ROME, 7 NOV. 2006 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Why has the "Amen" been dropped from the "Our Father" at the Holy
Mass? (it is not in the missalette.) My understanding is that "Amen"
means "I believe." I have come to believe that the additional prayers
that were added to the Our Father in the Mass where the Amen is omitted,
have now trained our faithful to omit it when we pray the rosary and the
Chaplet of Mercy with our prayer group
or anytime we pray the Our Father in a group. I have also noticed this
at Communion services where only the Our Father is prayed
the Amen is omitted
and on the Catholic radio station in my area. I firmly believe that we
are doing something seriously wrong.
M.W., Forest Grove, Oregon
A: Our reader has made a very interesting point and illustrates an
example of an unintended consequence of the liturgical reform of the
Second Vatican Council.
Before the reform the Our Father recited at Mass included the "Amen," a
term which may be roughly translated "so be it." At solemn Masses the
priest would sing the Pater Noster alone; at simple Masses he would
recite it with the server but only the priest would say "Amen" in a low
In 1958 the instruction "De Musica Sacra" laid down rules for the direct
participation of the faithful, including permission for the assembly to
recite or sing the Pater Noster in Latin with all saying "Amen" at the
The liturgical reform extensively reordered the Communion rites and this
led, not so much to dropping the "Amen" after the Our Father but to its
One significant change was that a shortened version of the embolism:
"Deliver us Lord from every evil ...," formally a prayer said silently
by the priest while breaking the host, was now to be said aloud, taking
its cue from the last words of the Our Father.
At the end of this prayer, instead of "Amen" the people respond with the
acclamation: "For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now
and for ever."
This acclamation was a new addition to the Communion rites and was
probably added for ecumenical reasons. This phrase, although not found
in the Gospel text, has traditionally functioned as a final verse of the
Our Father in both the Eastern and Protestant traditions. In some rites
all recited this verse while in others, such as the Byzantine, the
priest alone adds it after the choir finishes the Our Father.
After this acclamation we find the prayer for peace. This prayer was
formally a private priestly prayer recited after the Agnus Dei and
before the sign of peace, which was exchanged only at solemn Masses and
among the clergy alone. It is now recited aloud by the priest and has
consequently been changed from the singular to plural (no longer look
not on "my" but on "our" sins).
Finally, after all this, we have the "Amen" said by all, which in a way
concludes the Our Father and the prayers that follow.
From a strictly liturgical point of view, this postponement of the
"Amen" obeys a certain logic. It is unlikely that the formulators of the
rite fully grasped this change's capacity in forming the prayer habits
of the faithful over time.
As our correspondent points out, many practicing Catholics habitually
omit the final "Amen" from the Our Father, and this fact is probably
attributable to the new liturgical practice.
That this "Amen" does form part of the Lord's Prayer in non-liturgical
contexts is shown, for example, by its inclusion in the common prayers
found in the new Compendium of the Catechism.
Since it is highly unlikely that the liturgical text is going to change,
the only solution is to pay attention when we pray the Our Father during
the rosary and similar situations and form a habit of saying the "Amen."
Catholic media, especially radio, can have a positive effect in this
effort and should be politely encouraged to correct any oversights which
have slipped in by force of habit. ZE06110740
* * *
Follow-up: Why No "Amen" at End of the Our Father [11-21-2006]
Several readers responded to our comments on the missing "Amen" at the
end of the Our Father (Nov. 7).
One interesting comment hailed from an eminent Anglican who wrote:
"Father McNamara ... doesn't say
and I had always thought
that modern practice was, broadly, to add 'Amen' to prayers said by
but not to prayers one said oneself. Thus, in the Roman rite, the prayer
of preparation said by the priest immediately before Communion has no
'Amen' whereas the main orations (which the congregation hears) have an
'Amen' added. Mutatis mutandis, the 'Hail Mary's in the Angelus
or when used in the Prayer of the Faithful
tend not to have an 'Amen.' The great exception to this rule is that the
Gloria and Credo are recited by all and have an Amen but, no doubt, that
is in recognition of the ancient nature of the texts and their musical
This comment regarding the nature of the "Amen" as a response to prayers
said by others would offer a further explanation as to why it was
omitted from the Our Father recited at Mass.
As our reader points out, it is a broad rule and there are several
exceptions. For example, the "Amen" is omitted after the Our Father
recited during Morning and Evening Prayer of the Divine Office. But it
is included in the "Glory be to the Father" recited by all at the end of
each psalm in the Office.
Likewise, the liturgical practice is not necessarily carried over into
personal prayer and official collections of prayers, such as the
Enchiridion of Indulgences, and the Compendium of the Catechism, almost
always include the "Amen" at the end of the orations with no distinction
made for private or group recitation.
A reader from Kansas asked: "I would also like to know why the last word
of the Our Father is also omitted. That word is 'one,' i.e., 'deliver us
from the evil one.'"
The Catechism makes clear in Nos. 2850-2854 that the petition to be
freed from evil is not an abstraction but refers to a person, Satan, the
evil one. The original Greek text, however, admits both translations
("from evil" or "from the evil one") and the present English translation
respects the traditional rendition which is already found in the 1611
King James version.
Finally, a reader asked how to pronounce the word "Amen."
Many foreign words entering into English take on a life of their own and
end up bearing little resemblance to the original pronunciation. As
English rules of pronunciation are somewhat fluid, it is hard to say if
there is really a correct way of pronouncing this word in English.
All told, the Hebrew word "amen" has survived fairly intact even though
there are regional differences of pronunciation.
Beyond the United States most English speakers tend to say AH-men. In
the United States the form AY-men is perhaps most common, but even there
the form AH-men is almost invariably used when singing or reciting
prayers in Latin. Some Eastern-rite chants sound closer to AH-min than
In the end, it is more important to assent heart and soul to the
liturgical prayers than to accent them with perfect diction. ZE06112121