Orienting Prayers of the Faithful

In a sidebar discussion here, a back-and-forth about the wording of prayers of the faithful/general intercessions/universal prayer/petitions (however you name them):

… the intercessions in the baptismal rite are also directed to God, not the assembly …

I responded:

I don’t see the issue here. Intercessions can be composed in any sort of way.

And Fritz’s response to me:

I think it is actually significant that the prayer of the faithful take the form of someone (e.g. the deacon) asking for the assembly to pray for something, rather than praying to God on their behalf. 

That got me thinking. And when that happens, go back to the source. I can find no instruction on these in the Rite of Baptism; only that they are to take place. RCIA 65 gives a brief description of these prayers:

Then the sponsors and the whole congregation join in the following or a similar formulary of intercession for the catechumens.

The wording of the intercessions is different from the latest revision of the Baptism Rite, and indeed the previous one. The RCIA prayers read, “That God our Father may …” and those that follow, “That they may …” with “they” referring to the catechumens.

What I found interesting is that in the Rite of Election there are two options for Intercessions, one addressed generally, “That they …” and the other refers to God as “you,” the same orientation as the Rite of Baptism. Baptism liturgy has been consistent since Vatican II, I will tell.

Here’s what the GIRM says, the most detailed catechesis I can find in the liturgy books:

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. (GIRM 69)

So, the Church defines these as a response to the Liturgy of the Word, and is also an exercise in the priesthood of the baptized. There are various ways to interpret that. Should lay people compose them? Should they always respond vocally, either in speech or song? Should they be announced by a lay person or reserved for a deacon? 

In a way, they express a variety of roles within the Church. The priest-presider:

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 laity:

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.

The one announcing them:

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.[67]

The liturgical assembly:

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.

A quick look at private devotion materials which, granted, are often designed for single-person use, shows a lot of direct petition to God. Likewise the Liturgy of the Hours, though I think the published prayer books for that, one or four volumes, are largely designed for individual prayer, not communal.

What do you suppose is the point behind the different styles? Any history with it?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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