Part 3 Structure and Elements

Chapter e32 Story Telling

Preliminary Questions


EJWU #4 Storytelling


Structure and Elements

Dismissal of the Catechumens


General Intercessions

To Think About

 The Emmaus story reveals the meal "shape" of the Eucharist
1.  Gathering -- Chapter 21
2.  Story Telling -- Chapter 22
3.  Meal Sharing
3a.  Setting the Table -- Chapter 23
3b.  Saying Grace -- Chapter 24 & 25
3c.  Eating and Drinking -- Chapter 26
4.  Commissioning -- Chapter 27


The definition of a mediocre Christian is: Someone who is bored to death with the constant repetition of a story that has never been heard." (G. K. Chesterson).

"God's Kingdom is constituted by a story that one never possesses, but rather constantly challenges us to be what we have not yet become." (Stanley Hauerwas, quoted in Mark Searl, "Infant Baptism Reconsidered," Alternative Futures for Worship, Volume 2, Baptism and Confirmation. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, 1987, p 48.)

Before studying this chapter, review Chapter d37 The Role of Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy and Chapter y15 The Roman Calendar and The Roman Lectionary

Before viewing the video, review "The Use of Video in Catechetics"  in Chapter d12 Methodology

Preliminary Questions

If you asked your grandmother "What is the first thing that happens at Sunday Mass" what would she say? 

Where do you experience the presence of Christ? Can you see your own story in the biblical story?

How are the Scripture readings are chosen for the various liturgical days?

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Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,  24 and 51.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, second edition.  USCCB Liturgy Document Series #2,  1982.  See especially numbers 24 to 32.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, second edition.  USCCB Liturgy Document Series #2,  2002.  See especially numbers 46 to 54.

Introduction to the Order of MassUSCCB Pastoral Liturgy Series #1,  2003.  See especially numbers 66 to 77.

For a comparison of the old and new Lectionaries see:

The Catholic Lectionary Website by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.  contains an extensive analysis of the amount of Scripture in the Lectionary now and 1962.

Johannes Emminghaus, The Eucharist: Essence, Form, Celebration, Collegeville:  Liturgical Press, 1997, $19.95, 0-8146-1036-6.  Read especially Part Two, Chapter One.  The Celebration Begins, pp 104-134.

Lector Preparation

An excellent resource for readers and lectors (and preachers and those interested in a biblical spirituality) can be found at the Lector Preparation / Lector's Notes Home Page at


USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.  Lectionary for Mass, Second Typical Edition Introduction, 1998, The Liturgy Documentary Series Number 1.  ISBN 1-57455-245-7

USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.  Study Text 8:  Proclaim the Word: The Lectionary for Mass, 1982.  USCC publication number 840.

For entire text of NRSV see, 

For England Catholic Church see

For Catholic Church Liturgical Tables see

For U of Dayton's Lectionary see

For Revised Lectionary see

For Kelly W. Puckett's Lectionary page see

For Episcopal lectionary see

For comprehensive lectionary site see

For interesting lectionary see

For Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendars see

For Catholic Calendar see

For a PDF of the Ordo see

For the Ordo of American-Cassinese Congregation of the Benedictine see

For scripts that calculate the date of Easter see 

For excellent materials on the Roman Lectionary for Mass see The Roman Catholic Lectionary Website compiled by Prof. Felix Just, S.J.

"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" -- The home page provides easy access to the lectionary readings.


A. G. Martimort (editor). The Liturgy and Time. Volume IV of The Church at Prayer. New Edition. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8146-1366-7.

Richstatter, Thomas. "The Liturgy of the Word: The Mass-Part One." St. Anthony Messenger Press. 60 minute cassette.

Studia Liturgica 21:1 (1991) contains the survey articles on the various lectionaries currently in use. These articles served as background for the August 1991 meeting of the Societas Liturgica in Toronto on the theme Bible and Liturgy. The papers from this congress have been printed in Studia Liturgica 22::1 (1992).


