Getting a Mass Card

Getting a Mass Card

One of the most characteristic features of the Catholic “way of death” is to bring a “Mass Card” to the Wake or to send one to a bereaved family on the occasion of the death of a loved one.

We speak of the “Mass Book” being open for people to “get Masses said” for their deceased or living family members.

At almost every Mass the name or names of the” Mass Intentions” are announced.


What does this mean?


First, it is rooted in the theology of the Mass as the representation of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday. As our theology matured over the centuries this was often described as the one Sacrifice of Himself offered by Christ in a “bloody manner” on the Cross once and for all; and the Mass as an “unbloody” Sacrifice that renews or “re-presents” the Cross for us in our churches until the end of time.

It is important to bear in mind that from the earliest writings we have from the New Testament itself to the “infant Church” the Eucharist is always described in sacrificial language. The Eucharistic Liturgy is seen as making the Sacrifice of Christ present under the outward forms of bread and wine, transformed by the Lord’s own words into His Body and Blood.

The Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered by the Lord through the consecrated ministry of the apostolic priesthood.

Catholic theology discerned what were termed “fruits of the Mass” as

“the spiritual and temporal blessings obtained through the Eucharistic sacrifice. The general fruits of the Mass are applied to the whole Church, in which all the faithful share, both the living and the dead. The special fruits are applied first to the priest who celebrates Mass, then to those for whom he offers it, and finally to those who participate in the Eucharistic liturgy”


The Mass Card represents that a Mass will be offered either at a set date or time, or at an unspecified date, for a named person or intention by a priest who will apply his ministerial intention or fruit to the intention of the donor.

The donor offers a “Stipend” or donation to the priest for his sustenance and prayers. A long-standing axiom in the Church is that the priest should off the altar.

This is most often arranged through the parish office.


Another important point can be put this way: “God-ward” the fruits of the Mass are infinite in that the Mass is Christ’s own offering of Himself to the Father in an unbloody manner by the hands of the priest for the redemption of the world. However, “us-ward”, our capacity to benefit from the fruits of the Mass is limited by our finite ability to receive these benefits and by the actual or residual effects of our sins as well as the passage of time. Hence Masses are offered again and again till the end of time.


Most Masses are offered in, practice for the deceased.

This again is seen in ancient Christian practice from the earliest days that in some fashion the dead can benefit from the offering of the Mass. They are still bound to us on earth, and to the Saints in Heaven, by the communio sanctorum. This Latin phrase from the Creeds is often translated as the “Communion of Saints” but can literally mean the “sharing of holy things”.

As with any human person, the ability to benefit from the fruits of the Mass is conditional upon the faith and devotion of the person and many Masses are often offered for the same person as a help to their final salvation.


Father Hewes







A man’s gotta know his limitations….

A man’s gotta’ know his limitations…

 The words above, taken from a movie, were spoken to me last November as I sat in a dentist’s chair with a throbbing and aching wisdom tooth.

The dentist who said them was compassionate and professional as he explained to me that this particular tooth was different from most and he did not feel quite comfortable at taking the responsibility of extracting it. He recommended a specialist who subsequently did the job competently, confidently, and painlessly.

I was grateful to that dentist for his honesty and genuine care in not subjecting me to a procedure of which he did not feel himself completely confident.

His words got me thinking.

There was a long-standing impression among many Catholics that the parish priest was omnicompetent in all matters: theological, doctrinal, liturgical, canonical, social, and psychological.

There are occasions when I am asked to intervene in delicate and already painfully inflamed family or marital situations usually along the lines of talking to a spouse or family member to presumably solve a long-running issue or to “straighten them out.”

I have to tell you what that dentist told me last year. A man has to know his limitations.

40 years of practice as a parish priest have taught me what I believe to be my strengths, and, sometimes painfully, what are not my strengths.

Ask me questions that have answers and I’m fine. Ask me about matters theological, historical, liturgical, sacramental, educational, and possible programs and setting policies, and I’m fine.

I can give you some general advice and if there is such, a reasonably simple solution. But if there is not, there are priests who have experience and training in these matters and many lay professionals to turn to.

However, life coaching, intense marital and family disputes, significant mental and emotional counseling, prolonged grief counseling, intense personal “spiritual direction” outside the Confessional, etc., are not my strong suits. I simply do not possess the academic, professional, or temperamental traits necessary to actually help people in need of such. I’ve tried in the past, but a man’s gotta’ know his limitations.