“Ask a Priest: Are We Paying for Prayers at Mass?”

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Q: A Protestant friend asked me why we Catholics pay to have a priest offer the Mass for a loved one. Are we paying for prayers? I didn’t know how to answer her. – K.V.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: A few clarifications might help here.

First, a priest is not obliged to require an offering for celebrating a Mass. Canon law encourages him to accept a Mass intention even when he hasn’t received an offering (see Canon 945).

Second, it’s not so much that Catholics are paying a priest for a Mass for a loved one. Rather, the faithful are offering a stipend as a financial sacrifice as a way to support of the Church’s ministers and hence its wider mission of evangelization.

The amount of the stipend is usually set by the diocese. In the U.S. the normal suggested stipend is $10.

In reality, $10 barely covers a small part of the actual cost, if we consider the lights and heating that are needed in a church, as well as the amount of time and travel that a priest might expend in preparing for and getting to the Mass. And remember, hundreds of people can attend the same Mass for which one lone stipend was offered.

In cases where a person couldn’t afford even a $10 stipend, a priest could still offer a Mass for the requested intention.

It’s fitting for the faithful to help sustain ministers financially — “for the laborer deserves his payment” (Luke 10:7). Even Jesus relied on benefactors to help him with his mission (see Luke 8:1-3). Protestant pastors can identify with that.

In any case, a priest can also add on secondary intentions (no stipend required), since the spiritual fruits of a Mass can be endless.

For more reading, see the Canon Law Made Easy posting on stipends. I hope some of this helps.

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One Comment
  1. Yes, the word is DONATION to ‘offer a Mass’ for loved one who is ill. It does support ‘the church’ which is the ministerial priest who offers the Mass. For that $10, as Father said, there are the many who also attend said Mass and also are saying a prayer for the person or persons mentioned in the Mass intention. ‘ONE BODY OF CHRIST’ through His HOLY CHURCH going up to heaven. (including the prayers of the ministerial priest who on the altar is representative of Christ)

    What to say to your protestant friend? IGNORE her or he. . . no words will suffice those who do not understand. If one must say something, say . . . Of what concern is it to you how I donate to the One Holy Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ? (wait for your friend to respond… but don’t hold your breath) Or perhaps
    a friendly with smile, its my privilege to support my ministerial priests as they pray for my loved one’s.
    Then, walk away . . .this friend is ‘baiting’ for a ‘debate’ or a quarrel. DON’T BITE at the bait.

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