Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prayers of the (verbose) faithful

I want to preface this blog post by saying that I love my parish.  Seriously.  There is so much good there, and so many good and kind and lovely people there; there is such a spirit of willing service and of encouragement, that it would be hard to describe it all.

So this particular post isn't directed as a rant against my parish per se.  Nor is it a rant against the O.F. Mass, which I attend and love.  It's just a small, tiny, minor rant against that part of the O.F. Mass when on Sunday (after the Creed, ordinarily) someone, usually a lay reader, gets up and reads aloud the prayer intentions for that Mass.

I have no problem with this practice in theory.  Petitioning God for our needs and remembering that all we are and have and can be comes from Him is a good thing, and unquestionably so.  It's just that in recent years the practice of the prayers of the faithful has gotten a wee bit out of hand, or so it seems from where I sit.

For example, I do think it's a wonderful thing for a parish to pray for all of those who are sick or suffering and to remember those parishioners who have died.  I even think it's fine to mention specific people by name when necessary.  But lately, as I joked to one of my daughters, there's this sense that at this point in the prayers of the faithful the reader is really saying, "We pray for the people of our parish, who are listed in the parish directory as follows..."  It's not a big deal, except when the prayers of the faithful go on a bit longer than the homily, which I could swear has happened on occasion.

Another thing which I haven't noticed as much in my own parish, but which is certainly the case in other parishes I've been to, is that sometimes the prayers of the faithful get a little...political.  No, praying for an end to war, violence, oppression, abortion, or similar things is definitely not political; neither is praying for our leaders (though as a general rule when we pray for wisdom for our leaders there ought not be a tone of voice that indicates that we think it would be an unprecedented miracle if our prayer were answered).  But there are times when politics does seem to enter the prayers just a bit too much.

Still another thing that I've noticed (mostly elsewhere) is the tendency to use "canned" prayers from some liturgical source or other.  While following some order or structure or suggestions for prayers might be fine (especially when the suggestions tie into that Sunday's Gospel message or something equally suitable), I think most people find pre-printed lists of prayers which may or may not apply to the local community to be annoying at best.

One thing that annoys my husband is the way that we pray for catechumens.  Oh, he doesn't mind that we pray for people studying the faith with a view toward becoming Catholic--not at all!  But the phrasing of that particular intention always includes a prayer for those involved "in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and as Adapted for Children, etc." which is where he draws the line.  As he puts it, we can take for granted that after several years of praying that exact same intention most people would be fine if the reader used the acronyms; that is, if the prayer was "For all those in RCIA and RCIC at our parish, we pray to the Lord..."  The wordiness of the other phrase, when it gets repeated pretty much every single Sunday, is one of his pet peeves.

All things considered, I think that the prayers of the faithful at Mass should be brief, direct, focused and simple.  As a character in this book put it (I'm paraphrasing) when we get wordy in our prayers, nine times out of ten we're just trying to teach the Lord His own business.  He knows what we want and need, and though it's still good for us to bow our heads in supplication, we don't really have to draw out the business of telling Him unnecessarily (especially when it comes to naming the catechetical programs our people are involved in, because He certainly knows that already!).

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