Joseph. We think the stipend is very reasonable for a set.

    This is also stipulated in our wills for us, at the very least, and we have written our funeral directives out specifically for a Requiem Mass, black vestments (to be purchased with our money if Father doesn’t have any and donated), and no eulogy or “canonization”.
    Also the funeral cards are to be printed with a prayer for the souls in purgatory.
    Being 40 and 41, we get a lot of funny looks when we say we have our funerals planned already, but one never knows when The Lord will call us. I have already had two very close calls.

  15. greinkebs says:

    My Bishop in the Philippines would receive hundreds of dollars of US Mass stipends ($5.00 per Mass from Seattle Archdiocese) and the Priests of the Philippine Diocese would offer 50 Mass intentions at one Mass. According to the Bishop in Philippines this was proper. According to Cong of Bishops – they had no problem with it ether. The Holy See said it was done this way since Philippine priests do not receive salaries like those in the US. Case closed…

  16. majuscule says:

    Fr. Z’s recent post about the Transalpine Redemptorists calendar (I ordered several) and a comment in that thread led me to their Purgatorian Archconfraternity:

    When a member dies, if someone will send back their certificate, the person will have a monthly Requiem Mass said for them. As long as the Archconfraternity exists, that is.

    I have enrolled my family members as a Christmas gift this year. As living persons, they will have a daily Mass said for them whether they want it or not.

  17. JTH says:

    I’ve purchased Gregorian masses for my father for when he passes, one a day for 30 days at $10 each.

    The masses can be paid for in advance and, after your death, notification is sent through mail or by phone call. It was really easy to set up. Franciscan missions:

  18. Fr, what about leaving money on the condition your mass is said in the EF? How do you do that?

  19. NickD says:

    Father, you mentioned in another post how you’re introducing a new mug design, I think. How’s this for a mug design, using what you just said in this article: “When I’m dead, I want prayers, darn it, not balloons and jokes”?

    I like it! :-D

  20. MouseTemplar says:

    To add to majuscule’s point. I enrolled my family as members of the Purgatorian Archconfraternity of Papa Stronsay. It is $35 per year for the first 10 years, then you are perpetually enrolled without further cost. This gets you daily Mass while living which continues after your death as long as there’s a priest in the monastery to draw breath. A mere $15 enrolls an individual for a year, living or dead.

    To bmadamsberry’s point, my husband is a funeral director and warns his Catholic clients that if they want to be sure their funeral arrangements are honored by their money grubbing post-cathlick kids, get a lawyer and write it into your will. Now.

  21. Kate says:

    When we were making out our will, I told our lawyer that I wanted money set aside for Masses.

    This presented more of a problem than I imagined. Our lawyer said she’d write it in to the will, but that I needed to make arrangements with the parish. Our parish (and at least one other that I called) said that they no longer take money (assuming that upon my death, the money I set aside for Masses would be delivered to the parish and they would parcel out the funds for a Mass every year or twice a year or whenever).

    I was told that the church could not function like a bank and just hold a sum of money. I was told we would need to chose a person to get the lump sum of money and it would be their responsibility to request a Mass each year (or whenever).

    Our lawyer was not interested in this “job”, and so, with our parish telling us “no” and our lawyer telling us “no”, we were left with the hope that one of the respondents has already mentioned – trying to raise good kids who know to have Masses offered for our souls.

    I do appreciate hearing about some other opportunities from readers here. The main point is that arranging for Masses after your death takes some doing, so do your research, get a good lawyer, and plan accordingly.

  22. avatquevale says:

    Perhaps a bit off topic, but I live in a country where Catholics are rare, I am having a hard time learning what the rules are for a Catholic funeral.
    A friend’s mother was recently cremated before her funeral. Only the deceased ashes were present for the Mass.
    Yet I have heard that that the Church says that cremation must follow the Mass, which should be said over a coffin with the intact body present.

    Question #1: cremation before or after the funeral Mass?

    Question #2. Is it required that the cremated ashes be interred only in consecrated ground? Are there circumstances (no consecrated ground available) where the ashes may be interred in a cemetery that has no consecrated ground?

    Here is one priest’s light but helpful advice for how a Catholic funeral should NOT be.—04-13.html

  23. GOR says:

    A suggestion to all who worry about who will pray for them after they die: start praying NOW for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

    Do it every day for the rest of your life.

    The souls you help will be praying for you in Heaven when they get there.

  24. Father S. says:

    As a former pastor of a small, rural parish, I can say that these parishes often do not have a lot of Mass intentions. It would be easy to look at your diocesan directory and then send Masses to a number of parishes. This would be appreciated by the priests and if accompanied by a letter giving some points on the deceased’s life, would likely mean that the priests would more assiduously and attentively offer the Mass for that person.

  25. Martlet says:

    GOR – Perfect! Whenever a deceased person comes to mind, I try to stop and pray for them, knowing that if they are not in need of my prayers, then my petition will be applied to someone who is. Now how to find a living person who will understand that if I am seriously ill, I want a priest even more than I want a doctor. My husband understands this, but I doubt my children do.

  26. My mission in this life is to pray for the Holy Souls. I offer up all my pains, grief and even joy for the souls of the faithful departed, daily. I pray for all those who have died from the beginning of time until now, and all the way till the end of time. I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and then in November I pray a 30 day Novena for them. They are always included in the Novena of Masses at our parish, which are almost always available. I have a special page on my website for anyone that wants me to pray for their loved ones who have passed.

    I also have a habit of saying the Hail Mary when I am in a crowd of people. I ask the Lord to apply the prayer for all the people present when they are in their last hour.

    So, to the person that asked the question….I may not know you or know when you die, but you will be prayed for as long as I am breathing. So will everyone here.

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Thank you, Semperficatholic!

    Kate – From what Fr. Z said, it sounds like the local diocese or a religious order is who to talk to, to be your “person” who passes out the money.

  28. guans says:

    Have masses said while people are still alive!! Amen! Alleluia!
    Thanks for the reminder- am thinking about someone who needs Gregorian masses said now.

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