I want to change gears this week from our regular reflections and focus on an often-neglected part of the Holy Mass: the Universal prayer, or Prayers of the Faithful. These general intercessory prayers are an expression of our desire, as a community, to invite God into every aspect of our lives, particularly in those areas of need that occupy our minds and hearts. It is an act of our Priesthood as baptized members of Jesus’ Body, the Church, offering up our prayers to God for the sake of those in need.
Our petitions follow a general pattern as laid out in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, the Church’s guidelines for the celebration of Mass:
1. Prayers for the needs of the Church
2. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world
3. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty
4. For the local community
The manner of our prayer is likewise instructed to be: “sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.”
Our unison response is also important. It expresses our desire to speak as one Body, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul encourages in this Sunday’s second reading: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” Thus, we avoid any petitions that would divide the faithful, or exclusive prayers for one group over another. Special celebrations, like weddings or funeral Masses, will have petitions tailored to that event, but in general, we try to keep our General Intercessions general. We may omit these prayers in a simple daily Mass, but for Sundays and Feast Days, the Universal Prayer is part of our duty as a Universal Church to pray and intercede for each other as members of the Body of Christ.