A Pray Tell reader writes:
This past year we have been reciting the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at all our liturgies. Is this a new trend in Catholic worship? Is it a good thing?
Several of our priests have begun to say aloud the private prayers of the priest after the “Lord, I am not worthy.” Good idea?
I believe the second question refers to the priest saying out loud, in the plural: “May the Body and Blood of Christ keep us safe for eternal life.” – or, the perhaps the kind of priest who takes the rubrical liberty is more likely to use the old wording: “May the body and blood of Christ bring us to everlasting life.”
My take: Let the liturgy be the liturgy and, in general, follow the wise prescriptions of the reformed rite. To be sure, liturgical law is not absolute. There will be cases where pastoral sensitivity suggests flexibility. It has always been so, throughout liturgical history. But don’t change the rite unless you have very good reasons. I don’t see good reasons in either of these two cases.
To take them up in turn:
- Michael the Archangel: The historic Roman rite is rigorously theocentric and has very little invocation of Mary and the angels and saints – it differs somewhat from the Eastern liturgies in this regard. The saints are invoked in the Litany of Saints at the Easter Vigil and in various rites (e.g. baptism, ordination), but the eucharistic liturgy has very little direct address to the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Vernacular hymns often address Mary, but their texts are not in the official liturgical books.) This is not to downplay the value of praying to Mary and saints (I pray to St. Benedict every night before falling asleep), but to preserve an important characteristic of the Roman rite. I would advise against adding the prayer to St. Michael to Sunday Mass. Promote this powerful devotional prayer, but in other contexts. Put it in the bulletin. Pray it with liturgical ministers in the sacristy before the opening procession. Pray it at liturgy committee and parish council meetings. But don’t add it to Mass.
- “May the Body and Blood of Christ…”: Bad idea. Just stop it. Now. There is already a very beautiful text addressed to the assembly before Communion: “Behold the Lamb of God , behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” This text has only gotten better in the new translation, in my view. Let it stand, as it is, in all its power. Why would you want to detract from it with a pious prayer of secondary importance?
Moderator’s note: “Non solum” is a feature at Pray Tell for our readership community to discuss practical liturgical issues. The title comes from article 11 of the Vatican II liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully.” (Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.) May the series contribute to good liturgical practice – not only following the law, but especially grasping the spirit of the liturgy!