Non solum: The Prayer of the Faithful

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal treats the Prayer of the Faithful at nos. 69-71 (full text below).  Exercising their baptismal Priesthood, the faithful pray “for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world.”

The GIRM says this about the style of wording of the intercessions: “The intentions announced should be sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.”

Fritz Bauerschmidt has already posted at Pray Tell on rethinking the Prayer of the Faithful, and Nathan Chase did a book review of Mary Grace Melcher’s Intercessions for Mass

What is your experience of the Prayer of the Faithful? What is successful in their wording, what is not? What are best practices for their rendition? How are the concerns of the community brought in? What resources are helpful? What are the pitfalls to avoid? Share your wisdom with the Pray Tell community.

 

From GIRM:

69. In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is desirable that there usually be such a form of prayer in Masses celebrated with the people, so that petitions may be offered for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world.

70. 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.
Nevertheless, in any particular celebration, such as a Confirmation, a Marriage, or at a Funeral, the series of intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion.

71. It is for the Priest Celebrant to regulate this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he calls upon the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with an oration. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.

They are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the Deacon or by a cantor, a reader, or one of the lay faithful.

The people, for their part, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said in common after each intention or by praying in silence.

35 comments

  1. I did this in one parish for several years and enjoyed it. It began with a new pastor. My wife and I had him and several folks over for dinner as an introduction and over dessert I asked, ” What would you like for us to do?” He suggested a committee to write the prayers each week so that it would actually be the prayers of the faithful. I said point me in the right direction, and he copied the pertinent part of the GIRM and also said something like, “Less is more; be brief; use action words like will and shall instead of may and might. We pray with confidence.” Several of us took turns each week, and right up until the time I moved away we were doing it. Not sure if it is still being done that way.
    A few pet peeves from observations in various locations:
    -Item 70 is too rarely observed
    -the phrase ‘they should be composed with a wise liberty and in few words’ is also too rarely observed
    -leave politics out of it
    -if the default “Lord, hear our prayer” is unsatisfactory, please don’t use this place to get your thesaurus out. Really long responses – even those that are poetic and beautiful – keep large portions of the faithful from responding. It really should be about all the faithful being active conscious participants, and as a result, language that is simple (lowest common denominator to use a math term) is truly preferable.

    1. @Charles Day – comment #1:

      Re: “He suggested a committee to write the prayers each week so that it would actually be the prayers of the faithful.”

      It is not often understood that this does NOT mean “of the faithful” as opposed to “of the clergy”, as if the rest of the Mass belonged only to the ordained! No. It means “of the faithful” rather than “of the catechumens”, this being the first prayer after the dismissal of the unbaptised. This frequent misunderstanding is why the title “Universal Prayer” is preferable, in my opinion.

      1. @Martin Wallace OP – comment #7:
        Okay. But the original post asked the questions:

        What is your experience of the Prayer of the Faithful? What is successful in their wording, what is not? What are best practices for their rendition? How are the concerns of the community brought in? What resources are helpful? What are the pitfalls to avoid? Share your wisdom with the Pray Tell community.

        I am not sure how your distinction is useful to that discussion.

      2. @Charles Day – comment #8:
        I took his point to be that the name “the prayer of the faithful” doesn’t mean “the prayer of the laity” or assign any particular responsibility for composing this prayer on the lay people of the Church. Agree or disagree, it certainly did not seem off topic to me.

      3. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #9:
        Exactly. It is a “pitfall” is to think of this prayer as particularly the prayer of the laity. Actually, if it belongs to any minister in particular, it is to the deacon (he is mentioned in first place in the GIRM). Presumably this is because the deacon traditionally – some might say “mythically”, because many deacons actually had and have other roles – had charge of the care of the poor and needy, and the distribution of funds. So he knew who needed praying for. (Correct me if I am wrong, but I think chanting the corresponding litany in the Eastern rites is assigned to the deacon.)

        It is a “pitfall” to attribute the POF particularly to the laity, because that seems to imply that, in contrast, the Eucharistic Prayer is the “Prayer of the Clergy”. Many people have held that point of view, but it is decidedly un-liturgical, un-historical and un-theological. It is as if the POF is the crust tossed to the laity from the clergy’s table. We ought to avoid language which perpetuates that misunderstanding.

