One part of Catholic culture that is sometimes hard to understand and very often misunderstood is the custom of offering Mass intentions.
When a priest celebrates Mass each day, he offers each celebration of the Eucharist for a particular person, or intention. By doing so he applies special graces from God upon that person or intention.
Similar to how we are able to intercede for others by our personal prayers, the Church is able to intercede for us through the celebration of the Mass. However, since the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” the Mass possess a power that our personal prayers do not.
The practice of offering Mass for particular intentions is an ancient one, dating back to the early Church.
Fr. William Saunders explains, “Inscriptions discovered on tombs in Roman catacombs of the second century [give] evidence [for] this practice: for example, the epitaph on the tomb of Abercius (d. 180), Bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia, begs for prayers for the repose of his soul. Tertullian (c. 200) attested to observing the anniversary of a spouse with prayers and sacrifices, i.e. the Mass.”
This tradition is also seen in St. Augustine’s Confessions (c. 397), where Monica asks Augustine, “One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.”
Canon Law confirms this practice and states, “In accord with the approved practice of the Church, any priest celebrating or concelebrating is permitted to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a specific intention” (Can. 945 §1).
Furthermore, it continues by saying, “The Christian faithful who give an offering to apply the Mass for their intention contribute to the good of the Church and by that offering share its concern to support its ministers and works” (945 §2).
What this refers to is a longstanding practice in the Church of offering a specified amount of money to the Church for a particular intention offered by the priest. Upon hearing this practice many people might be tempted to think it is “simony,” the selling of sacred things for money. However, the Baltimore Catechism explains, “It is not simony, or the buying of a sacred thing, to offer the priest money for saying Mass for our intention, because the priest does not take the money for the Mass itself, but for the purpose of supplying the things necessary for Mass and for his own support.”
While it is true that this custom has been abused in the past, the Church lays out specific rules regarding the money paid for Mass intentions. Each council of bishops determines the amount acceptable for the region, but the priest will offer a Mass for an intention even if someone doesn’t have the money for it. In many places the cost of a Mass intention is $10.
The important part is to remember that you are not paying for the graces from God (which are of infinite value and can not be paid for), but for the material things that are involved with celebrating that particular Mass. With that in mind it makes much more sense and is not something that should cause scandal.
Pope Paul VI said, “The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer!” It has immense power and countless miracles and conversions have occurred throughout the centuries by offering Masses for a specific intention or person. Mass intentions are a great treasure of the Church and have a spiritual weight that is incalculable
Art tells one story, history says another.
Often certain biblical phrases don’t get translated very well. Take for example the common translation of Matthew 13:55. The people of Nazareth question Jesus’ divine power by asking, “Is he not the carpenter’s son?”
This is, of course, in reference to Joseph, who is traditionally known as a “carpenter.” The translation has led to countless depictions of Joseph in Christian art as a man who labors in his wood shop, making chairs and tables all day.
However, the word used in this passage is not always as clear-cut and specific. The original Greek passage describes Joseph as a “tekton,” which had various meanings in the ancient world. According to one scholar, “Etymologically, the Greek term tektōn can be traced back to the Indo-European root tek- or teks- meaning to cut or fashion with an axe, but it also refers to weaving, building, fabricating and joining.” Additionally, “passages from the Iliad and the Odyssey have shown that tektones work with all kinds of materials and tools.”
These men were highly skilled laborers who were adept at doing all kids of work. Another commentator explains how a “tekton, could be a simple carpenter, but it could also mean master craftsman, working in either wood or masonry. A tekton was the person each village depended on to set their foundations right, or to build a properly functioning door. In other words, Joseph and his son, Jesus, were the go-to guys when you wanted to build a house for a growing family.”
One way to describe Joseph is that he may have been the “handyman” of the neighborhood who helped everyone with their projects, big or small. Another word to describe him would be “craftsman.”
This interpretation sheds more light on the work of St. Joseph and his foster-son Jesus. It pictures the two going around the village and getting asked by everyone to come over and fix their house. This also may explain why everyone in Nazareth knew Jesus as the “carpenter’s son.” Joseph and Jesus would be a frequent sight throughout the town, helping everyone with their projects.
