Liturgical Texts: December 2008 Archives


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1226Detail St Stephen chevalie.jpg

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.

Cleansing of the Mind

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Here is today's Collect in the Missale Romanum and in the Liturgia Horarum. In the 1962 Missale Romanum it is the Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent.

Excita, Domine, corda nostra
ad praeparandas Unigeniti tui vias,
ut per eius adventum,
purificatis tibi mentibus servire mereamur.

Bishop England in 1843

The Right Reverend Dr. John England, Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina translated this Collect in his 1843 edition of The Roman Missal Translated into English for the Use of the Laity:

Stir up, O Lord, our hearts
to prepare the ways of thy only-begotten Son:
that by his coming
we may be enabled to serve thee with pure minds.

And here is how I translated the same Collect this morning:

Stir up our hearts, O Lord,
to make ready the paths of Thine only-begotten Son
that His coming may enable us to serve Thee
with minds that have been cleansed.

The Sacramentary

But in the current Sacramentary we find a prayer that cannot possibly claim to be a translation of the original text.

Almighty Father,
give us the joy of your love
to prepare the way for Christ our Lord.
Help us to serve you and one another.

On Whose Watch?

Why is this "translation," given in the 1970 Sacramentary, still in use after 38 years? Incredible, is it not? Who did this "translation?" And who approved it? And why was it so widely accepted without question? It bears absolutely no resemblance to the original Collect it purports to render in English. It is a flagrant betrayal of the lex orandi.

Deleterious Spiritual Consequences

Did it not occur to the translators of the Sacramentary to consult the first American translation of the Roman Missal, that of Bishop England? Or any other for that matter? I know that the new ICEL translation, in accord with the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, is on the way, but all the same! Has anyone reflected on the deleterious spiritual consequences of using flawed liturgical texts?

Some Provocative Questions

I have the joy of offering Holy Mass in Latin and in the Extraordinary Form every day so that, personally, this debacle doesn't affect me. I am aware nonethless of the sufferings and problems of conscience that the current Sacramentary inflicts on a number of priests. And what of the faithful deprived for the past forty years of faithful and accurate translations of the liturgy of the Church?

Salus Animarum Est Suprema Lex

In the light of the old axiom so often quoted by canonists and moral theologians, that "the good of souls is the supreme law," would a priest be justified in using an accurate translation of the text the Church wants us to have, the text given in the editio typica, while waiting for the new ICEL translation? Or does a narrow and blind legalism impose the obligatory use of texts that are, even to those with a minimal knowledge of the Missale Romanum, flawed to the extent of depriving souls of actual participation in the prayer of the Church? Is not the good of souls at stake? I'm just asking the questions!

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory