But what are we praying for, and why aren't we praying for everybody?
During the Offertory the Priest says, and the people pray: "We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the cup of salvation, humbly mercy: that in the sight of Thy divine majesty it may ascend as a sweet-smelling savour for our salvation and for that of the whole world."
We do indeed pray for everyone in the Canon of the Mass, the living and departed alike, for all their intentions. The purpose of Mass is to make present the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the good of the world and this does mean that we are presenting everyone's problems to Our Lord. He is concerned with our everyday lives, even at the minutiae, but the chief concern of the Christian Soul is to seek first the kingdom of God in times of trouble and in times of joy. God is an infinite resource and can micromanage things where it is necessary, but also wishes us to exercise free-will and thus may often choose to withdraw from micromanagement. The Lord is economical with His power, for our benefit.
Yes, we pray for all who suffer and we are to suffer with them. Yet it is not possible for one man in Toronto to suffer with an unknown little child in pain on the banks of the Ganges. He prays for people in such a case, but cannot single the child out. We can only do what we can. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves. Potentially, any other human being can be our neighbour, that's the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In reality, our love can only stretch as far as the people with whom we come into contact. It can intend to stretch around the globe, but in practice, only as far as we can personally experience. The Church, however, is the link between all who suffer, and it is the Church suffering with those who do suffer that can make the difference. Individual members of the Church "plug themselves" into the Church whenever they attend Mass.
So, in our parish, we can only remember those who are actually connected with the Parish in someway. The power of the laity is that they bring the memory of those who need pray to Mass. All Christians are called to be a blessing to the world, and it is by presenting the needs of those they meet to Almighty God that we make these supplications to God known in the sacrifice of the Mass. We pray for bodily relief from sickness because being ill is horrible, and we bring to God the desire for Him to bring some great good out of their illness. Sometimes that is a full healing, sometimes that is preparation for a happy death. For Christians, a happy death is guaranteed in our Faith in God, even if it is terrible for family and friends.
In remembering the suffering of others, we ourselves become not only more human, but more united as one human in one human being and thus united in God. Pain and suffering are part of the human lot, and we need to tell our priest if there is anyone who is in need of prayer as part of our Christian duty. The priest has a duty to present that prayer at the altar. This is why The List exists. Prayer will achieve something, namely the deepening of the relationship between humanity and God bringing comfort to those who need it and the hope that things will get better, even if the sickness is unto death.
The List may seem useless, but as an expression of the work of the Church, it is invaluable. It should not be used as a substitute for doing all that we can to help those who do suffer!