Concluding the Prayers of the Faithful

And More on Holy Oils

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ROME, OCT. 18, 2005 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

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Q: «I was under the impression that the priest ‘may’ add a prayer at the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful, but was not required to do so by the rubrics. In my parish, after the deacon concludes the prayers, the parish priest simply enunciates, «Oremus.» — C.C., Washington, D.C.

A: This topic is dealt with quite well in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Nos. 69-71, which state:

«[69] In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.

«[70] As a rule, the series of intentions is to be
For the needs of the Church;
For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
For the local community.
Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.

«[71] It is for the priest celebrant to direct this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he invites the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with a prayer. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed freely but prudently, and be succinct, and they should express the prayer of the entire community.

«The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful.

«The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence.»

From what is said in No. 71 it is clear that the priest should conclude the Prayer of the Faithful with a prayer. This prayer is said with hands extended as for the other presidential prayers.

A particular case, about which the norms are not particularly clear, arises when Morning or Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours is joined to Mass on an occasional weekday. On such occasions it is permitted to replace the Prayer of the Faithful with the intercessions from the Divine Office (See No. 94 of the Introduction to the Divine Office).

When the Office is prayed separately, the intercessions are followed by the concluding prayer which often coincides with the Collect of the Mass of the day. When used at Mass this prayer has already been proclaimed before the readings and so the priest should proclaim another suitable prayer or conclude with a simple generic formula such as «We ask this through Christ Our Lord.»

The problem does not usually arise on Sundays and feasts because, while the office may be joined to Mass, the Prayer of the Faithful may not be substituted by the intercessions from the Office.

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Follow-up: Storage of Holy Oils

Pursuant to our replies regarding the public display of the holy oils (Oct. 4) several questions turned upon their proper use outside of the sacraments themselves.

Several readers asked if holy oils may be used in blessings in lieu of holy water or for other paraliturgical acts, for example, in retreats or commissioning ceremonies in which teachers or catechists are anointed.

The question is difficult to respond to from the viewpoint of official documents as, in all probability, it probably had never entered into anybody’s head that such things would occur.

Apart from the use of holy oils for the sacraments, the sacred chrism is also used by the bishop in solemnly dedicating a church and an altar. Apart from these, the official rituals of the Church do not foresee other uses for the holy oils.

One official document refers to the incorrect use of anointing by lay people. In the Instruction «On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest» (1997), Article 9 states:

«The non-ordained faithful particularly assist the sick by being with them in difficult moments, encouraging them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, by helping them to have the disposition to make a good individual confession as well as to prepare them to receive the Anointing of the Sick. In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil.»

This document certainly only refers to a very specific case but it encapsulates an important principle: that of not creating confusion regarding the sacramental signs.

Some sacramental signs have but one meaning and are never repeated even for devotional purposes. For example, baptism’s unrepeatable nature precludes the repetition of the rite although a person could devoutly renew his baptismal promises on his anniversary.

Other signs, such as the laying on of hands, have more than one meaning and may be used in several contexts. It can mean consecration and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the rites of ordination and confirmation, forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, and healing in the sacrament of anointing as well as within the extra-sacramental context of some recent spiritual currents such as the charismatic renewal.

The case of anointing is closer to the first case (baptism) than the second. Although there might be no explicit prohibition, liturgical law usually presupposes a certain degree of common sense. And the use of holy oil, or any other oil, for extra-sacramental anointing can only lead to inappropriate confusion with the sacramental rites as such.

It also ignores the fact that the Church already has a rich source of rituals and prayers in the Book of Blessings which can easily be used or adapted for practically every situation in which these oils have been adopted.

This does not mean that oil may never be used in any other Catholic rituals. In some places, on the occasion of a particular feast in honor of Mary or a saint, it is customary to celebrate a rite of blessings of food or drink (including oil).

The Book of Blessings admonishes pastors to ensure that the faithful have a correct understanding of the true meaning of such blessings so as to avoid superstitions.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country.

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