Rethinking the Prayer of the Faithful

I mentioned in a comment on another thread that I found the format of the prayer of the faithful in a booklet from a papal Mass interesting. This got me thinking about how we do this part of the Mass. I have been at liturgies where this has been a sublime moment. I have been at other liturgies at which it has been banal at best and cringe-inducing at worst. A lot of variables go into making this part of the Mass “work” — are the intentions locally composed or taken from a book? If locally composed, are they written by the person leading them or by someone else? Are the intentions tied to the Scripture reading and the homily? Are the intentions brief and poetic or lengthy mini-homilies?

Structure is also, I think, an issue. More could be done in terms of the actual format of the prayers to make them the prayer of the entire assembly. What I have generally experienced is something along the lines of this:

  • Celebrant: Spoken introduction.
  • Deacon or Lector: Spoken intentions.
  • Congregation: Spoken response.
  • Celebrant: Spoken concluding collect.

Occasionally, but in my experience rarely, you see this format chanted. Particularly when spoken and particularly when the intentions are lengthy and complicated, this can become one more block of words that the congregation is expected to digest, even though they have just had a heaping helping of words in the readings and homily.

At our parish, we have tried to spice up this basic format up a bit during certain liturgical seasons:

  • Celebrant: Spoken “let us pray.”
  • Congregation: Sung refrain: “Let my prayers rise up like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you” while the lector puts incense on a brazier by the ambo.
  • Deacon or Lector: Spoken intentions.
  • Congregation: Spoken response.
  • (At the end) Congregation: Sung refrain repeated.

The sung refrain at least given a bit of a change of register from the spoken word, and the use of incense engages both sight and smell as well as hearing.

In the papal Mass, the intercessions took this form:

  • Pope: Introduction.
  • Deacon: Invitation to prayer for each intention given (e.g. “Let us pray for the Church”).
  • A period of silence. 
  • Various lay people in various languages: The intentions themselves. 
  • Cantor and Congregation: Sung versicle and response (v: Dominum deprecemur; r: Te rogamus, audi nos.)
  • Pope: concluding collect.
This is reminiscent of the Solemn Prayers on Good Friday, which were likely the original form of the Prayer of the Faithful in Rome. It is interesting because it allows the deacon to fulfill his traditional role while also allowing for the lay leadership and multiple languages that have become the norm in papal Masses. What I particularly like is how it incorporates two things that are often lacking in the prayer of the faithful: silence and song. As I’ve said, too often this part of the Mass becomes a barrage of more words, after which one is left wondering if one has actually prayed.
The form from the papal Mass might seem a bit too elaborate for normal parish use, so perhaps the following might work:
  • Celebrant: Introduction.
  • Deacon or lector: Spoken intention.
  • A period of silence.
  • Cantor and Congregation: Sung versicle and response.
  • Celebrant: Concluding collect.

This would be briefer, while still having periods of silence that would allow the assembly itself to have “space” to pray, as well as singing, which introduces a different aural register. Perhaps on solemn occasions the whole thing could be sung, though many assemblies would probably find it easier to absorb spoken intentions.

What do others think? In your experience, what has made the prayer of the faithful effective? What has made it ineffective?

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41 comments

  1. Fritz, Episcopalians kneel during the Prayer of the Faithful, as a Catholic I was surprised that they did so. However, I have found it to increase everyone’s attention to the intercessory prayers. Adding this dimension might increase it’s importance?

  2. Thank you for this… I am going to show it to my boss, and to the parish where I worship. As the person who prepares the intentions for both parishes, I would like to explore ways to make the prayer more effective. So often I feel like it is read/prayed and the responses are mumbled back (note: especially when I change it and confusion reigns).

    I get feedback from priests, other liturgical ministers, and so forth – it is too long, it is too short, can we combine two intentions into one. The best thing for me in terms of helping me shape a better prayer, is when I am the second lector on deaconless days… as I stand at the ambo I have a very different experience.

    How I ramble on, I will stop and I am curious about what others have to say.

  3. The Prayers of the Faithful could be as elegantly presented as they are at a Papal Mass and it would constitute a vast improvement. The Prayers of the Faithful could be characterized by spontaneity rather than prepared in advance by…whomever prepares them…and it would constitute a vast improvement. The Prayers of the Faithful could be standardized and sung in imitation of the litanies of intercession found in the Byzantine liturgy with the response “Lord, have mercy” and it would constitute a vast improvement over what we usually see today.

    As things stand in most parishes, however, the Universal Prayer is an absolute bore that is endured rather than enjoyed. If it’s going to continue as-is, the intercessions should be limited to three or four and not permitted to go on endlessly, as if anybody’s still paying attention as the seventh or eighth or ninth trite and excessively-wordy intercession is nasally honked-out by some untalented lay lector.

    “At our parish, we have tried to spice up this basic format up a bit during certain liturgical seasons:
    •Celebrant: Spoken “let us pray.”
    •Congregation: Sung refrain: “Let my prayers rise up like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you” while the lector puts incense on a brazier by the ambo.
    •Deacon or Lector: Spoken intentions.
    •Congregation: Spoken response.
    •(At the end) Congregation: Sung refrain repeated.”

    Now that’s thinking. That’s lovely, actually, and much more like worship than like torture.

  4. …and the incense lends a nice scriptural dimension to it.

    Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! Psalm 141:2

  5. The prayer of the faithful should be entirely optional for any Mass of the fourth, third, or second class. At Masses without bidding prayers, it would sufficient for a priest to simply pronounce oremus/”let us pray” before the offertory, as with the EF. Local customs such as the recitiation of the Hail Mary after the sermon could easily be accomplished by an introduction such as “Let us pray for Our Lady’s intercession …” after the conclusion of the sermon. A priest or deacon could deliver his sermon and the invocation for prayer right from the pulpit.

    I would propose that a parish should make every effort to find a deacon to preside over the Prayer of the Faithful on solemnities in addition to his other liturgical duties at Mass. The litanies used should be modeled on the papal celebration and uniformly used within a country or jurisdiction, with due modification by episcopal conference.

    I am not a fan of the Prayer of the Faithful, and my wish to see its use strictly reduced is quite intentional. When in college, not a few priests practiced the lay extemporaneous version of the Prayer of the Faithful during ferial Masses. While presumably well intentioned, “and what would you wish to pray for …” almost always resulted in one person whose “petition” lasted two minutes and included diverse topics not necessarily related. Similarly, I have heard Sunday parish prayers which include references to the parish raffle etc.

    I know that a litany is a historical feature of the Roman rite. Its reintroduction in recent age has in not a few cases disintegrated into disorder. Like it says in the food pyramid, “use sparingly”.

  6. My experience:
    Fourteen years ago the parish I attended got a new priest. We had a group of parishioners and him over to my house for a cookout and a get to know you gathering. As the evening drew to a close, I asked, “Father, what is something that you would like us to do?” He said, “I think it would be nice if there were a way for the parishioners to write Prayers of the Faithful.”

    That began a discussion which formed a committee and set up a meeting. At the meeting he gave us a photocopy of the current GIRM guidelines for the Prayers, and gave us his advice:
    1) Brevity is better than eloquence if you can’t do both.
    2) Action words ‘will’ instead of ‘may’ for example are preferred because after all, ‘we pray pray with confidence’.
    3) It is a good idea to reflect a theme from the readings in the prayers
    4) In most cases, general is better than specific
    5) Avoid things like “that out football team will win”

    It worked well for a long time. I have been gone from that parish 8 years and I do not know if they still do that. There is a person who does it at my current parish, and I think they would benefit (and so would we) by following some of the things my former priest suggested, particularly 1 and 2 above.

  7. I agree with those who suggest the need for improvement. I especially like Fritz’s idea. Will speak with music director and worship committee to explore possibilities. It can be dreadful in terms of length and monotony. During Lent the people did respond in song using English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. They respond well, but it takes more time. Jordan, we don’t have classes of Masses any longer save for various levels of solemnity and song. I guess that still perdures with EF?