An excellent site for background to the Sunday readings and other useful information for preparing your homily can be found at The Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University.

Catholic Homilies and Sermons -- Provides sample Catholic homilies, illustrations, and other preaching resources.

First Impression English Reflections - Jude Siciliano, OP:

Homily Feedback

Pastoral Preaching Website

Homily from the Abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery

The Peace Pulpit, homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, is available at

Andrew Greely's Homilies:

"Homilies Alive" -- Provides sample Catholic homilies, illustrations and other preaching resources.

"Sermon Writer" -- A subscription service that provides exegetical material, illustration, and preaching strategies. Also provides full sermon texts.

"Sermon Warehouse" -- A subscription service that provides exegetical material, illustrations, and full sermon texts.

Normand Bonneau. The Sunday Lectionary: Ritual Word, Paschal Shape (Liturgical Press, 1998; ISBN 0-8146-2457-X). 

General Intercessions

Ciferni, O. Praem,  Andrew D. "General Intercessions in the Celebrations of the Eucharist: A Writer's Guide", FDLC Newsletter, Nov-Dec 1991, Volume 18, No. 6.

De Clerk, Paul.  La priere universelle dans les liturgies latines anciennes: Temoignages patristques et textes liturgiques. Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen, band 62 (Munster, Westfalen 1977).  [The definitive work on the subject.]

Richstatter, Thomas.  "General Intercessions," New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 17, p 241.

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Do This in Memory of Me

Eucharist Jesus With Us #4, June 2005. Q0605 By Rev. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.

The following is a draft of a published article c2005 by St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 w. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.  1-800-488-0488.  The article may not be reproduced or sold without written permission from the publisher.

Do this in memory of me
Each time we participate in the Eucharist we hear the words, "Do this in memory of me." But what do these words mean? How do we remember Jesus? Obviously we can't remember someone that we have never met. Why would anyone want to join with other Christians on the Lord's Day to remember Jesus if they have never met Jesus in prayer, or in the scripture, or if (God forbid!) they have never met and recognized Christ in the community that bears his name. It is only because we know Christ and love Christ that we are drawn at each Eucharist to remember him. You can't remember Jesus if you don't know Jesus. So the important question is: How do we come to know Jesus?

Getting to Know Jesus
To be honest, I had never given that question much thought. I can't remember a time when I didn't know Jesus. I first learned about Jesus from my mother and father. They taught me my first prayers. They taught me to "talk to Jesus" and to tell Jesus that I loved him. Their love for me told me of Jesus' love for me.

I have early childhood memories of going to Mass with Mom and Dad. I watched them pray, and it was obvious that they knew Jesus. When I started school I learned about Jesus from the Baltimore Catechism and from the Bible History, the common religion textbooks in pre-Vatican II classrooms.

What was missing?
My experience is probably typical of many older Catholics. And while that experience has served me well, I now realize that one important element was missing: the Bible. The Bible played a very minimal role in my understanding of Jesus. I don't recall that the Bible was mentioned very often in school. The Baltimore Catechism scarcely mentioned the Bible. A very small portion of the Bible was read (in Latin) at Mass. Sometimes on Sundays our parish priest would read the Gospel in English at the beginning of his sermon; but other than that, I was ignorant of Scripture.

The bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) realized that if they were going to restore the Eucharist to its central place in Catholic life they would have to restore the Bible to its proper place both in the Catholic home and in the Catholic liturgy. That is why they voted to read a larger portion of Sacred Scripture at each Eucharist "so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 51). The Council Fathers took seriously the words of St. Jerome (345-420) "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." If at every Eucharist we are to "remember Christ" we must first know Christ; and in order to know Christ we must know the Scriptures.

