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The Prayer of the Faithful

The Prayer of the Faithful for the Ordinary Form of the Mass poses a number of complex problems. The lack of one or more stable texts, or of texts suitable for each Mass, composed according to the norms promulgated from Rome on 13 January 1965 and again on 17 April 1966, is not the least of these. Readers, tell me if you have a Prayer of the Faithful (Bidding Prayers or General Intercessions) at daily Mass? What is the state of current practice in parishes and other communities?

By Whom and in What Manner?

It should be noted that, at the beginning of the restoration of the so-called Universal Prayer, it was envisaged that the intentions would be sung following the models of chant given in the Graduale Simplex and that the act of proposing the intentions to the people would belong 1) to the priest himself in the style of the ancient Roman usage, or 2) to the deacon. Only in the absence of a deacon should the function be assigned to another "suitable person."


Msgr Klaus Gamber argues that, following the oldest traditions, the intentions should be proposed by the deacon standing in front of the altar and facing it. The practice of proposing the intentions from the ambo derives from the late-medieval French Prières du Prône. An instruction from the Congregation of Rites, dated 26 September 1964, says this:

In places where the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful is already the custom, it shall take place before the Offertory, after the Oremus, and, for the time being with the formularies in use in individual regions. The celebrant is to lead the prayer at either his chair, the altar, the lectern, or the edge of the sanctuary. A deacon, cantor, or other suitable minister may sing the intentions or intercessions.

Clearly Confusing

The "instruction" is riddled with options, making it vague and confusing. It was instructions such as these that set the stage for the disorientation and chaos that have so marked the "Church at prayer" in the past forty-five years.

Should the General Intercessions be allowed to fall into abeyance? Can they be salvaged? What are the chances of recovering a form of the Prayer of the Faithful that is dignified, hieratic, and in harmony with what Mr. Edmund Bishop called "the genius of the Roman Rite"?

General Intercessions for the Feast of Stephen

That like Saint Stephen, the praying Church, filled with the Holy Spirit,
may gaze into heaven
and see there the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of he Father,
to the Lord we pray, Christ hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.

That world leaders of good will
may turn from every project of war
to collaborate sincerely and effectively in the pursuit of peace,
to the Lord we pray, Christ hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.

That those who suffer for the sake of Christ and the Gospel
may be consoled by the Holy Spirit;
and that the sick and the dying
may be moved by the Holy Spirit
to pray, like Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,"
to the Lord we pray, Christ hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.

That the deacons of the Church,
and men preparing for the Holy Diaconate,
may find in Saint Stephen a model of the holiness to which they are called,
and a powerful intercessor,
to the Lord we pray, Christ hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.

That, like Saint Stephen the Protomartyr,
we may find in the psalms the very prayer of Christ to the Father,
and the words given by the Holy Spirit for our own prayer to Christ
to the Lord we pray, Christ hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.


Almighty and ever-living God,
by whose gracious will
the Holy Spirit indwells and overshadows
the Body of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
mercifully grant that we may experience
in our prayer and in our lives
that glorious unity that is the fruit
not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man
but of the will of your Christ
and of the power of your Holy Spirit.
Through the same Christ our Lord.



These are but my personal opinions, but I believe the General Intercessions should either be said according to a mandated norm (i.e. the texts are prescribed), or they should be abolished entirely (and maybe replaced with the old 'preces'?). The whole problem with the so-called "Novus Ordo" Mass is the sheer amount of option and whimsy it allows.

I agree! The formula should be a fixed one in the classic litanic style, reserved to Solemn Masses at which the intentions would be cantillated by the deacon. The restoration of the "Oratio fidelium" has not been a success.

I think one thing that separates the past from the present in this regard is the engagement of world and local events that influence local communities. There may be perhaps a duty for the local church to pray for these events, tragedies, etc.

Wonderful post, Father. I have no idea who writes the general intercessions they use at our parish church. I thought it was the "liturgy committee" but then, for awhile, I was on the liturgy committee, and found that was not the case. The intercessions vary from Sunday to Sunday and remind me of the petitions voiced at a charismatic prayer meeting. I hope and pray that someday the mind of the Church in regard to that part of the Mass will be universally applied. St. Stephen, pray for us!

Since a common fault at the celebration of Mass is to have too much talk, I'm happy when the General Intercessions are omitted. In general, I think it would be fine to omit them for all the ferial days, and for, say, half of the memorials.

When they are to be prayed, the Oratio Universalis ought to be truly universal: prayers not for ourselves, or even for needs of the parish, but for the Church at large. It is sometimes so hard to put ourselves aside, and put our wants aside, and put our wishes aside, and just pray for good in a disinterested way: praying for God to work His grace and magnify His glory in things that will not benefit us in any way, or perhaps not even be known to us in any way in this life.

I agree that they should either be a set form or removed entirely. I'm not sure where ours come from for Sunday Masses. At the weekday Masses at my parish, it is common for members of the congregation simply to voice their own petitions at random. It can become quite disorderly.

My personal and subjective opinion on the intercessions: I just find them so tedious, even when done well.

Yours, Fr Mark, are elegant but many such attempts to compose intercessions which tie in with the liturgical calendar and are suitably poetic simply fail miserably.

For me the problem is that they tend to go on too long. In my opinion (to borrow the words of Sacrosantum Concilium on liturgical rites and apply them to the intercessions) they 'should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions'. Rather like the short preces of the old breviary.

Happy Feast of St John and a blessed Christmastide.

At the cathedral which I now attend most months of the year, most of the celebrants do the petitions as if it was Sunday, never sung. They change every day, if not every Mass. Also, they are usually very wordy and not always, er, orthodox/advisable. One of the celebrants, however, the rector, for daily Mass, asks the congregation to propose their own requests, which may or may not themselves also contain technically dubious material. It's an all around mess that I do not claim to be qualified to have much of an opinion on the solution for.

Intercessions are said at our daily mass by our priest and by our priest and a Proclaimer on Sundays. I'm not sure who writes them but I do feel that they are an important part of each mass. They follow a set order, although the wording will be slightly different for each day. They are simple and direct with no 'flowery' language. To me they are a bridge between my own private intentions and prayers and the formal prayers said during mass. They reach out across our community and bid us as a group to focus on the Church as well as current and local issues.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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