Pope Francis encourages it.

Any Catholic may offer up a Mass for any good intention — for the repose of the soul of a deceased person, in gratitude, for a birthday or anniversary, for instance.

“This is a genuine exercise of the royal or common priesthood of the faithful,” writes Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, in his regular column for the Zenit Catholic News Agency.

These prayers are meaningful and part of the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church.

Tertullian, the church father, writing about A.D. 200, encouraged widows to pray for their lost spouse’s soul and to “offer her sacrifice on the anniversaries of his falling asleep.”

Those private intentions, throughout the centuries, however, are a bit different from what many Catholics know as “Mass intentions,” prayers of the priest that show up in the bulletin. These Mass intentions are when the celebrant offers up a Mass for the intention of a parishioner — or even a non-parishioner.

Most requests for Mass intentions are for deceased loved ones, although Dianna Cooper, office manager at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northeast Portland, says that a good third of the requests that she books are for other reasons.

Business manager Cathy Keathley at St. Joseph the Worker Parish says so many requests come in at that Southeast Portland parish that the first available Sunday Mass is two months out.

Selene Oropeza, the receptionist at St. Anthony Parish in Tigard, agrees that Father John Henderson, pastor, receives so many requests for Mass intentions that if a person wants a certain date they should make their request months ahead of time.

In the United States, a recommended stipend in most parishes and dioceses is $10 for a single Mass intention. However, according to the Archdiocese of Portland’s liturgical handbook, “at the same time it is recommended earnestly to priests that they celebrate Mass for the intentions of the Catholic faithful, especially the needy, even if they have not received an offering.”

Still, the Code of Canon Law states that those members of the faithful who give Mass stipends are contributing to the good of the Church, for they share in the Church’s concern for the support of its ministers.

Pope Francis, however, seems to prefer individual prayers of intention: “If I have someone who is in need, relatives and friends, I can name them in that moment, internally in silence,” he said.

He spoke about stipends at a general audience in 2018, saying, “The Mass is not paid for, redemption is free. If you want to make an offering okay, but the Mass cannot be paid for.”