HE GENERAL INTERCESSIONS are supposed to be just that: general intercessions. So often, though, the bidding prayers we offer at Mass are specific rather than general, and more commentary than petition.
Many parishes use subscription services that provide intercessions for every Sunday or even every liturgical day. Some of the fault lies with these corporations, which could do a better job of composing the texts.
Fault also lies, sometimes, with lectors who relish in adding a final petition encouraging people to add their “personal intentions” in the silence of their hearts. Worse is the invitation to “popcorn intercessions,” when those personal intentions are actually called out from the congregation. I can hardly disagree with the desire to engender intercessory prayer among the faithful, but would it not be better for those assisting at Mass to form their intentions for the Mass before Mass begins?
Professor Kwasniewski raised thoughtful questions about the purpose and nature of the Prayer of the Faithful in a previous post (here). I would like to add one further critique to those he offers.
My reservations about the Prayer of the Faithful center on the fact that these texts may be freely composed. Any time in the Roman Liturgy when there is an allowance to make up a liturgical text, one should be cautious. The third edition of the Roman Missal in English wisely removed numerous instances of the infamous phrase, “these or similar words.” While local composition of the bidding prayers is certainly permissible, is it advisable? Should it not disturb me that Liturgical Press or the parish secretary or even the celebrant can freely compose texts for use at Holy Mass?
Of course, there is a general format to which the general intercessions ought to conform. There are even example sets in an appendix in the Roman Missal. The common practice, however, is often quite divergent from the expected norms.
What should be done with the Prayer of the Faithful? It may be a comparatively minor element of the Mass, but it may be an area for reflection and reform.