The General Intercessions/Prayers of the Faithful/Prayer Petitions/Universal Prayer continue to be a liturgical locus where the universal and the personal and the places in between get a bit blurred as they stir and mix together. The relevant sections of the GIRM are 69 through 71. This armchair has been the place of many important discernments over the decades.
Another mass murder tragedy unfolded at a Connecticut school yesterday. How will parishes treat this in the Sunday intercessions? Mindful that “(t)he 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,” how would you accomplish it?
Sobriety would seem to indicate that a prayer not elicit strong emotions on the part of those not directly affected by the tragedy. More children, for example, have been killed by military drones, in the Syrian civil war, and even in gun violence in American inner cities. Most of these deaths are a result of immoral judgments of adults who are generally judged to be more psychologically competent that our average lone gun. So if we get sad or angry at Mass over one set of children, and not others, has the liturgy itself become a selective tool for tears or grumbling outrage?
Our liberty in composition would give us leeway to pray for the victims, to pray for the mourners, to pray for the perpetrators, or to pray for the change required that such incidents become rare or non-existent. Or if it can be accomplished with an economy of words, maybe all of the above. Can your community get behind such a prayer? Would it have to exclude gun control? Should it include the basic human inclination to sin, and even to commit violence against people whom we love? In doing this, would a prayer have a prayer of being effective, if child abusers, anger addicts, and others of violence in our midst were to wake up somehow and respond to God’s graceful poke to get some help? We might all agree such an event would be a good thing. Would it fit the bill? Or must it be worded as generally and as blandly as possible?
How would you word such an intention in your Sunday petitions? Offer it up in the combox, if you would, please.