We have been at our parish since we moved to the state. From the start, we knew we were blessed to have such a loving community be our parish home. But one Sunday, perhaps a couple months after moving here, I was surprised and upset that the Prayer of the Faithful was hijacked by someone whose intent was to lecture us on how we should vote. I do not now recall the exact prayer but it went beyond the usual prayer for our leaders, and prayer for social justice and veered off into something about “taxes being used to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth” sort of thing. My husband and I exchanged shocked glances at the blatant attempt to editorialize the prayer. So after Mass, I approached Fr. Tom, who didn’t know me from Adam, and told him that I really hoped that this was the last time that the Prayer of the Faithful was politicized. He looked very surprised, I remember. I still don’t know if I did the right thing, or the right thing in the right way, but that was the last time we ever heard ideology mixed into our Prayer of the Faithful.
I thought of that time when I came across this article on the purpose for a Prayer of the Faithful, and how it should be done. Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Director of Liturgy for the Diocese of Davenport writes up a guiding reflection on this underappreciated part of the Mass. No mini-homilies or political rants, please!
Prayer of the Faithful
And, together, we raise our voices in prayer. Baptized into Jesus Christ, we share in his priestly office of offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father, and of interceding on behalf of the world.
It is important to keep in mind how the Prayer of the Faithful is structured. The presider first addresses the people, inviting them to prayer.
Next, the deacon (or, in his absence, another minister) announces the intentions. We call these “general” intercessions because they ought to be petitions that the assembly can, by and large, agree on, and because they do not focus on the needs of any one individual.
This is not the time for a “mini-homily,” the place to make a particular point; or to tell God how to answer our prayers. It is neither the time to pray for an unknown “special intention” (to which the assembly cannot assent) nor to offer prayers of thanksgiving (the Eucharistic Prayer makes that part of its structure and focus).
Rather, we are called to imagine the reign of God as proclaimed in the Scriptures and give voice to what we see: a world of justice, a world where the hungry are fed and the sick made whole, a world where death and tears are no more. Finally, the presider closes the intercessions by addressing God the Father, through Christ — the one through whom all prayer is made.
Entering the Mystery
Do I really believe what I say I believe? What have I done to learn more about this faith that I profess, about being a Christian?
Do I hear in the Prayer of the Faithful not a list of demands that we make on God, but instead a call to action? If I dare pray for justice, for healing, for the drying of tears — what am I doing, filled with God’s grace, to make those things come to pass?
The Ars Celebrandi
As one who leads prayer, do I let my body reflect what I am doing? Here, as well as throughout the liturgy, do I look at the people when I am addressing them? Where is my gaze when I am addressing God?
As a deacon, does my liturgical role of being the one who announces the intercessions truly reflect my ministry of charity outside the liturgy — that I am the one who knows the cares of the community so well that I can give voice to those needs before God? Or is there a disconnect between what I do within the walls of the church and outside them?
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