Q: As you have, I have been using the “new” Roman Missal as I preside at the Eucharist. Several years ago you wrote one of your columns on your reactions to the texts included in it. I’m curious to know your thoughts on the present Missal after almost five years of using it. Also, what do you think should be included in future editions of the Missal?
A: Thank you for this invitation to reflect on the prayer texts contained in the Roman Missal.
I have continued to sing the celebrant’s prayers on Sundays, solemnities and greater feasts. It is perhaps surprising to me that these prayers sound better sung rather than recited. I wish that the edition of the Missal for our country had included these prayers with pointing for singing them, but the Vatican did not approve this. So I am left to follow my instinct and the directions for singing these prayers contained in the Missal and do my own sung versions.
The prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayer are set to music, and I believe that Sundays, solemnities and some feasts deserve sung prefaces. Someone has said that for the Eastern churches, icons express the heart of the feast being celebrated in the liturgy. The prefaces do this in the Roman liturgy in a somewhat compact yet poetic way.
I am pleased with most of the prefaces in the current Missal, and I am delighted that St. Mary Magdalene got her own preface when her obligatory memorial on July 22 was raised to the rank of feast earlier this year. In this regard, the “Apostle to the Apostles” is like Sts. Peter and Paul, the chief apostles of the Church of Rome, who have their own preface.
The large number and rich variety of these Mass prayers invite me to make full use of the Missal’s texts. I try to select the celebrant’s prayers, prefaces and Eucharistic Prayers for weekday Masses that echo themes found in the Lectionary readings for each day.
For example, when the Gospel recounts a healing miracle of Jesus, I like to use Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs IV: “Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good.” The section that leads into the “Holy, Holy” highlights the compassion of the Redeemer toward the needy and is a perfect complement to the Gospel reading.
While this takes some time and attention on my part, I like to recall what Father Annibale Bugnini, secretary of the commission that worked on the reform of the liturgy after Vatican II, told a liturgy convention in 1968: “It is not a national or international disaster, nor will the church collapse, the day when the rubrics inform the celebrant that he is no longer an automaton, but will have to prepare, in responsible fashion, the prayer of his people, and that this is his primary and principal duty as a priest.”
For the future, I think we need one or more sets of Mass prayers with the theme of ecology and care for the environment. The present Missal does include prayers for use “At Seedtime” and “After the Harvest,” but these prayers are more agricultural than ecological.
I wish that Mass prayers for the care of the earth had been published along with Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Laudato Si.’” These would be fitting to use on the annual Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Sept. 1) and on other occasions throughout the year. We need Mass prayers something like the one in the Episcopal “Book of Common Prayer:”
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I do like Preface V of the Sundays of Ordinary Time, which praises the God who “laid the foundations of the world” and “arranged the changing of times and seasons.” I use this preface on the Sunday occurring on the summer solstice and autumnal equinox or on the first Sunday following it.
We also need some Mass prayers to use at the time of gun violence, terrorist attacks and other tragedies marked by the loss of human life. In one of the Missal’s two collects “In Time of War and Civil Disturbance,” we ask God to “defend against every attack those who cry out to you,” but this is not the same as expressing lament for terrorist violence and mass shootings already having occurred or offering intercession for the deceased and injured victims and their loved ones, whether close to home or far away.
We need some Mass prayers that help us pray rather directly for healing of broken bodies, hearts and lives as we seek consolation in the face of these tragedies.
Right now I use the prayers “For the Preservation of Peace and Justice” at such times. I especially like this collect:
O God of peace, who are peace itself and whom a spirit of discord cannot grasp, nor a violent mind receive, grant that those who are one in heart may persevere in what is good and that those in conflict may forget evil and so be healed.
I also like this Prayer after Communion from the Mass “For Promoting Harmony”:
We have received, O Lord, the Sacrament of unity; grant us, we pray, that, living in your house in holy accord, we may possess the peace we hand on and preserve the peace we have received.
Peace is a relational, mutual gift among people. We need some Mass prayers that explicitly help us to mourn the loss of life through violence and that help us recommit ourselves to the peace that springs from justice.
I would be interested in receiving observations of other priests on the content of the present Roman Missal and their use of it. I promise not to send such comments to “higher authority.”
Benedictine Father Michael Kwatera, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, serves as the abbey’s director of liturgy. Please send your questions on liturgy to him at email@example.com or at St. John’s Abbey, P.O. Box 2015, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015.