On our baptismal days, my husband, my kids, and I know what to expect from my mother- and father-in-law: a card-sized white envelope, our names written on the outside in my mother-in-law’s naturally calligraphic hand. Within is the same card every time, one with an image of a stained glass window and these words in gold, “May the Peace and Blessing of Almighty God descend upon you and remain with you forever.”
Inside the card our parish secretary has typed (with a typewriter!) the date and time of the Mass that will be offered for us. This information will be transferred to the church bulletin the week of said Mass, and our names will be specifically included in the Prayers of the Faithful on the chosen date. We’ll make a special effort to be at that Mass, to show our thanks.
If you’ve ever wondered how those names of the living and dead make their way into the Prayers of the Faithful, here you go. Mass Cards are the gift that keeps on giving, the thing that you get for the person who seems to have everything.
What is a Mass Card?
A Mass Card is a physical manifestation of an intention offered for an individual or family. It’s a way to tell the person being prayed for about the intention. It can be a welcome gesture for celebratory events like birthdays, baptismal days, and wedding anniversaries, or a means of remembering the dead to relatives on their anniversaries.
Offering prayers for the living and the dead is a spiritual work of mercy. A small donation to the church may be suggested when you go to obtain one, but this doesn’t mean you’re paying for indulgences. No financial payment is necessary to have prayers offered for someone you have in your heart or on your mind.
How Do You Get One?
At my parish, the process is very simple. You either call or email the parish secretary with the name of the person for whom the Mass will be offered and a few suggested dates on which you’d like the Mass to be celebrated. “As soon as possible” is an okay answer for the latter, as is a feast day for a particular Saint or the actual day being marked by the prayer. There is generally a limit to how many intentions can be offered at one Mass, so the sooner you make your request, the better.
When the prayer card is ready—usually later that day because our secretary is wonderful—you stop in to pick it up, offering about $10 per Mass, if it’s possible. More or less is okay, too. My parish is always grateful for financial help in keeping our ministries afloat. I appreciate the opportunity to help in this way.
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Why Do We Have Mass Cards?
As I mentioned above, praying for the living and the dead is a spiritual act of mercy. The Church is a community—a moving, living being—and we are called to care for each other. Prayer is one such way we can do that. In my experience, the times I’ve prayed for myself have been powerful, but the prayers others have offered for me (when we lost a baby to miscarriage, for instance, or even recently, as we moved across town), have been even more so.
The Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” and the graces therein are real. Trusting in and offering the benefits of this Sacrament, instituted by Christ, works to build up the Kingdom and support our loved ones in times of need and in times of joy.
In light of the recent Pew Study that less than a third of self-identifying Catholics believe in the True Presence of the Eucharist, I would love to see a Mass Card revival. Let’s each offer a Mass for someone in our circles this year. Maybe as a gift in a family Secret Santa, perhaps for a friend mourning the loss of a parent, or even simply for a friend on her birthday. Let’s live out the truth of the beauty and power of the Eucharist.
An Act of Trust
We know that prayers aren’t magic. Miracles happen. But more often God moves at a pace that feels slow to our worldly mindsets. Offering a Mass for someone shows trust and patience in God’s timing. It honors God for who He is and what He can do. It praises Him for His goodness and petitions Him with the confidence of a child. It reminds the person for whom the Mass is offered that she is loved and worthy, just as she was created to be.
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Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God who seeks to encourage, inspire, and lift up the contemporary woman to be all she was created to be. She’s the author of Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God, as well as shorter nonfiction and fiction pieces, both online and in print. With joy, she speaks about recognizing God’s voice and living the truth therein. Lindsay lives in New Jersey with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-