A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
St. Michael Prayer at Mass
ROME, 16 October 2018 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Several bishops have recently recommended the use of the prayer of St. Michael after Mass. For example, Archbishop Sample of Portland in Oregon recommended that it be prayed “after the final blessing and at the foot of the altar would be the appropriate time and place, after which the recessional hymn, could begin.” Is it permissible to say this prayer after the final blessing and before the recessional hymn at Mass? Does Mass end before the recessional hymn? Does an archbishop have the authority to reverse the decision of the September 1964 instruction Inter Oecumenici, 48: “j. …the Leonine Prayers are suppressed.” — J.L., Melbourne, Australia
A: The Leonine prayers are a set of prayers first promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1884 for use after Low Mass but not as part of Mass itself. St. Pius X added an invocation to the Sacred Heart. In its final form the Leonine prayers consisted of the Hail Mary (three times); Hail, Holy Queen; O God our Refuge and strength; the Prayer to St. Michael; and the invocation to the Sacred Heart (three times), striking the breast each time at “have mercy on us.” The prayers were usually said kneeling at the foot of the altar.
These prayers were offered for different intentions over the years, always in some way interceding for the protection and progress of the Church.
Although abolished in 1964 they are still sometimes used after Masses in the extraordinary form.
Pope Francis, in the light of recent crises, has recommended to all Catholics to recite the prayer to St. Michael and the ancient Marian antiphon “Sub Tuum Praesidium” within the context of the rosary.
Some bishops, as we have seen above, have recommended reciting the prayer to St. Michael after Mass. Thus, Archbishop Sample of Portland in Oregon wrote to his priests:
“September 14, 2018 — The Exaltation of the Holy Cross My Dear Brother Priests, Praised Be Jesus Christ! We find ourselves in very distressing times with continued revelations about the failures of our brother priests and bishops. It seems to me that the evil one has intensified his war against the Mystical Body and its members. There are many things we can do as a local church to play our part in the purification of the Church at this time, however, prayer will also be the foremost and most appropriate response, on which all other efforts will build. I would like to strongly encourage you therefore to pray the St. Michael Prayer after each parish Mass and in turn encourage your parishioners also to personally say this prayer daily. I think that after the final blessing and at the foot of the altar would be the appropriate time and place, after which the recessional hymn, could begin. The St. Michael Prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII, is a forceful weapon in our armory of devotions, and St. Michael the Archangel is an intercessor of great power. The Office of Divine Worship has prepared some prayer cards which can be purchased for distribution to your parishioners and most pew missals contain this prayer. St. Michael the Archangel — Pray for Us. Sincerely yours in Christ.”
Our reader is concerned that bishops might be overstepping their authority by reinstating in part the Leonine prayers abolished by St. Paul VI and by introducing an element into the liturgy which does not correspond to the authority of an individual bishop.
Although I respect our reader’s interest in upholding liturgical law, I do not believe this is the case.
First, bishops have the authority to mandate the recitation of public prayers within their diocese. In the present circumstances, however, they have not issued decrees but in general, have limited themselves to letters recommending the practice after Mass. Each priest can decide to adopt it or not.
Second, they have been specific in recommending that the prayers are after Mass in the manner of the Leonine prayers. Although the recitation of the Leonine texts was obligatory, they did not form part of the Roman Missal.
Since there is no change in the liturgical books the bishops do not violate Canon 846 §1: “The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments. Accordingly, no one may on a personal initiative add to or omit or alter anything in those books.”
Another question raised by our reader is whether Mass is ended before the final hymn.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal describes the conclusion of Mass:
“168. Immediately after the Blessing, with hands joined, the Priest adds, Ite, missa est (Go forth, the Mass is ended) and all reply, Thanks be to God.
“169. Then the Priest venerates the altar as usual with a kiss and, after making a profound bow with the lay ministers, he withdraws with them.
“170. If, however, another liturgical action follows the Mass, the Concluding Rites, that is, the Greeting, the Blessing, and the Dismissal are omitted.”
It should be noted that the missal makes no mention whatsoever of the closing hymn. This hymn, while quite common, is not required and is not, strictly speaking, part of the Mass, which ends when the priest withdraws from the altar.
It is true that on some occasions, such as the Chrism Mass or the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, a hymn is prescribed, but this is because the Eucharist or the holy oils are carried in procession to the sacristy or to the altar of repose.
I conclude, therefore, that the bishops are not violating any liturgical norm by recommending the use of the prayer of St. Michael after Mass has ended.
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