Prayer of the Faithful

“Especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation there is to be restored, after the Gospel and the homily, ‘the common prayer’ or ‘the prayer of the faithful.’

Mar 27, 2014

Q: Is it permissible to omit the Prayer of the Faithful at a daily Mass or funeral? — J.R., San Antonio, Texas

A: In reintroducing the Universal Prayer to the liturgy in 1963 the Second Vatican Council stated the following in Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 53:

“Especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation there is to be restored, after the Gospel and the homily, ‘the common prayer’ or ‘the prayer of the faithful.’ By this prayer, in which the people are to take part, intercession will be made for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the entire world.”

Two years later, in 1965, the Holy See was asked this question “Whether in Masses celebrated with the people, the prayer of the faithful is obligatory on ferial days?”

The response in the Vatican’s typical laconic style was: “It does not oblige on ferial days.” It later confirmed and amplified its response in other documents, with specific reference to Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Therefore, although the Prayer of the Faithful may be profitably used on a daily basis, it is obligatory only on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

It is noteworthy, however, that the most recent documents do not make this distinction between festivities and ferial days but simply describe the structure of the prayer. This allows for their use on all suitable occasions without mandating an obligation.
Thus the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says:

“69. In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the Word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.

“70. As a rule, the series of intentions is to be: a. For the needs of the Church; b. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world; c. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty; d. For the local community. Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.

“71. It is for the priest celebrant to direct this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he invites the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with a prayer. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed freely but prudently, and be succinct, and they should express the prayer of the entire community. The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful. The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence.”

With respect to Masses for the dead the GIRM says:

“385. In the arranging and choosing of the variable parts of the Mass for the Dead, especially the Funeral Mass (e.g., orations, readings, Prayer of the Faithful), pastoral considerations bearing upon the deceased, the family, and those attending should rightly be taken into account.”

This would mean that while the Prayer of the Faithful may be licitly omitted at the funeral, it is important to give full weight to the pastoral needs of the bereaved before deciding to do so. -- Answered by Legionary of Christ Fr Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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