INTENTIONS AT MASS: Universal Prayer
From time to time, we are approached with questions about Liturgical practices or it may be observed that there needs to be on-going catechesis regarding same. We would like to offer this catechesis periodically so that all the faithful more fully understand why things are done in a certain way and why some things may not be introduced into Liturgical practice without the proper Ecclesial approval or permission.
If you have questions or concerns about what happens during the Liturgy, let us know so that we may answer them for you.
UNIVERSAL PRAYER OR “INTENTIONS AT MASS”
Part of the Liturgy of the Mass is the praying of the Universal Prayer, formerly known as the Prayer of the Faithful or General Intercessions. Over the course of time, the intercessions were included in the Liturgical Rites of the Western Church in different forms and have evolved, so to speak, to the current form in which they are now proclaimed.
Intercessory prayer helps us to remember that God is the source of all that we are and all that we have. (We do not need to pray in order to remind God of what we need; we need to pray in order to remind ourselves of who alone provides for our needs.) As we remember God’s goodness, we dare to ask God for even more expressions of that goodness in our lives and in our world.
At the Second Vatican Council in the “new Order of Mass” contained in the Missal of Pope Paul VI (1970), the intercessions were reintroduced at the place they held in the ancient Roman liturgy: They are once again said or sung at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word in the simpler form. A deacon (or cantor or other person) announces the intentions, and the assembly responds to each intention with an unvarying response (though the response itself may vary from one Eucharistic celebration to another). The priest offers an introductory and concluding prayer. Through the Universal Prayer, worshipers of our day are one with their ancestors in faith. The intercessory prayer of the Church, the body of Christ, also makes it one with the prayer of Jesus Christ, its head.
- The structure of the Universal Prayer is set by the Sacramentary which outlines the sequence of intentions as follows:
- For the needs of the Church
- For public authorities and the salvation of the world
- For those oppressed by any need
- For the local community
There is some flexibility for special intentions for the local community, for the sick, for vocations or for the deceased but in general, the Universal Prayer should follow the prescribed form. All prayer is good and there are many diverse things for which we can pray but in the context of the Mass, universal is the underlying tone, so it is important to keep to the norm in deference to this Universal theme.
It is interesting to note that the guidelines for formulating the intentions for the Universal Prayer state that the meaning of the petitions need to be clear to the people as they cannot give interior assent when the petitions are too complex for immediate understanding. Brevity is essential for the clarity in a series of petitions. It is also noted that petitions should not be didactic – to be used to force upon the people a series of merely personal petitions nor to manipulate the faithful. The petitions of the Universal Prayer should always encompass the idea that “prayer is in the praying, not in the composition.”