Concluding the Prayers of the Faithful

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Concluding the Prayers of the Faithful

ROME, 18 OCT. 2005 (ZENIT)

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

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Q: "I was under the impression that the priest 'may' add a prayer at the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful, but was not required to do so by the rubrics. In my parish, after the deacon concludes the prayers, the parish priest simply enunciates, "Oremus." — C.C., Washington, D.C.

A: This topic is dealt with quite well in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Nos. 69-71, which state:

"[69] In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.

"[70] As a rule, the series of intentions is to be
For the needs of the Church;
For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
For the local community.
Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.

"[71] It is for the priest celebrant to direct this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he invites the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with a prayer. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed freely but prudently, and be succinct, and they should express the prayer of the entire community.

"The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful.

"The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence."

From what is said in No. 71 it is clear that the priest should conclude the Prayer of the Faithful with a prayer. This prayer is said with hands extended as for the other presidential prayers.

A particular case, about which the norms are not particularly clear, arises when Morning or Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours is joined to Mass on an occasional weekday. On such occasions it is permitted to replace the Prayer of the Faithful with the intercessions from the Divine Office (See No. 94 of the Introduction to the Divine Office).

When the Office is prayed separately, the intercessions are followed by the concluding prayer which often coincides with the Collect of the Mass of the day. When used at Mass this prayer has already been proclaimed before the readings and so the priest should proclaim another suitable prayer or conclude with a simple generic formula such as "We ask this through Christ Our Lord."

The problem does not usually arise on Sundays and feasts because, while the office may be joined to Mass, the Prayer of the Faithful may not be substituted by the intercessions from the Office. ZE05101826

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Follow-up: Concluding the Prayer of the Faithful [11-01-2005]

Readers sought some clarifications regarding aspects of the Prayer of the Faithful (see Oct. 18).

Before responding, I would point out that, although this form of prayer has very ancient roots, its present form is fairly novel in liturgical practice and thus there are no traditional norms regarding its practice.

As a consequence, several slightly diverse customs have arisen and it is not easy to say if one is necessarily more correct than another.

Apart from the norms quoted in the previous column we could say that a rule of thumb is that they be guided by common sense and that the petitions should be clear and brief, couched in general terms, and should not be multiplied beyond measure.

Some readers asked if it were permissible for the faithful to be invited to formulate spontaneous petitions from the pews.

While there is no rule forbidding this, I think it is a practice best reserved for smaller groups who have the necessary experience to formulate appropriate petitions. Such groups could be those who regularly attend daily Mass, religious communities, and prayer groups.

It is probably wisely avoided at a parish Sunday Mass, since the number of petitions could easily become inflated or their content turn out to be excessively personal, verbally garbled or political. They could even create annoyance if the same people tend to dominate the "spontaneous" petitions week after week.

Some other readers asked about the practice of reciting the Hail Mary during the Prayer of the Faithful.

While this custom is not universal, it seems to have its roots in English liturgical practice from even before the Second Vatican Council. One reader suggested that a document exists impeding this practice, but I have been unable to find it. I would say that, barring some authoritative intervention, the practice could continue where it has been customary to do so.

The objections to the use of the Hail Mary are usually based on the principle that liturgical prayers are practically always directed to the Father, and on rare occasions to the Son.

However, when the Hail Mary is used in the Prayer of the Faithful she is not addressed directly but is usually invoked as a mediator to carry our prayer to the Father within the context of the communion of saints.

This invocation is certainly unnecessary from a liturgical standpoint, and it is probably better not to introduce it where it does not exist. However, I do not believe it needs to be forbidden where already well established.

Finally an Irish priest asked if the celebrant could reserve a particular petition, such as for the soul for whom Mass is celebrated, to himself rather than to the deacon or reader. I would say that this may be done for good pastoral reasons, just as the priest may also add a particular intention which he believes should be kept in mind at that moment. ZE05110102

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