So let’s talk about some prayers! One thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this, even the prayers of Mass that we’ve already talked about, is that by “prayer”, I’m not talking about rattling something off just because I’ve been told to. That should never be the case!
A genuine prayer is one that comes from the heart. Now, some may take this to mean that the only genuine prayer is the one that’s made up or individualized to make it feel new, but that’s not what I’m saying. Really, any prayer can come from our hearts: the cry of thanksgiving offered for a great gift from God, the moan of anguish and desire for God to make himself real to us, or even something as simple as a quiet Our Father or Hail Mary prayed under our breath.
So with some of these secret prayers of the Mass, while it might seem like something we have to say just because we’re told to, they are very important, because they are calls to enter into the mystery of what has been handed down to us. Basically what I want to say here is that these prefabricated prayers that we’re talking about here aren’t intended to be hoops to jump through, but should be prayed from the depths of our souls.
So…all that being said…the first “Secret Prayer of the Mass” isn’t actually during Mass at all – sorry. Really the first one I want to mention is a prayer before Mass. Now for a priest getting ready for Mass, this could be a number of things. It could be a made up little prayer with the servers and lector, or an Our Father prayed together. It could be the prayers that I as a priest can pray as I put on each vestment, reflecting on what they symbolize and asking for those graces at Mass. In fact, there’s an entire appendix in the Missal for prayers before Mass! One of those is a statement of intent, which I was asked to do before my first Mass, basically stating my intention to bring about the Body and Blood of Christ.
There’s no one thing that I have to do, but I have to do something! Really, it’s a prayer of preparation for what’s about to happen.
Like so many of these “secret” prayers, each of us are invited to do something similar. If you think about it, it’s so wonderful to walk in and greet each other before Mass, as we’re invited to, but do we greet God before Mass? Each of us are invited to pray to prepare ourselves for Mass, even if just for a minute or two before, asking the Lord to help us to be open to the message he gives to us in these readings, the grace he gives in his Body and Blood, and the mission he gives us as we go forth.
Maybe the next time you come to Mass, after saying “hello” to all your friends and family, commenting on your disappointment in Mizzou, or remarking how you’re playing golf this week in the 85 degree March weather, consider taking a minute or two to say “hello” to God as well. I guarantee it will help you get ready for Mass!