        Personally, I rather like the English expression “Bidding Prayers”, even if it sounds a little quaint; but i can live with “Universal Prayer.”

  2. Here is an alternative take on the problem of the General Intercessions: http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/2013/may/16/distracting-prayer-faithful/

    But if one has to use them, it is best to draft them in a virile and robust style, praying for serious things that we ought to be praying for, and perhaps using Kyrie eleison as the response. Here is a set that has been used in our community:

    Let us pray for the holy Church of God,
    that the Lord may grant her peace, unity, and good governance. Kyrie eleison.
    Let us pray for missionaries and for persecuted Christians everywhere,
    that the trials they endure may increase their faith and their glory. Kyrie eleison.
    Let us pray for Jews, Moslems, and all who do not believe in Christ,
    that by God’s mercy they may renounce their errors and cling to Him. Kyrie eleison.
    Let us pray for our nation, our state, and our city,
    that good laws and good morals may prevail over sin and corruption. Kyrie eleison.
    Let us pray for the members of this community,
    that we may seek holiness as our ultimate calling. Kyrie eleison.
    Let us pray for our friends and benefactors,
    that this Oblation offered for their needs may bring them salvation. Kyrie eleison.

    1. @Peter Kwasniewski – comment #2:

      Let us pray for Jews, Moslems, and all who do not believe in Christ,
      that by God’s mercy they may renounce their errors and cling to Him. Kyrie eleison.

      I would not use this intercession. If it were to be used, I would not use this intercession until after an extensive instruction of the laity. If used, it would be quite wise to follow it immediately with an intercession of Christian humility and repentance. This latter intercession should mention in general terms the evils and harms individual Catholics and institutional Catholicism have perpetuated against people of other religious traditions.

      I’ve noticed a trend in traditionalism towards a revival and reinforcement of “Catholic exceptionalism”. This exceptionalism echoes the anathemata of Trent, but with a distinctly modern flavor. The traditionalist refusal to even consider refraining from the pro Judaeis is not in my view the core of the issue. This revival also cannot be reduced to a “Fortress Trent” versus “Pilgrim Postconciliarity”. Rather, the traditionalist position on the centrality of Christ’s Church appears to be moving more towards a pyramidal structure. From a “traditionalist coping with pluralism” standpoint, the doctrine and dogma of the Church are both the foundation and fountainhead of life in pluralist societies. Instead of dialogue or ecumenism, traditionalists view an immutable Church as the reference point for coexistence with persons of other traditions. I don’t see the call for conversion in the bidding prayer as viable conclusion, but rather a doctrinal affirmation required to support the construction of exceptionalism.

      This would be an excellent diss. topic. I doubt, however, that a staunch traditionalist could write it.

  3. I like Dr. Kwasniewski’s “virile and robust style.”

    When we use the litanic form, I try to keep the biddings brief, e.g. “For this, that, and the other thing, let us pray to the Lord,” avoiding the addition of a secondary clause beginning with “that.”

    As an alternative, we have used a form based on the old Roman Intercessions (as on Good Friday), “Form II” of the “Prayers of the People” in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

    Bidding (Deacon): “I ask your prayers for…” [series of intentions related to the Church, culminating in the imperative:] “Pray for the Church.”

    Silent Prayer

    Cantor: “Kyrie eleison” or “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.”
    People repeat response (or the choir/schola could intervene for a three-fold response, the effect of which is an increasing number of voices bringing the prayer gently out of the silent individual intentions prompted by the bidding, into the public cry for mercy).

    Three more biddings and sets of suggested intentions might follow:

    Pray for justice and peace.
    Pray for those in any need or trouble.
    Pray for those who have died.

    I experienced this Roman Intercession-hybrid at what was for me a turning point in liturgical experience at a Mass in St. Nicholas Church in Amsterdam as a young backpacker through Europe back in 1990. I was heartened by learning of something similar occurring at one of Pope Benedict’s Masses during his historic pilgrimage to England.

