Non solum: Adding Devotional Prayers to the Mass

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!


  1. Is the original poster perhaps referring to the two prayers said silently by the priest after the Agnus Dei in preparation for Communion?

    1. Seems it is three prayers being said out loud: “May the Body…”, “May the Blood…”, and the purification prayer “What has passed our lips…” Aargh.

  2. Aidan Kavanagh had some typically arch remark about presiders who felt that it was appropriate to pronounce the words used while washing their hands in the same tone of voice that they used to say the anaphora.

  3. Thank you for your comments. Our new pastor adds the prayer before Communion as well as some other personal additions. This is disturbing since until now our liturgies followed the ritual Maria Leonard

  4. I think most of us are in agreement here. I’d be shocked to hear too many “nay” voices here, so maybe the more interesting question would be to ponder this part of Father’s post: “To be sure, liturgical law is not absolute. There will be cases where pastoral sensitivity suggests flexibility.” What might those cases be? Or when would the sensitive presider do so? Or how would he know he didn’t go too far?

    I’d suggest that “every Mass” or “every week” would not pass the smell test. If however, on September 29th, the Feast of St. Michael, the pastor, connecting the reading to the prayer in his homily, could lead the prayer, and even be a nice once-a-year occasion.

    Perhaps one of the silent prayers during the Communion Rite, once-a-year, out loud, explained by a homily, might make sense.

    Another example, at my parish, on the dozen or so feast days of Mary, after the Post-Communion Prayer, the pastor invites the assembly to turn to the image of our Lady of Guadalupe to pray the Hail Mary. (I think it was something the pastor picked up from the tradition at our cathedral.) Considering it usually happens at a quiet 7 am weekday Mass, and it plays well with the 3 dozen or so folks in the assembly, I’ve always found it a nice pastorally sensitive gesture. But I’d happy to tell the presider to stop, if I found reasons to object. (Works well in Spanish and Tagalog as well!)

  5. Wasn’t this prayer part of the low Mass (Missa lecta) prior to the Council? I’d think that with the removal of the distinction between low/high Masses, this prayer would be categorized as having been “suppressed” within the Eucharistic rite.

    1. Exactly right. In my altar boy days in Boston, we handed the priest a microphone and a card with an English version of the Salve Regina, that prayer to St. Michael, and the Divine Praises that we also ended Benediction with. They were, if I recall correctly at this long remove, for the conversion of Russia.

  6. View from the Pew
    Regarding: “I would advise against adding the prayer to St. Michael to Sunday Mass. Promote this powerful devotional prayer, but in other contexts.”
    – This appears to be consistent with “Marialis Cultis”, 31, par 2: “It sometimes happens that novenas or similar practices of piety are inserted into the very celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This creates the danger that the Lord’s Memorial Rite, instead of being the culmination of the meeting of the Christian community, becomes the occasion, as it were, for devotional practices. For those who act in this way we wish to recall the rule laid down by the Council prescribing that exercises of piety should be harmonized with the liturgy not merged into it.”

  7. I assume the St Michael prayer is done in this case AFTER Mass, that is, after the final blessing and dismissal.

    In that case, it falls to local popular devotion and is fine.

    1. But the Order of Mass does not end with the blessing and dismissal. There are two additional rubrics:

      145. Then the Priest venerates the altar as usual with a kiss, as at the beginning. After making a profound bow with the ministers, he withdraws.

      146. If any liturgical action follows immediately, the rites of dismissal are omitted.

      So, the priest withdraws (145), and devotional prayers – if any – are not envisioned as taking place before that withdrawal (146).

      1. Good point, and thanks for that helpful clarification, Ron. That fits also with my experience of the rosary after Mass: if the rosary follows Mass, it occurs after the priest goes back to the sacristy or out to greet the people. The devotion is not continuous with the liturgy.

  8. Adding words, prayers, or even gestures to the Mass that are contra legem is surely a practice to be avoided. Surely invoking the intercession of the BVM is consistent with Catholic belief and practice. Think of all the rosaries being prayed during the TLM (and some during the OF as well.) There is no official prayer at the conclusion of the intercessory prayers. The practice of concluding these prayers in the UK with the Hail Mary is surely a salutary practice and not against the law of prayer. The very traditional bishop of a neighboring diocese followed this practice.
    Then there are the priests who misinform their people that “The Church” doesn’t want them to join hands during the Lord’s Prayer, but rather wants them to raise their hands in the so-called “orans” position. In truth, many such priests are wanting to avoid touching anyone after the consecration….wouldn’t want any micro particles being touched by unanointed hands. The essential unity of the Roman Rite does not require absolute uniformity but allows for local customs that are not contra legem.

  9. Ron and Rita — yes! Some parishes in the diocese in which I am located have added the St. Michael Prayer before the withdrawal because of perceived offenses against the Church — the HHS Mandate, “religious liberty” infringement, etc. It seems to be more about the culture wars. The Hail Mary as a conclusion to the Prayer of the Faithful seems to be somewhat popular on the East Coast, from what I have observed.

  10. Not to mention the floral offering to Mary at weddings, the Prayer of the Couple at weddings, and the extension of the Sign of Peace, with an accompanying song, at weddings and other times as well.

  11. The Prayer to St Michael has a fascinating history, which may or may not be historical. Idk. It was composed by Pope Leo XIII after he had a vision of Jesus and Satan when he came down from the altar on 13 Oct 1884.
    I can destroy your Church.
    You can? Go ahead.
    I’ll need more time, more power. 75 to 100 years, more power over those devoted to me.
    The prayer was circulated to be said after low mass, at the foot of the altar where Leo had his vision.

    This story is used to promote the apocalyptic “prophets of doom” that John XXIII warned us against at the opening of V2. No one seems to care that the 75 years were over in 1959. Most prefer to tie it into Fatima’s vision 33 years later, but even that 100 year anniversary has passed.

    Adding this on to a celebration giving thanks seems somewhat counter productive, unless we are thankful for our temptations. As Fr says, it is better not to do any devotional prayers as part of mass, but this one stands out for the way it is used to promote a damaging agenda.

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