Getting to Know Scripture
At Sunday Eucharist, following the Gathering Rites (which we discussed in the previous article of this series), we set about remembering Jesus -- we celebrate the "Liturgy of the Word." You are probably familiar with the elements of this part of the Mass: Old Testament Reading, Psalm, Epistle, Alleluia, Gospel, Homily, Creed and General Intercessions. (There are, of course, some minor, seasonal variations.)

On the Sundays throughout the year (outside of the seasons of Lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas) the Epistle and the Gospel are read in a semi-continuous fashion. This means that the reading for one Sunday usually continues the reading from the previous Sunday. The First Reading (usually from the Old Testament) is chosen in relation to the theme of the Gospel.

Following the First Reading, we sing or recite a psalm, a song from God's own inspired hymnal, the Book of Psalms. The psalm is selected in light of the theme of the readings but in addition the liturgical scholars who selected the various passages from the Bible to be proclaimed at the Eucharist also wanted to pick psalms which would introduce the Catholic laity to this traditional, biblical, and poetic form of prayer. (Formerly, the psalms were prayed mainly by priests and other "religious professionals.")

Receiving the Word
When I was a child growing up in Kansas, at each Sunday Mass after Father read the Gospel, he "interrupted" the Mass and turned around and faced the congregation. It was time for the sermon. The sermon was a time for teaching about some element of Catholic belief or explaining the Church's moral teaching. Today, following the proclamation of the readings from Scripture, we hear a homily which helps us understand and apply the Scriptures we have just heard. The homily helps us receive the Word. Just as you would take a loaf of bread and break it into smaller pieces to be eaten, the homily takes the Word of God and "breaks it open" so that we can receive it and digest it so that the Word of God becomes truly life-giving for us.

The homily is often followed by a few moments of silence. During this silence, we each thank God for the word we have heard and apply it to our individual circumstances. (When I preside at the Eucharist and preach, I often judge the effectiveness of the homily by the quality of this period of silence.)

We believe in...
Next we stand and recite the Nicene Creed. Originally the Creed served as the "Profession of Faith" of those about to be baptized at this point in the Mass. Today, as we move from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Creed reminds us of our baptism. Our baptismal promise to die to selfishness and sin we renew at each Mass as we unite our sacrifice with the sacrifice of Christ. Each time we come to Eucharist we come through Baptism.

Lord, hear our prayer
The Liturgy of the Word comes to a close with the General Intercessions. To understand the function of the General Intercessions, imagine that you are leaving your house to go to a meeting. Before leaving home, you might look in a mirror to see if you actually look the way you want to look--hair in place, shirt buttoned, etc. Perhaps that look in the mirror causes you to make a few last minute adjustments.

The General Intercessions can serve a similar purpose at the Eucharist. We have gathered as the Body of Christ. As we prepare to approach the table for Eucharist, we look into the readings as we would look into a mirror to see if the Christ presented there resembles the Body of Christ present here in this assembly. Often it does not.

In the General Intercessions we pray that we might actually come to look like the Body of Christ proclaimed in the Scriptures: a body at peace, a body that shelters the homeless, heals the sick and feeds the hungry. The petitions, as is the case with all liturgical prayer, are the voice of the Body of Christ, head and members, to the Father in the Holy Spirit. That is why the petitions focus on those intentions which we know to be the will of Christ.

Present in the word
There are many times and circumstances in which we can read the Bible. However, when the Scriptures are read at Mass this proclamation has a special efficacy because Christ himself is present in his word, "since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 7). Our insistence that Christ is really present at the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine must not lead us to neglect or forget the other ways in which Christ is truly present at the Eucharist.

One day I was celebrating the Eucharist with a group of catholic men in the local prison. We were discussing the incarnation and wonderful it was that our God took flesh and became truly human, someone like us in all things except sin. Now with my background, when I hear the words "became like us in all things" I always though of philosophical categories: Jesus had a human nature, a body and a soul. But one of the men in the group said, "He became just like us, father. He had to go up before the judge. They accused him of all sorts of stuff he didn't do. All his friends ran off. He was humiliated and beat up. He was just like us." When I remarked that their understanding of Jesus becoming like us in all things was one that I had never considered before, another of the men said, "Perhaps that's what it means when we say that Scripture is inspired. The Spirit speaks to us in different ways in the different situations of our lives -- in here, on the outside, when we're young, when we're old."

I think the man had good insight into what it means to say that "Christ is present in the Word." We are not simply reading about something that happened long ago and far away. God's word is present and living here and now. And, in some mysterious way, we become present to the events we are celebrating.

Liturgical remembering
When we "remember" Jesus at the Eucharist, we are not simply recalling past events; liturgical remembering makes us present to the event. Notice how the word "remember" is used in the crucifixion account in Luke's Gospel. When one of the criminals crucified with Jesus asked him to "remember me when you come into your kingdom" he wasn't asking Jesus simply to "think about him" as we might remember people that we met on vacation last summer. He was asking the Lord to remember him in the biblical/liturgical sense of the word. He was asking to be remembered, that is, to become really present in heaven with Jesus. We can see that this is how Jesus understands remembering. Jesus responds: "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43; italics added).

God's eternal now
When we "remember Jesus" at the Eucharist, we move from our chronological past-present-future kind of time and pass over into God's own "time of salvation" where past-present-future merge into God's eternal now. When we sing, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" the presumed answer is: "Yes, I was there!" Indeed, we are there now! "Recalling thus the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 102). In a real, yet mysterious, way we become present with the apostles at the Last Supper. We are there on Calvary. With the apostles we witness the resurrection and the sending of the Spirit. We stand with all the angels and saints and have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet!
Each Eucharist begins with the Liturgy of the Word. Hearing the voice of Christ himself, we remember. And in that remembering we become present to the Mystery of Faith. We are filled with the Spirit, inspired, to pledge our lives to one another and to become one Body. We seal that pledge by sharing a sacred meal. And that is the subject of the next article in this series.

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Naming the Rite:  Foremass, Mass of Catechumens, Liturgy of the Word, Story Telling.

The reasons why I use "Story Telling" as the name for this rite:  "Now I prefer a four part structure: Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning. I use this outline for several reasons: 1) the words are words anyone can understand; this outline does not require a specifically religious vocabulary; 2) the descriptive titles move toward "action categories" and verbs rather than nouns; 3) the outline reflects the "modes of presence" as taught by the Council (e.g. The Constitution on the Liturgy, 7): Christ is present in the gathered assembly, in the proclaimed word, in the shared meal, and in the world; and 4) I find this to be the division used in the Emmaus story: they came together on the road, told their story, shared their meal, and dashed back to tell the other disciples. [Thomas Richstatter, "Liturgy and Life: Ten Things I Learned About The Mass," Catechist, 27:3 (November / December 1993), pp 42-47.]

Do this in memory of me.  this = the life of Jesus.  Do this...In gathering -- the the people who do the "This";  Story telling -- we hear what the "this" is;  Living as Jesus lived and breaking bread and sharing with the world.

General liturgical principle:  All of scripture is inspired. All of God's Word is inspired.  There is a danger in only reading the parts that we like.

General liturgical principle:  We must grow in our love of scripture and cultivate a biblical spirituality.  Each person must integrate first the Sunday Cycle and then the weekday cycle in their personal prayer.  It is the Lectionary that makes the Liturgical Year.  Know how to "make" the seasons of the liturgical year for your prayer life (e.g. study well TLD pages 158-166).

General Overview (From an article in St. Anthony Messenger by TRRWhen we gather at a friend's home for a meal, we always begin with conversation, telling our stories. At Mass, after the rites of gathering, we sit down and enter into ritual conversation with the word of God.

On Sundays there are three readings from the Bible. The first reading will be from the Hebrew scriptures. We recall the origins of our covenant. This reading will relate to the Gospel selection and will give background and an insight into the meaning of what Jesus will do in the gospel. Following the reading we will sing or recite a psalm -- a song from God's own inspired hymnal, the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible. The second reading will usually be from one of the letters of Paul or another apostolic writing. The third reading will be taken from one of the four Gospels.

Some visitors to the Catholic Mass are surprised to find Catholics reading from the Bible! We Catholics have not been generally famous for our Bible reading; and yet the Mass has always been basically and fundamentally biblical. Even Catholics might be surprised to learn how much of the Mass is taken from the bible: not only the three readings and the psalm are from the Bible, not only the obviously biblical prayers such as the Holy and the Lord's Prayer, but most of the words and phrases of the prayers of the Mass are taken from the Bible. Several years ago a famous scholar carefully studied the prayers of the Mass and found that 94% of all the words and phrases used in the official prayers of Mass are taken from the Bible.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1374) states:  "The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."  (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III,73,3c)  In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." (Council of Trent [1551]: DS 1651)  "This presence is called 'real'--by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present" Paul VI, MF 39, emphasis added). 

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Structure and Elements

1.  First Reading

Where does the reading take place?  At the lectern?  The pulpit?  The ambo?  Ambo: an oblong, elevated pulpit, in the early Christian churches.  (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged)  Ambo: a raised platform in a Christian basilica, from which the Scriptures could be read to the people and litanies and other public parts of the liturgy conducted. Originally there was only one, but later two were built, one for the Epistle and one fro the Gospel, on the south and north sides respectively. Several early examples survive, but after the 14th cent. They were replaced by the pulpit. Recently there has been a tendency in some places to reintroduce them.  (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 41)   Lectern: a pulpit, a reading desk in some churches; specifically, a desk from which a part of the Scripture is read in a church service.  (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged, p. 1033)

2.  Psalm Response  In class, Msgr. Jounel (one of the authors of the Lectionary) said that there were two criteria in choosing the psalm. One, its theme was to compliment the first reading (and the Gospel, when the first reading is chosen in the light of the Gospel). Second, (and perhaps more importantly) for the typical Catholic in the parish on Sunday morning, this is the only time in their life they pray a psalm and consequently the editors were careful to present a basic selection of the Psalter to give these Catholics (the great majority of Catholics) some general experience of the Psalter.

GIRM 2002 #61. "After the first reading comes the responsorial psalm, which is an integral part of the liturgy of the word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it promotes meditation on the Word of God.

The responsorial psalm should correspond to each reading and should customarily be taken from the Lectionary.

It is appropriate that the responsorial psalm be sung, at least as far as the people's response is concerned. Hence, the psalmist or cantor of the song sings the verse of the psalm at the ambo or other suitable place. However, in order that the people may be able to join in the responsorial psalm more readily, the people remain seated and listen, but also as a rule take part by singing the response, except when the psalm is sung straight through without the response. If the psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in a way more suited to fostering meditation on the word of God.

When sung the following may be used in place of the psalm assigned in the Lectionary: either the gradual from the Graduale Romanum or the responsorial psalm or the Alleluia psalm from The Simple Gradual in the form they have in those books.

Commentary:  The norm for singing a responsorial psalm, is, responsorially.   The debate continues about the naming of this psalm:  it reflects both the fact that it responds to/corresponds with the first reading, and is meant to be sung in responsorial style.

3.  Second Reading

4.  Alleluia.  Gospel Acclamation.  Incense

5.  Sequence  Note: GIRM 2000 says "...cantatur post Alleluia" "it is sung after the Alleluia"  GIRM 2002 says "...cantatur ante Alleluia" "it is sung before the Alleluia"  . 

6.  Gospel

Regarding the "Book of the Gospels" see

(Primary Element)  -- Proclamation of the Gospel: a ministerial function, not a presidential function.  Standing for the Gospel -- Because of the unique presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel, it has long been the custom to stand in attentive reverence to hear these words. We believe that Christ "is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church" (Constitution on the Liturgy #7). The priest will again greet us with "The Lord be with you" and we use our ritual response. The priest introduces the gospel reading while marking a small cross on his forehead, lips, and heart with his thumb while praying silently that God cleans his mind and his heart so that his lips may proclaim the gospel worthily. In many places, the congregation performs this ritual action along with the priest. The gospel reading concludes with the ritual formula "The gospel of the Lord" and we respond "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ," again proclaiming our faith in the presence of Christ in the word. Then we sit for the homily.

Why I like to tell the story from memory rather than read it from a book:  I concentrate on the text more closely and see and hear things there I never saw or heard before. I concentrate on the Word of God more than my words.  I can be with the congregation more directly.  I can feel the oral dimensions of the stories.  I enjoy the time spent memorizing the scripture -- little moments during the day that were otherwise just lost.

Dear Father Norman: You asked: "What do liturgists and the Church say about priests or deacons reciting the gospel from memory rather than reading it from the Lectionary?" I know of no official (magisterium) statements about this; I consulted other colleagues and they too know of no statements. The practice is not sufficiently widespread to bring about any official comment. Liturgically the opinion (of liturgists, professors of homiletics, and professors of communication arts) is mixed.

Against the practice are those who say that it is a reading, and should be read. And there must be a connection between the reader and the written text, the Lectionary/bible.

For the practice (I would be in this group) are those who say that it main thing for the practice is the overwhelmingly favorable reaction of the people. People but down their books and look at you. They say afterwards that they never heard the Gospel with such clarity before, etc. The time it takes to memorize the text, causes the preacher to live with the word in such a way that it greatly improves both the proclamation of the gospel with meaning and conviction, and the homily is more likely to grow out of the sense of the text.

Bishop Untner, for example, always (most always) recites the Gospel by heart. It was from his example that I started doing it -- and encouraging it to be done.

The more important issues is not the reading/reciting on the part of the priest/bishop/deacon but the reading/listening on the part of the people/congregation. Faith comes by hearing, not by reading, scripture says. The current abuse is the reading of the text while it is being proclaimed; those not listening to the proclamation, but reading it from a missalette/missal/bible. Hope this may be helpful. Peace. Tom Richstatter

7.  Homily  (Primary Element) [see below]

8.  Silence

9.  Dismissal of the Catechumens [see below]

10.  Profession of Faith.  [The creed was introduced into the Roman Rite in the eleventh century.]  Remnant of the Baptismal liturgy.  Introduced by Otto I.  (The Eucharistic Prayer is the principal Christian creed.)  

Commentary by TRR:  The homily is often followed by a few moments of silence during which we each thank God for the word we have heard and apply the message of today's readings to our daily living. We then stand and together recite the creed. (You will probably want to use the service book or missalettes for the text of the creed if you do not know it by heart.) The creed is a list of things which we believe but it is more than a list: it is a statement of our faith in the Word we have heard proclaimed in the scripture and the homily, and a profession of the faith that leads us to give our lives for one another as Christ gave his life for us: Do this in memory of me. Originally the creed was the profession of faith of those about to be baptized at this point in the Mass, today the creed serves as a turning point from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

11.  General Intercessions [see below]  Note:  The term "Prayer of the Faithful" refers to the fact that this is the first prayer following the "Mass of the Catechumens" or the dismissal of the catechumens, i.e. the first prayer of the baptized without the non-baptized present (just the "faithful") -- Paul De Clerk in his definitive work on the prayer,  (La prière universelle dans les liturgies latines anciennes: Témoignages patristques et textes liturgiques. Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen, band 62, Münster, Westfalen 1977) says that "General Intercessions" is the preferred term.  It says what the prayer is:  1) intercessions 2) for the whole Church and world (i.e. general, in contrast to our personal petitions).  (See my article "General Intercessions," in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 17, p 241.)

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Helpful web sites

Exegesis to homily:  What does it mean? What did the author want to say?  What does it mean to us, this parish, now, in our times?  -- Newspaper in one hand and bible in the other.  Breaking the Bread of the Word.

Function of the presiding minister.  Preaching by someone other than the presiding minister?

"Homily" is a new word for Catholics. It means more than just a sermon or a talk about how we are to live or what we are to believe. It is an act of worship rooted in the texts of the Mass and especially in the readings from Scripture which have just been proclaimed. The homily takes that word and brings it to our life situation today. Just as a large piece of bread must be broken to feed individual persons, the Word of God must be broken open to be received and digested by the congregation.

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Dismissal of the Catechumens

The Dismissal of the Catechumens has undergone several stages since it was first suggested in the RCIA.  Stage one: It'll never work. Everybody comes to mass: friends, visitors, etc. But let's put in the Rite [RCIA] because of the tradition. Stage two: Some (USA) try it. It works great! Other activities are planned for the catechumens, usually reflection on the Liturgy of the Word. This is more "reasonable"; why come to the table when you can't eat? Americans are always very practical! It also gives continual visible expression to the catechumenate throughout the year. And puts a real responsibility on the people who remain for the eucharist. Why am I different from them?  Stage three: What does the fact that the catechumens leave say about the meaning of the Eucharistic Prayer? Lex orandi. Should people who are not invited to eat be invited to the table for the meal prayer?   Stage four: Rethinking of others (other than catechumens) who are there but cannot eat: infants, couples in blessed ecumenical marriages, divorced and remarried Catholics, etc.

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General Intercessions


Constitution on the Liturgy:  53. «Oratio communis» seu «fidelium», post Evangelium et homiliam, praesertim diebus dominicis et festis de praecepto, restituatur, ut, populo eam participante, obsecrationes fiant pro sancta Ecclesia, pro iis qui nos in potesate regunt, pro iis qui variis premuntur necessitatibus, ac pro omnibus hominibus totiusque mundi salute. (Cf. 1 Tim. 2,1-2)

CSL 53. Especially on Sundays and holydays of obligation there is to be restored, after the gospel and the homily, "the universal prayer" or "the prayer of the faithful." By this prayer, in which the people are to take part, intercessions shall be made for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all people, and for the salvation of the entire world. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2)


Christian tradition has always given an important place to intercessory prayer. St. Paul exhorts to the offering of "prayers, petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving for all: for kings and all in authority, so that we may be able to live quiet and peaceful lives in the full practice of religion and of "morality" (1 TM 2.1-4). Intercessory prayer is a natural part of the liturgy in which the Church, in the name of Christ, continues to offer the prayer and petition which he poured out in the days of his earthly life. Already by the 2d century the origins of the general Intercessions appear. St. Justin Martyr writes (c. 155) that "on the Lord's day, after the reading of Scripture and the homily, all stand and offer the prayers" (First Apology 67). Vatican Council II's Constitution on the Liturgy called for the restoration of these General Intercessions which in course of time had disappeared from the Roman Mass (Sacrosanctum Concilium 53)

At Mass. The structure of the General Intercessions (also called the Prayer of the Faithful, but less appropriately, see De clerk 310) has three parts. First, after the Homily the one presiding invites the people to pray. Second, the deacon (or another person) announces the intentions of the people and they pray for that intention in silence or by a common response, recited or sung. Third, the one presiding concludes with a prayer (General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 47). As a rule the sequence of intentions is: 1) for the needs of the Church; 2) for public authorities and a the salvation of the world; 3) for those oppressed by any need; 4) for the local community (ibid. 46)