    I like this form because it “virile, robust,” and direct, and there is a clear distinction between the bidding, the actual praying of the faithful (who presumably are conjuring up their own intentions in the categories prompted by the bidding imperative), and the gathering together of all of those individual prayers in the sung response (functioning a bit like the collects in the Good Friday intercessions). In this case, the celebrant maintains presidency over these prayers with an introduction and concluding collect (though not necessarily in the full collect…

    1. @Kevin Vogt – comment #4:

      What is a ““virile and robust style”? I don’t see how gendered language of dominance should influence intercessions.

      Borrowing from other Western Christian traditions can be tricky. The “militant” in the Prayer Book communion liturgy’s “let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here on earth” does not imply martial action, but rather the prayer of the people of God in assembly, This is why I am wary of the idea of “virile” as a descriptor, as it might lead to a misinterpretation of the intent of an exhortation. “Militant” could be construed as a “virile” word, when it actually carries no such flavor.

      Granted, you have used the Rite II bidding prayers, but a careful consideration is still necessary.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #11:
        OK, “virile” was Dr. Kwasniewski’s term, which is why it was in quotation marks. What I appreciate is their directness, although I think the biddings (and the prayers they prompt in the hearts of the faithful) are made even more “robust” by avoiding the secondary (often didactic) clauses.

        I didn’t say that I used the language of the BCP (the actual biddings of either Rite I or Rite II), but rather the form “I ask your prayers…” followed by the imperative, “Pray for…”, followed by silent prayer. It seems to me this form (even with a Kyrie or something following the silent prayer rather than a Collect) owes as much to the genius of the Roman tradition as anything else. Is not the litanic intercessory formula “borrowed” from the East?

        Thanks for the admonition, though. I have been careful, and did not even try this until I had heard of it done in a papal liturgy (Pope Benedict in England).

      2. @Kevin Vogt – comment #14:

        My apologies, Kevin. I should have read and attributed more carefully. I mentioned “militant” to show how semantics can deceive,

  4. If we’re going to call it the Universal Prayer, let’s make it universal. The pope, or at least the national conference and/or local bishop, should set the intentions periodically.

    Does the normative Latin missal include response options (Appendix I) or is “Lord, hear our prayer,” a US adaptation?

    1. @John Mann – comment #6:
      “Universal” does not mean “rigidly uniform” in Catholic ecclesiology. There has been liturgical diversity from the beginning, with a wide variety of approved rites in the Catholic church, and with a certain amount of local diversity in the celebration of those rites. Nos. 37-40 of the liturgy constitution of Vatican II talk about adaptation of the rites, and the Council gives of vision of liturgical diversity. So these prayers are “universal” even if they’re different in every community, and they don’t have to come from the pope to be ‘universal’ – at least not in Catholic ecclesiology.
      awr

    2. @John Mann (#6): Does the normative Latin missal include response options (Appendix I) or is “Lord, hear our prayer,” a US adaptation?

      There are various responses given in Appendix V (Specimina Formularum pro Oratione Universali) of the Missal:

      * Præsta, omnípotens Deus
      * Christe, audi nos
      * Exáudi, Christe
      * Kýrie, eléison
      * Dómine, miserére

      With regard to the original Non solum, I think that the closer the Universal Prayer approaches the example formularies in appendix 5 (which themselves conform to the GIRM), the better. More use of the examples themselves would also solve many of the problems that plague this part of the OF: poorly-composed, verbose prayers and responses, highly-political and partisan intentions, etc.

      1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #12: “Lord, hear our prayer,” among other responses, is from Appendix I, distinct from the examples in Appendix V. I don’t believe there’s a Latin “Lord, hear our prayer.”

      2. @John Mann (#16): sorry, I forgot that there was also music for the universal prayer in Appendix 1! (So many appendices, so little time!) 🙂

        FYI, in the Latin, the responses in Appendix 1 are the same as they are in Appendix 5, but there is an extra one (option A): Te rogámus, audi nos. Also, of the responses in Appendix 5, only Præsta, omnípotens Deus is not in Appendix 1.

      3. @Matthew Hazell – comment #17:

        Matthew: Also, of the responses in Appendix 5, only Præsta, omnípotens Deus is not in Appendix 1.

        Are you sure the response is Præsta, omnípotens Deus? This use of praesta alone is very odd from the perspective of Roman collects, 1962 or 2002. Almost always, praesta pairs with the semi-imperative quaesumus. Perhaps this oddity extends from the fact that the rhetorical force of quaesumus is very weak in collects. This semi-imperative is merely a descriptor of assembly disposition, and not easily translatable.

      4. @Jordan Zarembo (#18): I’ve doubled-checked and Præsta, omnípotens Deus is indeed the response for the first example formulary for the universal prayer in Appendix 5 of the 2008 MR.

        Incidentally, a very quick, cursory electronic search of the 2008 MR brought up just under 30 occasions (taking out the occurrences in Appendix 5) where præsta occurs without quǽsumus, with roughly a 50-50 split between collects and super oblata, and all but two (collects for Tue in Lent 1 & 22nd Sun per annum) outside the Proper of Time. It would be interesting to look at the sources for all these prayers in the 2008 MR and see how rare/odd this usage is in the manuscript tradition, or whether the usage is more pronounced in one family of manuscripts. But we are now a little off-topic here. 🙂

      5. @Matthew Hazell – comment #19:

        Great! Thanks for letting me know this. I was under the impression that praesta rarely stood alone.

        My thesis is on imperatives and quaesumus in the early Roman liturgical manuscript traditions. I should be better versed in imperative coincidences. I can talk all day about this topic, but Fr. Anthony would probably put an end to it after a while. 😉

  5. In addition to ‘virile’ and ‘robust’ I would want to add another watchword: ‘laconic’.

    And for English usage within the intentions sticking mostly to our Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) origin vocabulary and avoiding in general our French origin vocabulary. The older and shorter words are more ‘forceful’ and incisive.

  6. We have a rash of adding the “Hail Mary” after the POF.

    Visitors even come here and do it. Then the people say, “oh we love that, why don’t we do it all the time.”

    Sheesh!

  7. I’d like “Lord, hear us. / Lord, graciously hear us.” as the prompt and response. I think I heard it when I was in England, or perhaps it’s just a desire that has morphed into a memory.

  8. Praying the Hail Mary at the conclusion of POF is a lovely practice begun by Cdl. Hume many years ago. An English priest brought it to the parish I pastored in 1986. Have been doing it ever since. No one has ever questioned it. Why would they?

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #25:
      The pastor at my current parish does it (he is from Ireland) but he is the only one that I have seen do it. My first reaction was merely surprise, but my wife, who has experienced verbal attacks by some Protestant friends over “Mary worship” thought it was a horrible idea. I have come to think of it as a nice practice, and at least not something that should offend any Catholic, anyway.

  9. On ending the intercession with the Hail Mary: I had a couple recently that were getting married in a SotW Wedding and wanted to include a sung Hail Mary somewhere. I suggested we use it to conclude the Prayers of the Faithful, and I thought it worked out rather well.

  10. One more thing on ending with Hail Mary. With fewer people praying the rosary, it guarantees that everyone will know this prayer by heart.

  11. The petitions are addressed to God the Father. So why add a Hail Mary at the end of the petitions as opposed to any other point in the Mass? Why not after the homily, in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer, after Communion, etc? If you’re adding prayers that are not in the ritual, I suppose you could add anything anywhere in the Mass you like.

  12. The reason Cardinal Hume would have added an Ave to the bidding prayers is because it is connected to the Sarum Use. The Ave would have been recited during those prayers, whose descendants can be found in the Prayer Book. I say use the Sarum prayers and add as necessary or use the Ordinariate prayers.

  13. @Scott Pluff (#32): The petitions are addressed to God the Father.

    Not necessarily true, strictly speaking. Appendix 5 of the Missal contains one example formulary that is addressed to Christ rather than to the Father (no. 2). Neither does the GIRM stipulate the prayer is to be addressed only to the Father: at this part of the Mass, we are to “offer prayers to God for the salvation of all” (GIRM 69). One could pray to the Holy Spirit during the Universal Prayer, and that would be totally fine.

    With respect to adding an Ave, how it works out in my parish, and in almost every other parish I have visited over the years (I am British) is that we pray to the Father asking that our intentions be heard and answered, then we ask Mary to intercede on our behalf. I personally see nothing objectionable about that. We pray to God, then ask Mary to also pray to God for us. (In theory, one could ask any saint for their intercession.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *