Explanation of the Mass - Liturgy of the Word (Part 6)

Through a series of informational articles, we will try to explain terms, prayers, and actions that happen at Mass and why they happen.  You will learn about the prayers the priest prays silently during Mass, as well as the people’s parts.  References to GIRM in italics refer to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the book from which rites related to the Mass are codified.  We hope this information will help to make your participation in Mass more meaningful and understandable.

GIRM 69.  In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all.  It is desirable that there usually be such a form of prayer in Masses celebrated with the people, so that petitions may be offered for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world.

GIRM 70.  The series of intentions is usually 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 any particular celebration, such as a Confirmation, a Marriage, or at a Funeral, the series of intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion.

GIRM 71.  It is for the Priest Celebrant to regulate this prayer from the chair.  He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he calls upon the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with an oration.  The intentions announced should be sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.  They are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the Deacon or by a cantor, a reader, or one of the lay faithful. The people, for their part, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said in common after each intention or by praying in silence.

The Prayers of the Faithful, also known as the General Intercessions or the Universal Prayers, take place at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, and serve like a hinge connecting the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the next part of the Mass).  The structure of the prayers of the faithful is generally the same:  a short introduction by the priest, followed by 5-7 intercessions proclaimed by the deacon or lector, with a short concluding prayer led by the priest.  At the end of each petition, we respond “Lord, hear our prayer” or some other suitable response.

While there are no official texts for the prayers of the faithful, they follow a general order set forth above.  In addition, some parishes include an intention for vocations every week, and conclude the prayers of the faithful with an intention that includes a few moments of silence for which to pray for our own personal intentions.

The prayers of the faithful truly belong to the faithful; that is, all who are baptized.  This is a time not just for those needs close to us as individuals, but for the needs of this parish, this diocese, this country and for the Church as a whole.  When we pray in this way, we recognize our place within the larger community of the baptized, and bring those prayers and intentions with us as we move forward in the Mass.

Every Mass has a special intention – someone (living or dead) or something it is offered for (peace or harvest or rain, etc.).  Our Diocese sets a stipend of $10 for that intention, and one Mass each weekend is to be for the people of the parish.

The Dismissal of Catechumens takes place at the end of the Liturgy of the Word.  If there are people studying to become Catholic, they are not able to receive Eucharist yet, so they may be dismissed for further study.  That is up to the Priest or RCIA team to decide.  Some believe that we are welcoming the catechumens into our faith and so encourage them to participate in the entire Mass, except for receiving Holy Communion.