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #7:

      You are right, Jack. When it comes to level of solemnity I am still thinking in the old system. The three classes (types?) are now “memorial”, “feast”, and “solemnity”. In this case then, I would hope that the Prayer of the Faithful is optional for all days but solemnities.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #8:
        The three types you mention denote seasonal and saints’ propers (including feasts of the Lord). The level of solemnity applies more widely than to these categories. For example, in the differentiation of Sunday, the day of the Lord, from week days.

  8. Introducing incense into a place where it never was used diminshes its effectiveness. Even a Greek Catholic or Orthodox deacon does not have the censer when singing the litanies. The best idea here is a litany, modeled after the Litany of Supplication in the Divine Liturgy, which happens at essentially the same point as in the Mass. The petitions are consistent, thorough, and general (General Intercessions anyone?) and always sung by the deacon (or priest if there is no deacon).
    This one point more than any other is in need of reform because no form was written when the new Mass was put together and has lead to a host of banalities and at times, abuses. One thing is clear though, it is proper to the deacon when there is one celebrating.

    1. @John Kohanski – comment #9:
      Regarding general vs. specific intentions, I’ve found the opposite to be true. Intentions that are very broad and general, “for the church, for the poor…” tend to be generic and boring, having no concrete connection to the concerns of the local community.

      Rather than praying for “all who are hungry,” we’ll pray for “the people served by our St. Vincent de Paul society, the Interfaith Food Pantry, and Cosgrove’s Kitchen in East St. Louis.”

      Also, when I write the intercessions each week I have the lectionary in one hand and the newspaper in the other. When a woman was murdered just up the street in a domestic violence incident we prayed for her by name and for all victims of domestic violence. When a man was found dead of a heroin overdose in a gas station restroom across town, we prayed for him by name and all who struggle with addiction. When congress was debating immigration reform a few weeks ago, we had specific prayers for that. Some would say these are too specific, but done well it can be engaging. It’s not unheard of for people to leave our church talking not about the homily or the music, but about one of the Prayers of the Faithful that day.

      1. @Scott Pluff – comment #10:
        Scott, Petitions that are too specific can also be very off-putting or exclusive to visitors or non-parishioners, (or even for those parishioners there who have similar needs but were not mentioned by name while “so and so” was) effectively making people feel like outsiders in a liturgy that should encompass all. However when praying a petition and there is an immediate or overwhelming local need, saying something like: “We pray for those departed this life, especially N., …” can be completely appropriate. And honestly, where is the line drawn? Especially on political issues garnered from a newspaper. If you never have, please read the petitions of the Litany of Supplication or Insistent Litany from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which can be found in a Google search.
        I don’t know what to say if people walk out talking about the petitions and not the scripture lessons or homily.

      2. @Scott Pluff – comment #10:
        I like that approach very much. Being specific makes it real. Naturally you have to be careful that it excludes no one, especially if it’s connected at all to politics: it really depends on the writer.

        A few moments for people’s personal intentions can also be a very special moment. It transforms the parish into a community. We hear what’s on people’s minds, and join our prayers to theirs.

        The music, chanting, speaking don’t matter to me: I am intensely interested in the words.

        The prayer of the faithful is both my favorite and my least favorite part of the Mass!

      3. @Scott Pluff – comment #10:

        Lectionary and newspaper! And everything else you said! In fact, while I wait to write the intercessions until Thursday, I usually wait to print them up on Friday, checking the internet a final time for world and local news.

        I used to be more general…but as time has gone by they have become more specific, but with an eye on the general. e.g. during Lent and Easter, we pray for “all of the Elect/new baptized, especially N. and N.” Afterall, everyone knows N. in our small parish. It would be silly to pretend we didn’t. Unlike John in #17 below, I’ve learned that I’ve received more positive feedback, the more specific they are (and we have lots of visitors in the summer…about half the assembly…but they always comment how they love the sense of community in our urban downtown parish).

        Also receiving positive feedback:
        * Lots of prayers for people of non-Chrstians faiths on holy days important to them. Not just Jews, but Muslims, Hindus, Sihks, etc. I’ve had people express to me how happy they are able to pray for neighbors and co-workers.
        * Call and Responses tied to the major liturgical seasons. (“We pray to the Lord/Lord Hear our Prayer” is only for Ordinary Time)

        And the most important thing I’ve learned is teaching both deacons and laity how to proclaim the intercessions as if they are a prayer. It’s not proclaiming scripture. It’s not announcing the next stops on the bus. But they are prayers. Tenderness in one’s voice goes a long way to make the petitions more powerful.

    2. @John Kohanski – comment #9:

      I’m not sure about that. Incensing is very frequent during Eastern Catholic and Orthodox liturgies, and if the deacon or celebrant isn’t incensing during the litanies it’s because the (repetitive) litanies comprise a good deal of the liturgy. If a Byzantine Rite celebrant incensed during the litanies, he would be incensing almost constantly…rather like the Coptic Orthodox and the Armenian Apostolics who do, more or less, incense constantly.

      In any event, the idea presented–that of grains of incense being burned on a stationary brazier during the General Intercessions–is a different idea than a thurifer swinging a thurible or of a celebrant incensing the altar with one. To me, the idea seems liturgically plausible and edifying.

      1. @James Murphy – comment #11:
        James–I was a member of a Greek Catholic parish for over 10 years, and attend them as well as Orthodox parishes on occasion still. The deacon holds the orarion up with his left hand and the book in the other while chanting the litanies. The only time there is incensation during a litany is at a panachida (memorial service).

  9. I wish we could settle on one name for these prayers. General Intercessions, Prayers of the Faithful, Universal Prayer, Intentions, blah blah blah…

  10. I think we may have had a similar thread before. Just a few points:

    (1) The Latin Oratio Universalis or “Universal Prayer” means “the prayer that belongs to everybody”. “General intercessions” is the best translation we have for this term.

    (2) The name is actually a misnomer, in that what is announced, or should be announced, are not prayers themselves but intentions for prayer.

    (3) Therefore

    (a) Phraseology that begins “We pray” removes the prayer from everybody and reserves it to the person announcing the intentions or the person who wrote them. “Let us pray” is better, because it is an invitation to everyone pray and does not make any assumptions, put words into people’s mouths, or take away the assembly’s freedom to formulate its own prayer.

    (b) Similarly, intentions that begin “For…..” and then include the word “that” followed by a subjunctive clause are putting thoughts into the assembly’s head instead of proposing a category within which they can formulate their own prayer. But beginning an intention with “That….” both tells the assembly who it is that is being prayed for and why.

    (c) In other words, “Let us pray for……” or just “For…….” is fine, as long as you don’t then say “that s/he/they/it may blahblahblah” or similar. The simpler the announcement, the better.

    (d) The sample formularies in Appendix V of the Roman Missal are often incorrect in this regard. They have been drafted by people who do not actually understand the nature of the prayer that is taking place at this point in the rite. Only numbers 2, 3, 6, 7 and 11 appear to follow the parameters outlined above.

    (4) GIRM 71 specifies that the deacon announces the intentions for prayer, or if no deacon, a cantor, or if no cantor, a reader, or if no reader, some other lay person. There is a clear order of preference here. The inclusion of the cantor in the list does not necessarily indicate that the announcement of intentions is to be sung. Singing the intentions can be a barrier to the people comprehending what they are being asked to pray about.

    (5) The introduction is addressed by the presider to the people (NB, not to God), inviting them to pray for the concerns of the community in the light of the readings that have been proclaimed; the concluding prayer is addressed by the presider to God (NB, not to the people), asking God to hear the prayers of the community. I often hear presiders introducing the intercessions by saying “Lord God, we bring to you our petitions blahblahblah” instead of “Let us bring our petitions….” and formulating the concluding collect along the lines of “We know that God loves us and we ask him to listen to our prayers, in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord” instead of “Loving God, we know that you love us. Listen to our prayers and, if it is your will, grant us what we ask, in the name of your Son….”

