Adding Names in Eucharistic Prayers

And More on Incensing the Congregation

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ROME, FEB. 17, 2009 («> Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university. 

Q: The first three Eucharistic Prayers each include an opportunity to mention particular names of either the faithful or the deceased, namely at the Memento’s («Remember, Lord …»). When should the priest exercise these opportunities? Is it permissible for one to omit the names in the Roman Canon? Also, the Eucharistic Prayers wonderfully recall the lives of the saints in heaven. Occasionally, a priest would add the name of the saint whose feast day we might be celebrating and/or the names of the saints who founded the religious order which the priest belongs to (if he is religious). While this seems fitting, is this proper (especially when Eucharistic Prayer III explicitly gives the option of adding the name of «the saint of the day or the patron saint» while no other Eucharistic Prayer gives this option)? — J.G., Lewisville, Texas 

A: As a general principle the names of the deceased, along with the specific formulas involved, are remembered in the Eucharistic Prayers only when there is a specific reason for doing so. This is, above all, the funeral Mass or a significant anniversary of death. 

On other occasions, if the Mass is being offered up for the soul of a deceased person, the name is best mentioned at the beginning of Mass or during the prayer of the faithful. Specific names of the deceased should not be habitually mentioned during the Eucharistic Prayer. 

A similar criterion applies for the living. With the exception of the pope and bishop, living people are mentioned only on rare occasions. For example, on the occasion of a baptism the godparents are mentioned at the Memento («Remember Lord …») while adult neophytes are mentioned at the moment of the Hanc Igitur («Father, accept this offering …»). Neophytes are usually recalled collectively at this moment during the Easter octave. 

Newlyweds are also named in a special Hanc Igitur and there are similar formulas for other occasions such as confirmation and ordination, although not all have the possibility of mentioning particular names. These formulas are usually found in the ritual for each sacrament rather than the order of Mass. 

Some bishops’ conferences have also composed similar interventions for the other Eucharistic Prayers. 

Regarding mentioning the saints, each Eucharistic Prayer has its own characteristics and these must be respected. Before Pope John XXIII added St. Joseph, the Roman Canon traditionally listed 24 saints (12 apostles and 12 martyrs) in two separate groups. This list may now be shortened to seven by omitting the saints following St. Andrew in the first group and after St. Barnabas in the second. 

The full list is: 

First: Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude [apostles], Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, [5 Popes] Cyprian [bishop of Carthage], Lawrence [deacon], Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian [5 laymen]). 

Second: John the Baptist, Stephen [deacon protomartyr], Matthias, Barnabas [apostles], (Ignatius [bishop of Antioch], Alexander [Pope], Marcellinus [priest, Peter [exorcist], Felicity, Perpetua [2 married laywomen of Carthage], Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia [4 virgins], Anastasia [laywoman of Sirmium]). 

These lists thus represent the whole Church united in offering the most holy sacrifice of the altar insofar as Christians from all strands have been deemed worthy of martyrdom, the ultimate sacrifice for Christ. In this way the use of the full list, at least occasionally, can be very useful, among other messages, in illustrating the universal call to holiness. 

Of the other prayers, only Eucharistic Prayer III and the Eucharistic prayers for various needs have the possibility of adding the name of the patron saint of the church or the saint of the day. In this case it is probably a legitimate custom for a religious priest to mention the name of his founder, especially if celebrating in a church administered by his community. 

It is not legitimate, however, for any priest to add the names of saints if this possibility is not foreseen in the prayer itself. This means that a priest using the Roman Canon may invoke the list of seven saints or all 24 but may not add any other names not included in this list. Likewise, he may not insert any saint’s names in Eucharistic Prayers II or IV, or the Eucharistic Prayers for reconciliation. 

In short, if he desires to mention a patron saint, then he must choose the third anaphora, or, if the occasion warrants it, one of the prayers for various needs. 

* * * 

Follow-up: Incensing the Congregation 

Related to the theme of our«>Feb. 3 column on incense, these questions cropped up. 

A California reader asked: «Is incense to be used in the procession following the Mass? I find no consensus on this question. While the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 276, does not say that incense may be used in the procession at the end of Mass, some (including bishops’ masters of ceremonies) have argued that GIRM No. 193 should be understood to say that if a thurifer leads the entrance procession, he also leads the procession at the end of Mass. Which position is correct?» 

