GIRM 69-71: The Universal Prayer

General Intercessions, petitions, Prayer(s) of the Faithful: lots of ways this section of the liturgy is described. First up is a description of what is intended by this part of the Mass:

69. In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is desirable that there usually be such a form of prayer in Masses celebrated with the people, so that petitions may be offered for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world.[cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 53]

Usually, but not always, the prayers include these and are rendered in this order:

70. The series of intentions is usually to be:

a) for the needs of the Church;

b) for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;

c) for those burdened by any kind of difficulty;

d) for the local community.

Nevertheless, in any particular celebration, such as a Confirmation, a Marriage, or at a Funeral, the series of intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion.

How it is done:

71. It is for the Priest Celebrant to regulate this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he calls upon the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with an oration. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.

They are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the Deacon or by a cantor, a reader, or one of the lay faithful.[cf. Inter Oecumenici 56]

The people, for their part, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said in common after each intention or by praying in silence.


Praying to God on behalf of others is a priestly role, and it is interesting that the priest is not listed as one to “announce” them, even in the situation in which no adequate reader is available. The common practice of a presider inserting “one last intention” or two doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the letter or spirit of the Roman Missal. The priest “regulates” this prayer. That’s it.

I used to feel ambivalent about these prayers being offered from the ambo, but GIRM 69 does suggest that these prayers and the exercise of this office is “in some sense” derived from the Word of God.

Note that the lector is the third choice for the person to lead these prayers, even after a cantor. The practice of singing these, or minimally, offering a sung response, is not widespread in my North American experience. Probably we could stand to improve on that point.

One of the best descriptions in the GIRM is that of the intentions: “sober … wise liberty … few words.” If only the rest of the Roman Missal were.



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Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to GIRM 69-71: The Universal Prayer

  1. Liam says:

    Given the emphatically Trinitarian nature of liturgical prayer during the Mass, adding an Ave to these prayers is an innovation (it was introduced around 1970 in by one of the bishops in the UK, who reportedly was concerned that the people might otherwise lose familiarity with the prayer now that they were saying all these new liturgical texts instead of working their beads during Mass). The priest might, parenthetically in the context of a Trinitarian prayer, entrust the petitions to the intercession of the BVM, but the prayer as such is not to be directed to her.

    • Todd says:

      An interesting comment. One of our parish priests used it after Communion at his assignments for the holy day. What think y’all of that?

      • Liam says:

        Prayer addressed publicly to the saints (as opposed to invoking their communion, which is distinct) during the Mass is pretty heavily bounded by Roman practice: the Litany of the Saints is about the only place I can recall it’s permitted. Otherwise, public prayers are only addressed to Persons of the Holy Trinity, so far as I can remember. Perhaps Trent is responsible for this scrupulosity, in reaction to reformist concerns about confusion.

      • Liam says:

        And the Confiteor. Even then, like the Litany, it’s carefully immersed in a more general prayer directed towards God.

  2. Jimmy Mac says:

    “Prayer addressed publicly to the saints (as opposed to invoking their communion, which is distinct) during the Mass is pretty heavily bounded by Roman practice:”

    What would you call saying the Hail Mary during mass?

    As an aside, about 10 years ago I attended mass at a Benedictine parish. Prior to mass the Angelus was said. Then, anytime during the mass that the BVM was mentioned, the priest and most of the parishioners bowed quite deeply. As in the same way they did whenever the name of Jesus was mentioned! I didn’t know whether to gasp or laugh. I did neither audibly, but was appalled at the quasi-heresy of it all.

    • Liam says:


      You may have misunderstood my comment. My comment was directed towards the practice in some quarters of adding the Hail Mary (I used the aka term Ave) to the Intercessions. When I wrote “bounded” I meant restricted, limited, et cet. But this deals with the issue of to whom prayers are directed in the public prayers of the liturgy.

      Anyway, as for bowing at the name of Mary, that in fact is provided for in GIRM 275 (and was also provided in the older GIRM) – and veneration (dulia) shown to the saints and the hyperveneration (hyperdulia) shown to Mary is not heresy:

      275. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.
      1. A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.
      2. A bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar; during the prayers Munda cor meum (Almighty God, cleanse my heart) and In spiritu humilitatis (Lord God, we ask you to receive); in the Creed at the words Et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . and became man); in the Roman Canon at the words Supplices te rogamus (Almighty God, we pray that your angel). The same kind of bow is made by the deacon when he asks for a blessing before the proclamation of the Gospel. In addition, the priest bows slightly as he speaks the words of the Lord at the consecration.

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