In the end, while it may be true that Joseph was a carpenter as we normally think, it is also very likely that he could have been the “handyman” who was as skilled with wood as he was with stone or any other material.
Articles from aleteia.org
What did St. Joseph actually do as a carpenter?
Why do priests wear a white collar?
What Are Mass Intentions?
This and That
The liturgical custom is one of the oldest, dating back to the 4th century.
Before celebrating every Mass the priest (and deacon) approach the altar and kiss it. To some this practice seems rather odd, as altars are material objects of stone or wood and don’t seem to warrant any particular reverence.
What is the significance behind this ancient custom?
Kissing holy and sacred objects has been part of various world religions for thousands of years. The practice comes from cultures where the kiss was viewed as a sign of respect or used as a greeting and was naturally applied to objects that represented the divine.
Read more: Why Catholics kiss images, rosaries, and sometimes even the floor…
Outside of pagan worship there also grew a tradition in some cultures of kissing the dinner table at special occasions.
As Christians developed the liturgy they adapted customs from their own culture and gave them new significance. Kissing the altar was one of them and was quickly attached to the actions of the priest at Mass.
The altar receives its importance in connection with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that is celebrated upon it. It has been set apart for this purpose and the bishop consecrates it when it is installed in a new church. The ceremony of consecration mimics in some ways the baptism of a new Christian as the bishop uses holy oils to bless the altar and vests it with a white garment after the prayers have been completed.
Kissing the altar can then be viewed as honoring the special role it has in the liturgy and the consecration it was given by the bishop.
Symbolically the altar is often said to represent Jesus Christ, the “cornerstone” of the Church (cf. Ephesians 2:20). During the history of the liturgy the priest would sometimes kiss the altar before blessing the people, symbolizing how the blessing came from God, not the priest.
Additionally, over time relics of saints were inserted into the altar and when the priest kissed the altar, he would be kissing the relics as well.
Read more: How to venerate a saint’s relic
So while it is true that altars are material objects, they have been set apart for a specific purpose and kissing the altar recognizes its privileged role and relation to the divine sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
It started out as something from popular fashion and then later took on a deeper spiritual meaning.
The “Roman collar,” a white band that goes around the neck of a priest (or clergy members of some Protestant congregations), remains one of the most distinctive elements of clerical vesture. It speaks more loudly than any words and clearly identifies clergy members in a crowd of any size.
However, it is a rather strange piece of clothing. Where did it come from?
It wasn’t until the 12th and 13th centuries that priests adopted the Roman cassock as a distinctive piece of clothing that visually separated them from the laity. A few centuries later the cassock was regulated to be the color black and it was during this time period that the white collar came into existence.
At the time the current fashion was to wear a linen collar over the top of a person’s clothing. According to Matthew Bunson, “This became accepted custom, and by the 17th century there were many forms of this linen collar, such as the ornate Roman variety, the collarino, of ornate and expensive lace, and the French adopted the collars worn by the noble classes, of linen and fine lace.”
However, Pope Urban VIII in 1624 further regulated the use of the collar and proclaimed that any ornamentation or lace was forbidden.
As the years progressed different variations of the Roman collar were developed, and Protestants developed their own traditions to distance themselves from the Church. However, it is believed that a Protestant minister in the 19th century invented the modern-day removable collar and it was further popularized by the Oxford Movement at the time.
Spiritually it has become representative of a priest’s consecration to God and his role as someone set apart for priestly service. Some priests see it as a symbol of their “slavery” to God, showing the world who is their true Master.
Additionally, because many priests find it rather uncomfortable, the collar has become a way of performing a daily penance to God, offering up the sacrifice for the people the priest serves.
The collar remains a distinctive sign of the priest’s availability and the permanent nature of Holy Orders. The priest “is not his own” and is a visible sign of Jesus Christ, present in the midst of everyday life, ready to reconcile sinners and bring souls back to God.
And why do we have to pay for them?
This is why the Priest kisses the altar at Mass