Difficult Prayers

My parish has a long tradition of parishioners composing the intercessions for weekend Masses. I’m responsible for the final edit. I use that if we have a death of a parishioner and get word of it on Saturday. Otherwise I’m disinclined to edit much. My pastor wishes I would edit a bit more. What do you make of this intention that I caught a lot of flak about:

Many people take risks to come to this country. For advocates and legislators to look beyond the “secure our borders” mentality and seek to understand the needs of immigrants, we pray.

Too political?

For unaccompanied migrant children, that they may be protected from violence and rape, treated with dignity and compassion, and reunited with loving families, we pray.

“Rape” was not a good word to let through, according to one of my staff colleagues. Too jarring for Mass? It is a truth, truth be told. Too much truth? It’s a problem for parents to explain to children who are listening.

My wife didn’t like the reference in this one:

For those who are struggling with demons in their lives, that they might always remember to trust in the Lord in their time of need, we pray.

These have been the most controversial of the past few months. You probably wouldn’t see them in a homily service.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Difficult Prayers

  1. Liam says:

    The first one is just badly written. It starts with a factual assertion. One temptation with intercessions is trying to pack them with predicates. Then they sound more like arguments than prayers. While we can argue in our prayers with God, in liturgy they tend to weigh prayers down, just like loading prayers down with theological check-off items.

    One measure of the problem of the prayers would be to imagine versions that made you uncomfortable in the other political direction and whether you’d be more tempted to edit them.

  2. Devin says:

    The first intercession is very passive aggressive towards legislators (and probably some parishoners). Something like “for legislators, advocates and citzens, that we may better serve those in need who come to our borders, documented or undocumented” would work better. It is more direct to being what is requested and the negativity is toned down.

    The second petition is very good. Rape is a strong word but it is accurate. Kids here about this stuff all the time unfortunately.

    The 3rd petition is okay if one is not inclined to edit. “Struggling with demons” could be replaced with something like “those who are ill in mind, body and spirit”, “facing adversity”, “struggling w/ temptation and sin” depending on the intent of the petitioner. And just leave out the last section. Let God determine how best to intervene in those cases.

    If people complain about the first petition, perhaps it should be addressed in a homily gently but firmly as a “teachable moment”.

  3. Atheist Max says:

    “that they may be protected from violence and rape..”

    I vote against the use of the word ‘rape’. Though it is a teachable moment for parishioners who bring their children to church it is not likely that the teaching will be done properly. Sexuality is problematic enough.

    I would write more directly…

    “Lord, protect these children from violence along their lonely journey and provide them with many helping hands who will welcome them. And, Lord, show us who in our own community are on a lonely journey that we might find them, reach them with our humanity and comfort them somehow.”

    I don’t think you are being forceful enough.

  4. Jenny2 says:

    I vote against the use of the word ‘rape’. Though it is a teachable moment for parishioners who bring their children to church it is not likely that the teaching will be done properly. Sexuality is problematic enough.

    Sexuality? Rape is primarily about domination, violence and control.

    And yes, I do think that American children can and should be made aware that this violence is being inflicted on other children, sometimes in their own country. (After all, if more children had been aware of this years ago, had been given the words to talk about it and had found adults to listen, Catholics in the US wouldn’t be faced with expose after shock after revelation about sexual abuse of children within the Church; we in Australia wouldn’t be contemplating a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse, now expected to take five years….)

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