Prayer book during Mass?

Hi, I’m new to Catholic Forums. I wish to become Catholic and possibly a priest. I was wondering: Do priests have prayer books during Mass or do they memorize the prayers?

1 Like

They have a missal to read the prayers from.

However, some do memorize select parts of the mass.

God Bless


You’re coming close to a “nerve” that is touchy for a lot of Catholics. The priests use prayer books and are not supposed to improvise. Improvising prayers is very distracting when you come to expect the standard prayers.

The prayer books offer the priests options of prayers, but not to improvise. The priest is not supposed to be the focus of the Mass, keeping the people in suspense as to what he is going to do or say next.


There is a very thick and heavy book (use both hands) called the Missal on the altar during Mass. It contains all the prayers needed for Mass. There is no way a priest could learn all of them by heart as some are only prayed once/year. The priest celebrates Mass every day either by himself or together with other priests. There are several Eucharistic prayers but 4 are more common and prayed more often. A large part of them, they will learn fairly quickly.

Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Our Father etc the priests, as well as the people in the pew, should have memorized.


A priest who has been saying Mass daily for years can easily memorize the standard prayers and say them from memory without a book, the same way as I can usually make all the Mass responses from memory after having attended a lot of Masses.

Not using a prayer book does not mean the priest is “improvising”, and in fact I cannot remember one instance of a priest “improvising” prayers in over a year I’ve been attending almost daily Mass at many different churches. It is pretty obvious that many of them have certain prayers memorized as they are able to pray them without looking at a missal that is usually open nearby.


You know that they have the prayer memorized when they turn two pages instead of one. :smile:

I just learned that there are over 90 prefaces.

1 Like

Praying for your journey into the Catholic Church but KNOW that becoming a Priest must be a calling from God. Plus you’d have to be a practicing Catholic for a few years before you could apply to Seminary.

Both! We have an official, liturgical book, called the Roman Missal, that contains the prayers the priest says. A number of prayers are invariable so over time priests memorise them.

The entire Mass is celebrated from the Missal; it does not contain only the prayers for priests.

thanks, but I made a clear distinction between using the standard prayers and improvising. Sorry if it was not clear to you. Learning the prayers by repeated recitation may or may not happen, even after years.

In a separate context, Albert Einstein stated he never bothered to memorize what he could look up in a book. As a chemistry technician I always used a reference and never relied on my memory, when accuracy was important and my reputation was at stake.

Having re-entered this discussion, I think it’s important for a priest to use the prescribed prayers. I think there’s a rule to that effect. I don’t think a priest should just “wing” it if he’s too lazy to turn the page and pray from the book – if that hypothetical situation were to arise.

When I lived in the liberal northeast there were quite a few times that priests ‘improvised’. It happens and we shouldn’t try to gloss over it. After all that’s how the phrase 'say the ‘black and do the red’ came about.

They have the Missal, sometimes known as the sacramentary. They have to read from the book. Even if they memorize the prayers they still have to have the book open so that they can read from it. It is a liturgical abuse to do otherwise.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit