Prayer is central to the life of a Christian. In prayer, we give God thanks for our many blessings, but we also ask God to help us endure and overcome the challenges that beset us. We pray for ourselves and we pray for others, we pray for the living and we pray for the dead. Jesus told us of the necessity to “pray always without becoming weary.” (Luke 18:1).
The greatest prayer of all is the Mass itself because it is the perfect offering of Christ to the Father. All the needs of the world – past, present, and future – are gathered together in the paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Because of these two realities, the custom of offering a “special intention” as part of every Mass is almost as old as the Church itself. For example, “the Canons of Hippolytus (c. 235) explicitly mentions the offering of prayers for the dead during the Mass. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), in one of his many catechetical discourses, explained how at Mass both the living and dead are remembered, and how the Eucharistic Sacrifice of our Lord is of benefit to sinners, living and dead. St. Ambrose (d. 397) preached, ‘We have loved them during life; let us not abandon them in death, until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord.’” (Fr. William P. Saunders, The Catholic Herald, 8/25/05).
Continuing this longstanding Catholic practice, Saint Clement welcomes “Mass Intentions” from parishioners (and others). You can remember someone who has died recently or many years ago, you can even remember all your deceased family, friends and benefactors at one time. But the intentions do not have to be just for the dead: they make beautiful gifts for any special occasion: birthday, anniversary, in thanksgiving for a prayer answered, etc. And to offer an intention for someone who is struggling with a serious illness or other life trauma shows you want the Lord to support them in their need.