General Intercessions, Universal Prayer, Petitions, Prayers of the Faithful–I like the last of these synonyms for one of three indispensable liturgical reforms mentioned by Georgia Masters Keightley in her article in the July 2012 edition of Worship.
I’ve noted with interest and my own brand of tenacious pig-headedness the discussion here and here on the liturgies of the CMAA’s recent Colloquium. I suppose if some quarters are going to dissect the Irish Eucharistic Congress and Pope Benedict’s opinions about the thumbs-up or downness of the Roman Missal, it seems only fair that more traditional-minded liturgy get some scrutiny, too. I’d like to zero in on opting out of the Prayer of the Faithful. I think it’s a questionable practice for a liturgy conference of any sort. And while yes, it only happened twice at CMAA, and only for mere weekday Masses, I think it illustrates how difficult it is to resist tinkering with liturgy for purposes other than ars celebrandi.
In response to this stance:
Optional prayers are eliminated as unnecessary innovations.
Fritz Bauerschmidt’s commentary at PrayTell struck me:
I presume this refers to the prayer of the faithful. And, if so, this attitude toward the common prayer of the baptized for the needs of the Church and the world. . . well, it just makes me sad. Vince died this week. But it is an unnecessary innovation that we pray for the repose of his soul at Mass? We are in an ongoing financial crisis. But it is an unnecessary innovation that we pray that our leaders would act wisely and compassionately in response to this? Olivia’s protracted illness continues. But it is an unnecessary innovation that we as a community be called to remember her in prayer?
Fritz is spot on and the CMAA is most likely wrong on their practice of “eliminating unnecessary innovations.” There are several reasons why, and some of them are liturgical. It is possible to follow the rules, and yet fall into the trap of vainglory. I think that’s what’s happening with this sentiment.
The Church has long recognized the special quality of pilgrimages. I would submit that any serious regional or national gathering of believers for the purpose of the faith constitutes a pilgrimage. The CMAA Colloquium certainly qualifies. A few hundred church-minded folk descend on a host locale for several days and devote themselves to singing and liturgy. They might not be walking the well-worn paths of northern Spain, but they certainly are on a time-honored track. They might not be going up a set of stairs on their knees at an endorsed pilgrimage site like this one, but the fact of stationary kneeling is no less honored.
And while the celebration of daily Mass remains optional for the Catholic at any time, the situation on a pilgrimage or at a conference is somewhat different. There is an obligation of a different sort when one shares the experiences of travel, meals, learning, and such with others in a spiritual setting. One chooses to align oneself with worship even when it’s “unnecessary.” In fact, I would submit that a church conference attendee who opted out of optional worship would be considered with concern. Was the person sick? Was there emotional upset? Why would someone committed to a period of spiritual unity absent herself or himself from a community activity?
In effect, the daily Masses of any sort of event like the Colloquium take on the character of “obligatory” celebrations. Even if it’s not “official” such liturgies are more often celebrated with the spiritual and liturgical intensity of a holy day, and less with a “commuter” Mass that allows a small fraction of an hour for prayer.
The Colloquium has good intentions, I’m sure. I don’t agree with the politics of their liturgy, but I think the pastoral trap they’ve fallen into is to use the liturgy to demonstrate their leadership’s ideals. I remember my experiences with the North American Forum’s week-long RCIA conferences back in the 90′s. Our tasks in liturgy were less about reenacting worship as a parish ideal. With no catechumens or candidates, and all baptized believers, we couldn’t do that with integrity. What we did do was to demonstrate best practices: good musical repertoire, good proclamation and preaching of Scripture, good ritual movement. It was up to those attending the conferences to put principles into use back in their home parishes. The liturgies we prayed were for the moment, even as they were designed with an eye to best practice.
I really can’t imagine doing away with intercessory prayer at a conference like this. When I travel away from home, there are likely more prayers in my soul than if I had stayed home. The list of intentions is long: safe travel, settling well in a new location, families we have left behind, sponsors and benefactors who permit us to travel, the aims and goals of the conference itself. Intercessory prayers are as deep as bone to the believer. A cursory look at the psalms should convince a singer of that. A sense of progressive solemnity would suggest that there’s no rush to get through liturgy to eat lunch or get to the next choir practice, that the liturgy itself demands that pilgrims bring petitions before God.
Prayer of the Faithful: optional like any ol’ Mass during the week. But always a good idea for the faithful believer. Maybe even necessary.