    (6)

    (a) After the announcement of each intention, there should be a distinct silence ― 10-15 seconds is not too long ― to give the people time to pray about what they have been asked to pray about, before the invitation to respond is given (see below).

    (b) A good way of doing this is for the cantor to be responsible for singing “Lord, in your mercy” before the people sing “hear our prayer” (or whatever V/ and R/ you are using). That puts the responsibility of judging the silent pause on the cantor, not on the nervous or even insensitive deacon or reader, who will tend to rush on from the announcement of the intention straight into the invitation to respond. That silence will seem to last much longer to the person “managing” the pause than it is in reality. The trick is for the person managing the silence to allow three times as long as they are personally comfortable with. It will seem like an eternity to them, but in fact will be just right for the people. The resultant prayerfulness really changes the way this time of intercession feels for the community.

    (c) So, if your pattern is “That….., let us pray to the Lord”, leave that substantial pause before “let us pray to the Lord” or “we pray to the Lord”.

    (d) Not doing this reduces the general intercessions to a mere catalogue, a shopping list of things we’d like God to do for us. It is supposed to be a time of prayer. The sample formularies in Appendix V add yet more words to an already-overburdened liturgy of words, and do not appear to have considered the role of silence in the intercessions, and the omission of the intercessions in GIRM 56 (lifted from the General Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, #28) is a cause for much regret.

    (e) Treating the intercessions in this way makes it less necessary to find other symbolic additions such as incense to hold the attention of the people.

    (7) I often hear deacons or lectors saying at the end of the intentions something like “Let us now pray [for a while] in silence for our own [personal] intentions”, and I always want to stand up and shout “No! That is not what the rite is asking us to do at this point. We should be praying for other people’s intentions, for all the things that others have asked to pray about. These are the General Intercessions, not the Personal or Individual Intercessions. It’s the prayer of all of us as a body, not us as individuals. It’s not about me-me-me-me-me but about us-us-us-us-us.” We really need to start to get this right. It’s not too late to re-orientate it.

    (8) As with the intentions for prayer, the amount of time that the presider leaves after this announcement of time to pray for others’ intentions is often much too short. Often we hear “Let us now pray for a while in silence…” and are then given only 3-4 seconds at the most, which is not nearly long enough to allow prayer really to get going. Once again, 10-15 seconds is what we should be aiming for.

  11. In my experience, the last form you describe is exactly what works well. What works the least is what’s most common: a steady stream of spoken words, apparently based on the misperception that the bidding IS the prayer.

    When I was working in parishes and had a responsibility for drafting these, an extremely simple and modest change to the “script” made a significant improvement: putting “[pause]” after each bidding itself. That’s the least that can be done to make things better.

  12. I agree with almost all of the critiques and suggestions above in terms of the formulation of biddings, silence for prayer, sung common responses, and so on. I’d go even further in proposing a hybrid based on the old Roman intercession pattern, the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and a pattern singing I experienced at St. Nicholas Church in Amsterdam while I was backpacking through Europe in 1990:

    INTRODUCTION
    Let us pray for the whole People of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people, according to their needs. (LBW)

    BIDDINGS (BCP, Form II, p. 385, ff.)
    I ask your prayers for God’s people throughout the world;
    for our Bishop(s)__________; for this gathering; and for all
    ministers and people.
    Pray for the Church.

    [N.B. (1) The direct, first-person address (by the deacon?) to the assembly, (2) the possibility of listing several “suggestions” for prayer in this category, moving from the universal to the specific, presumably to prompt each worshipper to conjure up their own intentions in this category, (3) the final imperative setting up the silent prayer.]

    SILENT PRAYER

    KYRIE (as at St. Nicholas in Amsterdam)
    (1) Cantor: Lord, have mercy.
    (2) Schola/Choir: Lord, have mercy.
    (3) Whole Assembly: Lord, have mercy.