I would say that the point of debate is not so much if incense should be used at this moment, but rather whether or not the thurifer leads the exit procession. 

Of the two references, GIRM No. 193 is an indication of general principles whereas No. 276 gives precise instructions. We must presume that there is no willful contradiction in the two norms. 

Since No. 276 lists the moments when incense is used, then it is safe to say that the thurible is not used for the exit procession. The usual process in most solemn Masses is that, at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer, the thurifer and the torchbearers go to a suitable place outside of the sanctuary. The torches are extinguished and the thurible put away. In some cases a sacristan removes the carbons from the thurible so as to avoid them burning out in the thurible itself, which can make it difficult to clean. Having left the torches and thurible, the acolytes return to their places. 

Having clarified that incense is not used, we must discuss the position of the thurifer in the final procession. 

Regarding this point I defer to the description offered by Monsignor (now Bishop) Peter Elliott in his manual «Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite.» In No. 412 he states: 

«After the blessing, the deacon (or the deacon of the Word) dismisses the assembly. Facing the people, he sings the dismissal with his hands joined, using one of the options provided. After the assembly has responded, the celebrant and deacon(s) go to the altar. They kiss it and go to the pavement in front of the altar, where the final procession lines up. The M.C. or a server may bring the Book of the Gospels to the deacon (or the deacon of the Word), so that he can carry it in the procession. At a signal from the M.C., those who are not carrying anything bow profoundly to the altar or genuflect if the tabernacle is in the sanctuary. The procession leaves in the same order as it entered, except that the thurifer (and boat bearer) without the thurible (and boat) follows the cross bearer and candle bearers. During the procession, a final hymn may be sung or music may be played, according to the occasion or local custom.» 

The author offers further clarifications in a footnote: «The approved authors were divided as to whet
her a thurifer who is not carrying the thurible should lead the procession. On this minor point it seems logical that, having ceased to function, the thurifer should join the other servers behind the cross.» 

While referring to Monsignor Elliott, a Swedish reader inquired about some details of his book with reference to incensing: 

«1. In ‘Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite’ (CMMR) I have read that the thurifer is to approach the altar from the credence table side. However, one of the longest-serving altar servers claims that although CMRR gives this instruction, this is not part of the official instruction, so it is something that is up to the local M.C. Is he correct? If not, what text can I refer to? 

«2. If there is a deacon present at the Mass, and incense is used, may he (and should he) delegate the incensing to the altar servers, and if so: when, and under which circumstances?” 

It should be observed that the then Monsignor Elliott never claimed official status for his labors which, however, filled an obvious void among liturgical resources. Some details of his work no longer correspond to the new GIRM, and it is to be hoped that a new edition may be published. 

In this invaluable work, the author strives to reference his descriptions with official sources, but these do not always provide the detail required in a ceremonies manual. Thus he has to flesh out the official texts using approved authors from earlier times, long-standing custom, common sense, and keen observation of solemn ceremonies in Rome. He is thus a reliable guide but not an official one. 

Therefore while it is true that the indication that the thurifer approach from the credence table side (usually to the celebrant’s right) might not be officially mandated, it does not mean that it is arbitrary and that any master of ceremonies can change it. This mode of approaching is long-standing custom and is also the most practical position for placing incense in the thurible given that most people are right-handed. All the same, there could be circumstances or architectural barriers that would require another means of approaching the celebrant — and the law does not forbid it. 

Regarding the second question I would say that it is not the deacon who delegates but rather the celebrant who, with the M.C. and before Mass begins, makes the final decision as to whether the deacon or the acolyte should do the incensing or if the task is to be divided up. Under normal circumstances, when there is only one deacon, he would incense the Gospel before proclaiming it and later incense the priest and people after the priest has incensed the gifts and the altar during the presentation of gifts. 

Of these two, the acolyte may only substitute the deacon in incensing the priest and people at the offertory (the deacon is not incensed separately). This substitution can be done for any reasonable cause; for example, if the structure of the sanctuary did not allow the deacon to quickly return to the altar on completing the incensing of the people, thus impeding his service toward the priest. 

The deacon may leave the altar to incense the sacred species during the consecration. But this is not common practice and, unless there is more than one deacon, it is usually entrusted to the thurifer. 

* * * 
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. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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