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About Mass Intentions
Based on published work by Fr Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Because of the particular role of the priest as mediator between God and man, acting in persona Christi when offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass, it is usually considered that special graces may be obtained when he applies the Mass to a particular intention. The faithful generally make an offering, called a stipend, to the priest in order to apply the Mass to a specific intention. By making this offering, the faithful, by parting with something that is their own, associate themselves more intimately with Christ who offers himself in the sacred Host, and obtain thereby more abundant fruits. This sacrifice has an infinite value and indeed there is no objective limitation to the number of intentions that can be offered at any Mass. The offering of a stipend is also a means whereby Catholic may contribute to the upkeep of the clergy, and the Church in general.  However, so as to avoid even the appearance of commerce in sacred things, the Church regulates the practice of offering and receiving stipends in canons 945-958 of the Code of Canon Law and in some later decrees on specific applications of the code.  Thus, in normal circumstances, a priest may only accept one stipend for any one Mass even though he may offer up the Mass for several intentions. 

The stipend is usually a fairly small sum by the standards of the developed world. Yet, until recently, Mass intentions distributed by the Holy See to poor missionaries often proved to be of no small help in their endeavors. Importantly, the person who has offered the stipend has not "bought a Mass," a thing which is patently impossible.  What has happened is that the priest has committed himself to celebrate a Mass according to the intentions of the person making the offering. This intention is most often to recommend the soul of a deceased person but may also be for the personal intentions of the living. 

Because the intention is essentially a spiritual act, its publication neither adds nor subtracts from its efficacy. Indeed, publicly announcing the intention is done for the comfort of the living and not for the benefit of the dead. 

Some parishes are content with posting a notice on a bulletin board or on its weekly broadsheet. Others prefer to announce the intention before Mass begins; others immediately after the greeting. Still others insert the name during the general intercessions. Any one of these solutions is possible.

Sometimes, mishaps can occur, such as when a priest forgets to read out a name or cannot find it. In this case it is enough that he celebrated according to the intention of the donor. If, on the other hand, he reads out the wrong name, and consequently celebrates the Mass for a different intention, then the parish should seek to remedy the situation by offering an alternative celebration at a suitable time.