    [N.B. the “movement” out of silent prayer by a single (unamplified) voice, a few voices, and then everyone]

    This pattern might repeat only a handful of times, but gathering and suggesting a host of intentions for intercessory prayer:

    I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations;
    and for the well-being of all people.
    Pray for justice and peace.

    I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the
    oppressed, and those in prison.
    Pray for those in any need or trouble.

    I ask your prayers for the departed [especially___________ ],
    Pray for those who have died.

    COLLECT
    or conclusion such as in LBW: Into your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, through Christ our Lord.

  13. In reading more carefully Paul Inwood’s comments above, I realize I have pretty much only added an “Amen” to his comments. I do think this Form II in the BCP is especially compelling, however, and relieves much of the difficulty of shoe-horning a sometimes necessary laundry list of intentions into a litanic form that demands brevity.

  14. I have seen several books on Amazon which claim to lay out Intercessions for each proper of the three year cycle. Does anyone have any experience with these books?

  15. In a Catholic parish I visited recently the celebrant introduced the Litany of the Faithful by singing from the Anglican prayer book, “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church”. The deacon/cantor chanted general intentions for the Church, pope and local bishop, priests and deacons, the sick, travelers, the lonely, the dying, the faithful departed.

    I like the idea of keep the General Prayer “general”. Otherwise, the litany turns into a preachy collection of pet peeves, concerns, and private grievances. There’s a place for this in a less formal setting and I think works better in a smaller setting, but a large principal liturgy on sundays and feastdays? I don’t know. Maybe, as an add-on.

    The deacon at the Mass I attended does everything from a high ambo. After each petition there was silence. Then the people and choir sang “Kyrie Eleison”, or “Lord hear my prayer”.

    There’s something to say for clean, direct, short petitions, and in the form of a litany. I like the idea of the deacon/lector/cantor putting incense into a brazier after each request for prayer and psalm 141 as a choral response. It gives the prayer a strong visual element, but beware the liturgy police and pharisees who cite the GIRM chapter and verse.

  16. I am a little confused at the need for adding antiphons and incense, etc., at the Universal Prayers (otherwise known as the bidding prayers and as the prayers of the faithful).
    There is nothing inherently boring in these prayers, which begin with a priestly biding, continue with an intercessor’s petitions and the people’s offering up of those petitions. I see in some of the falderol being suggested here an (incorrect) assumption that this part of the liturgy is without appeal or pizzazz and needs to be gussied up; you know, like we have gussied up so many other parts of the liturgy. Lover of insense that I am, I know of no ritual precedent or rubrical dictat that either requires or permits its use at this point for these prayers. It seems to me, as a matter of fact, that the use of incense in the liturgy is to bless and honour the altar and to bless the sacred ministers and finally the people at the offertory, and, finally to bless the Eucharistic species at the elevation. There is no need for incense at the universal prayers, nor license to insert an antiphon (no matter how lovely and a propos it may be). If these prayers are not going to be chanted, they should be entrusted ONLY to a skilled speaker who can breathe life into every word and every petition, who speaks with authority. What I have described, though, is second choice: first choice is that THESE prayers, along with ALL others, ALL dialogue, ALL the ordinary (including creed), ALL the readings, and ALL of anything else I left out (with the possible exception of the homily) should be sung, chanted. Do this while simutaneously eschewing the addition of so much as one syllable into the mass that is not a part of the ritual text, and we will have arrived at the implied and inherent paradigm of Vatican II. (And, lest there be any question: I speak of the Novus Ordo as it was meant to be celebrated at least at the principal mass in every cathedral, parish, and religious foundation every Sunday and Solemnity).

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #28:

      first choice is that THESE prayers, along with ALL others, ALL dialogue, ALL the ordinary (including creed), ALL the readings, and ALL of anything else I left out (with the possible exception of the homily) should be sung, chanted.

