Reviewing the various bulletins from other churches, I came across an interesting article about an ancient tradition in the Church regarding Mass offerings for special intentions.
Catholic tradition reveals that individuals can be assisted by the prayers of others, a belief that is first mentioned in the Old Testament Book of 2 Maccabees, Chapter 12. The pious Jew, Judas, took up a collection which was used to pray for those who had died in battle.
The practice of accepting a single offering for each Mass in return for the priest’s praying for that intention arose during the Middle Ages. This was one of the few ways in which people then could take a more active role in the Mass. By making an offering to the priest they were assured that their special intentions would be remembered at Mass.
A celebration of a particular Mass intention is among one of the many expressions of our Catholic tradition and piety. Masses can be offered for a number of various intentions: for the deceased; to pray for the Lord’s special blessings; to pray for the good health and well-being of an individual; in thanksgiving for the graces one has received.
When an offering is given for a special intention at Mass, it can be seen as similar to lighting a votive candle, a way of making a concrete action of prayer.