Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Let My People Pray

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Let My People Pray

Article excerpt

A modest proposal: Let's return the prayer of the faithful to the faithful.

CAN YOU IMAGINE JESUS AT THE LAST SUPPER, Before he began praying over the bread and the wine, giving the nod to one of his apostles (James the Less, perhaps), who then proceeds to read from a printed scroll: "For Caesar and Pilate and all imperial officials, that they may rule with justice and truth, let us pray to the Lord." To which all the apostles would reply, "Lord, hear our prayer."

Then James continues, "For Herod and Caiaphas and all the rabbis and Levites, that they may serve God's chosen people with compassion, let us pray to the Lord." And maybe ending with, "And for the success of the temple fundraising dinner and silent auction, let us pray to the Lord.... "

I suspect the prayers of those gathered at that table were more immediate and real. And yet every weekend I'm treated to a series of prayers that are allegedly mine, but usually have little to do with what's going on in my heart and soul.

So I'll say it flatly: Let's return the prayer of the faithful to the faithful.

I realize there's little chance of this happening. Liturgists have decided what ought to take place at this moment in the Mass, and it's not spontaneity. They don't seem to be interested in leaving room for involvement that springs forth from the hearts worshipers will soon be enjoined to "lift up" to the Lord. And that's a wasted opportunity.

The next time you celebrate liturgy from the pew--and for most of us, that's every week--think of how little real involvement you have. Perhaps the only two phrases that you voice on your own in that whole hour-long service are "The peace of Christ be with you," and "Amen" (twice if you receive Communion under both species). Our liturgy features a lot of words, some soaring and beautiful. But when it comes to the prayer of the faithful, those words are often not our words. They may be well written and sometimes even inclusive, but they're trying to carry more weight than they can handle.

Now I know that liturgy is not private prayer. That it is corporate worship. And that there are protocols, styles, and standards that are appropriate to liturgical prayer. But I also know there's nothing wrong with warming up the crowd a bit.

A number of years ago one of the priests at our parish, Father Ray Novacek, C.S.V., made time and space for a true offering of petitions from the people in the pew. …

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