      This is, of course, what the Orthodox do, and it has one major problem: when everything is sung, everything sounds the same. Not only is there no light and shade, but none of the different parts of the liturgy can be distinguished from each other, nor their literary genres. Readings sound like prayers, acclamations sound like litanies. Differentiating between spoken and sung texts has an important architectural function in liturgy. Generally speaking, we sing the more important parts, thus highlighing them. Once everything is sung, you have reduced it all to a Lowest Common Denominator. And at an anthropological level, once everything is sung, you start to tune it out. Contrast and variety helps people to focus.

      So I disagree completely with the statement we will have arrived at the implied and inherent paradigm of Vatican II. Only in your mind, MJO.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #29:
        Dear PI –
        I do not experience totally sung liturgy, whether it be the rite of St John Chrysostum, the Roman rite, the Anglican use, or any of its other numerous uses, as so many indistinguishable chants following helter skelter upon themselves and making of the liturgy the sort of musical mush that you seem to experience. Rather, each part has its own distinctive chant idiom which differs in style, complexity, sprit and mode from the others. This is as true of western as of eastern traditions. One can discern immediately from the texture of the chant whether one is hearing the gospel or the prophecy, a collect or an eucharistic prayer, ordinary, dialogue, people’s responds, or schola’s antiphons. The totally sung liturgy has a tremendously electrical energy which excites from beginning to end as each person or group spontaneously interacts with the others in song. I suggest strongly but with respect to you that the confusion you describe arises from the culturally infortuitous eventuality by which we have reared generations of people tho (they insist) are lost (rather than found!) at completely sung masses. If Mass were done as it was meant to be every Sunday people wouldn’t find it strange; rather, they would own it and treasure it. As it is, we have all been robbed, and most of us are ignorant of it… and quite a few liturgical iconocalsts want us to keep it that way. It is spoken liturgy that is boring. And, one that is half spoken and half sung is an amusinly careless pastiche.

        Skewed perspective and subjective bias (of neither of which do I accuse you) will always serve to make of the good something bad, and of the desirable something foreign.

      2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #30:
        You are missing Paul’s main point. Yes it is possible to differentiate one kind of chant from another. But a more fundamental (and desirable) differentiation is that between chanting/singing and not doing so.

  17. There are model “Universal Prayers” in the appendix of the Roman Missal and the intercessions of the Liturgy of the Hours are good models too. I think brevity is the key and since these are “general” intercessions the brevity should be not only in terms of the number of intercessions but the intercession itself.

    Technically, what is suggested is that the intercessions include prayers for:
    1. the Church
    2. the world
    3. the sick
    4. the faithful departed

    Do we really need more than four or five? Doesn’t the Eucharistic prayer have general intercessions in it as well? Do we need redundancy?

    I would also suggest that there be an option for no intercessions for daily Mass and that if the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) is used that the intercessions be eliminated since the four intercessions above are already included in it.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #32:
      The intercessions in the Eucharistic Prayer are really something quite different from the Prayer of the Faithful. I know that in the 50s and 60s it was commonly said that they had been imported into the Canon and reproduced the PotF. More recently, however, scholars see them as 1) an original element in the Eucharistic Prayer and 2) not general intercessions for the needs of the world but rather petitions that the Eucharistic sacrifice would effect the peace and unity of the Church, which is something quite distinct from the Prayer of the Faithful. Eliminating them on weekdays would seem to betray a certain liturgical minimalism that hardly makes for good liturgy.

      On the question of using incense along with the Prayer of the Faithful — clearly this strikes some people as gimmicky, and perhaps it is. It does not, I think, violate any rubrics, and as to the the claim that it is without precedent I can only say that everything at some point was done for the first time. I’m sure that the elevations at the consecration also seemed like a gimmick to some people in the Middle Ages. I’m inclined to apply the Gamaliel principle: if it is of God it will flourish; if not it will die out. Liturgical development did not, after all, end with the 16th century.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #33:
        I might recall wrongly, but I watched a Maronite Rite Mass from EWTN’s chapel where the deacon at the ambo, as I recall, said the “intercessions” of the Maronite’s canon and during the canon and as I recall their canon is similar to the Roman canon. But this is all based upon memory that might be incorrect.

