Q. Why do Catholics have to pay for Masses?
A. We don’t “pay for Masses,” because we cannot possibly afford it, since the value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is infinite.But it’s good for the faithful to request a Mass for a specific intention and at the same time to make an offering to the priest to help support him and the Church.
Each Mass may be offered by the celebrant for one principalintention, which is often announced at the Mass. Typically, the intention of the Mass is also printed in the parish bulletin. The intention could be for anyone, living or dead.
Canon law regulates the practice of Mass offerings very closely (see Canons 945–958) and is particularly concerned that even the “appearance of trafficking or trading is to be excluded entirely from the offering for Masses” (947). The priest is free to accept or decline a request to celebrate a Mass for a specific intention, but once he has accepted it (even if there is no offering) that Mass must be celebrated within one year. It is never appropriate for a priest to deny a sacrament because he would not receive an offering for it.
Some priests who have adequate financial support will accept Mass offerings and then distribute them to priests in poorer regions of the world who really need that income.