In an article in the Brisbane Catholic paper, The Catholic Leader, the columnist who writes each week on Liturgy, Elizabeth Harrington, offered some comments on The Prayers of the Faithful or General Intercessions. (The Catholic Leader, 25 February 2001)
Elizabeth Harrington is the education officer with the Brisbane archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.
She offers her observation that the Prayer of the Faithful is one of the most misunderstood and poorly celebrated elements of the Mass.
The point is made that the reader is not offering the prayer: the reader is merely announcing the intention. The whole congregation prays, in silence.
What should happen is this: the reader announces a topic or focal point about which the faithful pray in the silence that follows. Only then comes the cue (eg. Lord, hear us) and the communitys common response (eg Lord, hear our prayer).
If there is no silence, then there is no prayer just a list of statements, Elizabeth says. This statement makes a good point, but it is stronger than the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in No. 47 which mentions the congregation making its petition either by a common response after each petition or by silent prayer. The simple method of framing petitions, as described in issues of NACP, combines an emphasis on silent prayer with the addition of a common, summary response.
At the end of the brief (but not too brief) period of silence after the announcement of the intention the reader gives the cue for the summary, united, prayerful declaration from the congregation. In liturgically well-developed congregations a cantor could sing the cue and the congregation would sing the prayerful, all-embracing invocation.
Please God, there will never be a political petition along the lines of May Joe Blogs have an outright victory in next Saturdays election. A legitimate intention could be: Next Saturday we go to the polls for the State election. silence Lord, hear us. Lord, hear our prayer.
The petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful bring the concerns of daily life into the official prayer of the Sunday Liturgy. These concerns relate to what is happening in the universal Church and in the world at this time. Obviously the concerns of the local community about local community matters can also be voiced, as well as intentions for those oppressed by any need. (See General Instruction Nos. 45 & 46) Such petitions cannot be found in a book written years previously in another country. At best, when properly constructed, such texts sometimes offer useful models to imitate.
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