Liturgy of the Hours. The Church praises God throughout the course of the day celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours. The tradition does not separate praise of God from petition and "often enough praise turns somehow to petition" (General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours,179). Consequently, the General Intercessions have been restored to Morning and Evening Prayer, however with some nuance the avoid repetition of the petitions at Mass. The intentions art Morning Prayer are to consecrate the day to God (ibid. 181); those at Evening Prayer stress thanksgiving for graces received during the day. The intentions found in the Hours Book are addressed directly to God (rather than to the people, as at Mass) so that the wording is suitable for both common celebration and private recitation (ibid, 190). Although "the Liturgy of the Hours, like other liturgical actions, id not something private but belongs to the whole body of the Church" (ibid. 20), it must be acknowledged that it is still often prayed privately. In every case, however, the petitions should be linked with praise of God and acknowledgment for his glory or with a reference to the history of salvation, as on the Lord's Prayer (ibid 185).  (Thomas Richstatter, "General Intercessions," New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 17, p 241.)


The liturgy of the word (our "story telling" part of the Mass) comes to an end with the General Intercessions. Before you leave your home to go out to eat, you might take a look in a mirror to see if you look the way you want to look -- hair in place, coat buttoned correctly -- and perhaps make a few last minute adjustments so that your mind's image of yourself matches that in the mirror.

The General Intercessions serve a similar purpose at Mass. We are the body of Christ by Baptism. Now, as we prepare to approach the table for Eucharist, we look into the readings, like a mirror, and ask: is that who we are? Does the Body of Christ present in this assembly resemble that Body of Christ pictured in the Scripture readings? Usually not! And so we make some adjustments; we pray that our assembly come to really look like the body of Christ, a body at peace, with shelter for the homeless, healing for the sick, and food for the hungry.

We pray that our Church and the world might come to look like the dreams God has for us as we have heard promised in God's word. We pray for the Church, nations and their leaders, people in special need, and the local needs of your parish -- the petitions usually fall into these four categories. A minister will announce the petitions, and we all pray for that intention in our heart, and then we make some common response aloud, "Lord, hear our prayer" or another phrase that expresses our prayer.  (Thomas Richstatter, Catholic Update Video)

Structure and Elements

The prayer has three parts:

1.  The Presidential Invitation. Note this is an invitation, addressed to the congregation.

2.  The Petitions.  A reader announces the intention.  The reader is not "praying"; the reader is addressing the congregation.  The intentions may be grouped into four categories:  a) for the Church; b) the world; c) special needs; d) local needs.  Then there is an optional time for prayer.  Then a common response, sung or recited.  Note:  Only the priest is authorized to pray in the name of the community.  Note #2:  The liturgy is the prayer of Christ.  These are Christ's petitions.  We only pray for things we are certain Christ wants to pray for.

3.  The Presidential Prayer. Note:  this is a prayer, addressed to God.  General Principle: Age quod agis, e.g. when praying, pray.  Prayers are addressed to God in the name of Christ, they are the will and intention of the Body of Christ, head and members. In invitations the congregation is second person and the divinity is spoken of in the third person; in prayers the reverse is true. Prayers may be praise, thanksgiving, petition but not instructions, or theology lessons.   Instructions are addressed to the people;  prayers addressed to God.  I once heard a priest conclude the General Intercessions with this prayer: "Heavenly Father, as you know, next week is our parish festival and we need a new furnace. Please inspire these people to be more generous than they were last year. If each family gave but one dollar more than they gave last year, we could pay for the new furnace: just one dollar more. ..." To whom is this "prayer" addressed? To God? I suspect that the priest actually speaking to the people; it is an instruction, clothed (disguised) in the form of a prayer. This is an example of not following the basic principle: do what you are doing. When inviting, invite, when instructing, instruct; when praying, pray; when listening, listen.

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To Think About

What is the theological difference between remembering the mysteries of the Christian Liturgical Year and a mere historical recalling of the event celebrated? How does the liturgy make the feast "Today"? What is the danger of "historicism"?

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 11/11/10 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at