Canon Law requires that each pastor celebrate one of the Sunday Masses with the intention being “Pro Populo”. The Latin meaning of Pro Populo is “for the people.”
In general, a “Mass Intention” is the specific purpose that the priest and those who are aware of the intention are explicitly raising up before God and naming it aloud – not the individualized intentions brought into church by parishioners. Yet we know that each person carries his/her own intentions to Mass: the worry for a child whose marriage is struggling, concern for the upcoming election, needed strength during an illness, or the fortitude to stand up to a bully. We also carry intentions without knowing it: the distracted teenager worrying about whether the girl will say “yes” when asked to go to the dance; the hurt divorcée in need of emotional healing; the quiet loner yearning for friendship.
While the duty of the pastor requires the Pro Populo Mass, it is one of my favorite actions of the weekend. As I look out on each of you during the Mass, I recall the things that I have heard from people during the week: a spouse in the hospital, a struggling family relationship, a lost job, homelessness. And, feeling the weight of those challenges, I place those intentions on the altar. Realizing that there are many unnamed (even unknown) intentions, I place every single one of those needs on the altar also. It seems and feels like a very unique way to care for and love the parish family in which God has placed me.
Know that I pray, imperfectly as it may be, for your individual needs at the Mass offered each weekend at St. Joseph, Pro Populo.
Yours in Christ, Fr. Josh McCarty