The nineteenth Mass for a need or occasion is “for persecuted Christians.” The need is very much with us today. Not in North America so much as elsewhere in the world, especially mission lands and the traditional cradle of early Christianity.
The readings may give us a good clue as to what the Church intends for this liturgy. Old Testament choices include the travails of Jews in the books of Esther, 1 Maccabees, Isaiah, and Daniel. New Testament options are from Acts (4:1-5, 18-21 or 4:23-31 or 5:27b-32, 40b-42), letters (Philippians 1:27-30 or Hebrews 12:2-13 or 1 Peter 1:3-9) or Revelation 7:9-10, 14b-17. From the Gospels, Jesus warns the apostles about coming persecutions in Matthew (Beatitudes or 10:17-22 or 10:26-33) or John’s Last Supper discourse (15:18-21, 26—16:4 or 17:11b-19).
My suggestion would be to include one of the readings from the Jewish tradition. It helps to place in perspective that Christians have not been singled out for persecution. Godly persons of any faith often find themselves at odds with aggressors.
The presidential prayers for this Mass suggest persecution as an opportunity for union with Christ. When persecution impacts one’s home, nation, livelihood, etc., it can be difficult to make that connection. But the Paschal Mystery is deep enough for our reflection. God understands because of his human experience during his incarnation.
One might imagine that any lament from the Psalter would be potentially good material for singing. There are two options at the start of Mass, a communal lament and a reference to an apostle in prison:
Entrance Antiphon Cf. Ps 74:20, 19, 22, 23
Look to your covenant, O Lord, and do not forget the life of your poor ones for ever. Arise, O Lord, and defend your cause, and forget not the cries of those who seek you!
Or: Acts 12:5
Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer was made without ceasing by the Church to God for him.
The whole of Psalm 74 makes for an interesting choice. It’s a longer psalm and encompasses a time when Jerusalem and its temple have been demolished by the Babylonians (through verse 11), a remembrance of God’s power in creation (13-17) and a hope that God will intervene in human history for the benefit of his people.
The responsorial psalms (2:1-3, 4-6, 10-11 or 27:1, 2, 3, 5 or 123:1, 2 or 124:2-3, 4-5, 7b-8) might suggest usage with one of the proper antiphons lifted from the Gospels. Psalm 27 seems most appropriate here. But a good case could be made for any Old Testament lament.
Communion Antiphon Mt 5:11-12
Blessed are you, when they insult you and persecute you because of me, says the Lord. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
Or: Mt 10:32
Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father, says the Lord.
Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.