        I might add that I have never eliminated the Universal Prayer in any Ordinary Form Mass I’ve had, but I did hear Cardinal Dolan do it on a radio broadcast of the daily Mass at St. Patrick’s. And of course Pope Francis eliminated the “offertory procession” at his inaugural Mass. In both cases I was shocked.

  18. Fr. Bauerschmidt- In the Maronite Rite, the Intercessions flow out of the canon, and follow the Epiclesis. After the Intercessions, the Pauline greeting is repeated, mirroring the opening movement of the Anaphora.

    The same basic structure is followed in all the Maronite Anaphora, of which I believe six or seven have received official approbation for use in English speaking translations. There are, as I recall, 24 distinctly Maronite Anaphora, with the rest of their catalog of about 75 being from other West Syrian, East Syrian, and antiochene provenance.

  19. But the Maronite rite is not the Roman Rite, and their Anaphoras are quite different from the Roman canons. If you eliminate the intercessions from the Roman Rite, you don’t pray for those in political authority, you don’t pray for the sick or those in need, nor do you pray for the needs of the local community.

  20. Our parish at St. Vincent de Paul in Newport News, Virginia had some specific items read by the cantor, and then anyone attending the liturgy could voice their own. And when I came to NYC, I missed that spontaneity so much.

  21. Fr. Allan J. McDonald : There are model “Universal Prayers” in the appendix of the Roman Missal and the intercessions of the Liturgy of the Hours are good models too. I think brevity is the key and since these are “general” intercessions the brevity should be not only in terms of the number of intercessions but the intercession itself. Technically, what is suggested is that the intercessions include prayers for: 1. the Church 2. the world 3. the sick 4. the faithful departed Do we really need more than four or five? Doesn’t the Eucharistic prayer have general intercessions in it as well? Do we need redundancy? I would also suggest that there be an option for no intercessions for daily Mass and that if the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) is used that the intercessions be eliminated since the four intercessions above are already included in it.

    Uh, no – the GIRM lays it out perfectly clear as to the form of the Universal Prayer:

    The series of intentions is usually to be:
    a) for the needs of the Church;
    b) for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
    c) for those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
    d) for the local community.

  22. I would like to add some words in defence of the banal.
    The article above says: “I have been at liturgies where this (the Prayer of the Faithful) has been a sublime moment. I have been at other liturgies at which it has been banal at best and cringe-inducing at worst.”
    Sure, we don’t want to be deliberately banal. But they are “Prayer of the Faithful”. People pray as they can, and people have many different ways of praying. Sublime prayer can inspire us, but not everyone is gifted in that way. We must not insist that people pray only in the way we find in books of prayer. Yes, we want prayer that can be the prayer of the whole assembly. But if there are occasions when the prayer strikes us as banal, we must first look to the heart of the one who formulates the prayer.
    The prayer of the tax collector at the back of the Temple would be “cringe-inducing” to some, others might judge it to be wholly false; but Jesus sees otherwise. The prayer of the Pharisee in front sounds so much more polished.
    All God’s people got a place in the Prayer.

  23. I work with teens and I find this part of the Mass to be a real challenge in terms of keeping their engagement. I have tried three approaches over the years…

    The FIRST is to do it the way it’s usually done in the UK: Let us pray for… followed by a totally inadequate pause and… Lord, hear us!

    This could work if people actually left a long enough pause for people to pray, but almost nobody does.

    The SECOND way I’ve tried is to actually lead people in prayer rather than to tell them to pray. So a longer prayer: Let us pray for people in… that God may… and that through… they may be… Amen.

    The THIRD is to introduce that this is a time in the Mass to talk to God about things that are important to us and then to leave a minute or two of silence, followed perhaps by a very important prayer or two.

    I now alternate between the second and the third.

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