The Secret Prayers of the Mass: The Gospel Blessing

There are some people in this world that have wonderful, beautiful voices.  I think of James Earl Jones or Liam Neeson, for example.  And if you can get used to the voice of Darth Vader reading Tom Sawyer or something to you, it can be a lot of fun and a great experience.  These actors or voice personalities bring their voices to the book, and they color the way that the book comes to the listener.

So what about the Scripture?  Well, some people try to treat the Bible as they might treat Tom Sawyer – as a nice book of stories.  There are many nice lessons to be learned in the Bible stories, just like there are in various works of literature.  But we have to remember that the Scriptures – whether the Old Testament, the New Testament letters, or the Gospels – are so much more than that!

As Catholics, we believe that along with our sacred Tradition, Scripture makes up the core of our faith.  It’s not just some story book that we hope guides our actions, but the Word of God given to us.  It is the voice of God, certainly speaking to the audience of the time (ancient Israelites, the followers of Jesus, communities of Christians), and if understand this, it can help us to explain the seeming discrepancies that we might find.  But the Scriptures are also the voice of God speaking to you and I directly today.  If we believe in God’s love for us, and his provident care, we know that when the Gospels were written, that they were written for us too!

If all this is true, and if the Scriptures are really the Word of God, then those who are called to proclaim the word – lectors, deacons, and priests – need grace and humility to be able to give God’s message.  And so we have a few quiet prayers that the priest prays over the deacon, or before the altar to prepare for that.  Here they are:

(Blessing of the Deacon) – “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

(If there is no deacon, the priest prays before the altar) – “Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel.”

These prayers are simply there so that people don’t hear only the minister (like they would Liam Neeson or Darth Vader James Earl Jones), but the Word of God speaking into their hearts, igniting them with love.  So the next time you listen to the readings at Mass, or even the next time you open your Bible, say a little prayer that you might be open to whatever God has in mind to speak to your heart.

Tune in next week, for more “Secret Prayers”!

The Secret Prayers of the Mass: A Prelude

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!

The Roman Missal: The SECRET Prayers of the Mass

One of the most awkward social moments is when you see someone moving their lips while looking at you, but you can’t hear what they’re saying, so you ask them, “What??”  At this point, the person turns a little more, and you notice they’re wearing one of those wireless Bluetooth earpieces for their phone!  I used to think the same thing about the priest when he was whispering some of the prayers at Mass.  I felt like I wasn’t listening hard enough, or that I was missing something!  So I figure now would be a time to talk about the SECRET PRAYERS OF THE MASS!!!

That caught your attention, didn’t it?  You might ask why I would call them that.  Are they rude comments about the congregation that the priest is venting to God?  No.  Are they the priest whispering sweet nothings into God’s ear?  No.  Are they ancient secrets about the child of Jesus and Mary Magdalene?  Settle down, Dan Brown.  No.  They are called “secret” because of the way they are described in Latin: “sub secreto”, basically translated as “said in a low voice.”

There are many occasions in the Mass where we hear (or don’t hear, in this case) these prayers, and the reason they are said quietly depends on the circumstance.  Some are quiet for historical reasons, stemming from days when the Mass was typically prayed in that low voice, with the parts out loud being the exception.

Others are the prayer of the priest on behalf of the Church.  This has to do with the Church’s understanding of the purpose of priests.  A priest has the humbling task to offer the sacrifice of Christ on behalf of all as an intercessor, both for those present and those not.  For this reason, there are some prayers that the priest prays personally to Christ, recognizing his unworthiness and weakness, and seeking the Lord’s divine help to do what he’s been asked to do.

One other reason that these prayers are silent is for a sense of mystery.  I’m not talking about cloak-and-dagger stuff here, but something that inspires wonder and awe for Christ, something that makes us acknowledge we don’t know everything about God.

As mentioned earlier, some of these prayers are for the priest alone, and really only make sense when spoken by someone in his position, but others are wonderful opportunities for personal devotion and prayer for all of us.  They remind us of the importance of interior prayer, so that we’re not just “going to Mass” or “saying Mass” (in my case), but that we’re “praying the Mass.”

So break out your magnifying glass and your Sherlock Holmes hat!  It’s time to look at the “Secret Prayers of the Mass!”