Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shhhh: ZENIT's Father Edward McNamara answers my question

"Here in Boston I've often wondered why the Missal instruction to pray certain prayers 'inaudibly' is not only ignored, but the prayers themselves are changed, presumably to include the congregation. I refer specifically to two instances:

"The prayer during the washing of the hands is often audible and one hears: 'Lord, wash away our iniquities, cleanse us of our sins.' I'm assuming the celebrant is not using the 'royal we' here, and while I appreciate the sentiment, it's disconcerting, because precisely at this time I'm praying (silently) to the Lord to purify the priest!

"Prior to their reception of Communion, I often hear priests pray, loudly: "May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring us ALL (that's not my emphasis ... that's the priests') to everlasting life." (To which the congregation invariably responds, understandably I suppose, with a hearty "Amen!") Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but it is while the priest communicates that I try to (silently) pray for his eternal glory. This sort of interrupts my prayer for him.

"I already know that these (and, alas, too many other) instances aren't in the missal. What I'm wondering is simply why do priests do this?"


Why indeed? I can think of many reasons, but in the end they will be merely speculative. I can only put it down to inadequate liturgical formation and a consequent lack of understanding of the inner dynamics of the celebration. Such acts betray a deficient grasp of how these personal prayers address the priest's specific need for purification in virtue of his unique role within the celebration.
The fact that the priest says these prayers quietly can also be a teaching moment in which he, through his devout attitude, teaches the faithful how to prepare for Communion. Saying this prayer aloud turns it into another vocal prayer, thus depriving it of its proper liturgical function.

This goes to show that fidelity to the missal, and not our personal ideas regarding community involvement, is actually the most integrally pastoral attitude we can have.

Thank you, Father—may you and your brothers enjoy a blessed Year of the Priest!