I was asked why does a priest read prayers during Mass instead of saying them from the heart. I didnt have an answer.


Yes, you will see priests who are 40 years past their ordination, and they still use the Sacramentary. The priests simply want to be certain to pray the Mass 100% correctly every time. There are many different Masses, with different options for each Mass, and they could mistakenly mix or substitute inappropriately if they relied on their memory.

I know a priest who used to recite the Gospel from memory when he proclaimed it (!), yet he always used the missalette to recite the Nicene Creed. When a child asked him about this, he admitted that he said the Rosary so often that he was prone to substitute all or parts of the Apostle’s Creed in place of the Nicene Creed. It is like that.

The early Church did pray extempore. The use of written texts is ancient, the (pseudo?) Hippolytan Apostolic Tradition giving examples of how to pray. There’s also the Euchologion of Serapion, Apostolic Constitutions, etc. The use of texts, many of which had to be approved by a local council of bishops, was made mandatory to avoid heresy being taught through prayers.

Ideally he is still praying them from the heart.

Some people are simply not good at making up prayers on the spot. The Church seeks to convey some specific realities in the Mass, and has spent many years working to make it as meaningful as possible. If they had to make it up as they go, many priests would forget something or other.

Simply put, the mass, which is Christ’s one sacrifice, belongs to Christ, and so is properly done only in one form - consistent worldwide. It is not a shoot-from-the-hip affair, since, at the mass, we stand both at the Last Supper and at the foot of the Cross.

By contrast, a protestant service does not render Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary present to the congregation, so the form and purpose of the service are quite different.

Simply put, in addition to many prayers that are different every Mass, the priest should make every effort to celebrate the Mass as close to the books as possible.

That being said, many priests may not strictly need the missal at every given moment, they like to keep it close, in case their memory fails.

I know personally that my bishop does this during the Eucharistic prayer. He always uses the same Eucharistic Prayer (III?), and always from memory. Being a frequent server, I’m close to the altar, and it’s clear he’s not looking at the missal besides a very occasional glance. He still always turns the pages at the right times though!

So… some priests do have the majority of the Mass memorized, but the missal should still be around for a memory aid, and for the changing prayers.

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Hi Brady,

Sounds like your question was answered.

I want to welcome you to a wonderful forum where you can learn a tremendous amount regarding our faith. This is the place to come if you want to know why we do something a certain way.

There are also so many interesting discussion on particular points regarding our faith and the faith of others. So again welcome and hope you enjoy all the interesting material.

God Bless

This is a great explanation!
Short, sweet & to the point! I love it! :thumbsup:

there are 4 main Eucharistic prayers and several others that can be used, different prefaces for each feast and season, and changes and additons to the Eucharistic prayers for most feasts and seasons. It would be a phenomenal priest to have all that memorized. The priest may not change the words to suit himself, his mood, his personal preference. He prays with and for the Church, and he prays with and for Christ, so he uses the words of Christ and his Church, not his own words. The minute he starts changing things, trouble starts.

If a priest prays the words of the mass from ‘the heart’ then I have to review everything he says and compare that to what I know of the teachings of the Church. After the Eucharistic prayer, I am to say ‘Amen’. If he reads the prayers, I know they are in line with Church teaching. If from the heart, I may have to withhold my ‘Amen’.

Actally, with the coming revised Roman Missal, the celebrant will have to read from the Roman Missal all of the time, since almost all of the prayers will be changing. This takes effect on the First Sunday of Advent 2011.

Yes. This is the answer. To change even one word is objectively grave sin Together with that one should use every means not to make every means to say each word properly.

It is very unfortunate, that some priests were formed in entirely different environment, and the adlibiting is the norm for them.

I think you mean “from memory.”

It seems “from memory” and “from the heart” are two different things. Reading can be very much from the heart, even if you don’t have full understanding of what you’re reading. Sursum corda (“Upwards hearts”).

That’s the old Evangelical complaint that formal prayer doesn’t have the same value as spontaneous made up prayer.

The first thing I would say is… well… at least we pray! :smiley: I have been to Evangelical Churches were there is all but 15 seconds of prayer at the end of the service (which in and of itself was nothing more than a big self help group).

Human life is based on repetition. We brush our teeth every day because it has been proven to prevent cavities. In the same way, we may recite prayers which have proven to work in the past, either for us personally or for the Church over the centuries. I never get tired of hearing my daughter say “I love you” in her own way and she repeats it over and over, every morning when she wakes up and every night when I put her to bed. The priest does the same thing, saying “I love you” and “Please help us” to God in a special way at every Mass.

And that’s just it. The prayers that a priest says are different from our ordinary language and rightly so. The language we use in worship should be holy, it should be different from the language we use in every day conversation. And what about the Psalms? They are some of the most beatiful prayers ever written, using quite peculiar language at times, and have been repeated for centuries. No one complains when the military or a doctor uses special language with unique words which convey very specific meanings outside of day to day life for most people. But they complain when the Church does it. :confused:

It’s part and parcel of the tendancy of Protestantism to spiritualize God down into nothign more than an emotional feeling. Excitement and strong emotion are equated with the Holy Spirit. Grace is when things are going good, like when the car hasn’t broken down for six months or the builder threw in granite counter tops a no extra charge. But Catholics are different, Jesus is present in the Eucharist whether we feel him or not. God is with us even when we feel spiritually dry. The Church established by Jesus Christ himself is a compass needle which always points the correct way - and She prays for us using her own language - which is the language of God.

And don’t be fooled. Most Evangelical pastors write their prayers ahead of time and read them or memorize them. Either that or they draw from a body of prayer that they use regularly. You can usually spot spontaneous prayer “From the heart” as it usually has the word “Just” every third word. “Lord Jesus, we just want to come before you and we just thank you and just ask you to just be with us…”

**Lord God, King of Heaven and earth,
direct our minds and bodies throughout this day, and make us holy.
Keep us faithful to your law in thought, word, and deed.
Be our helper now and always, free us from sin,
and bring us to salvation in that kindom where you live and reign
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen. **

That’s the formal prayer taken from Monday moring prayer, week 3 of the Liturgy of the Hours. I’ve heard it used in Mass. What’s wrong with that?


There may be a certain amount of truth to that. However, most of us wouldn’t know what to say if someone were to put a microphone in our hands and tell us to pray and make it sound like a prayer. We’re good at saying “let us pray to the Lord, Lord hear our prayer” however.

But prayer is more than the memorized word. The Mass has rubrics, bowing, kissing of the altar, genuflecting, standing at the gospel side, epistle side, washing of the fingers, etc. Even sitting still when required. These are all forms of prayer too. Even trying to understand the Latin or something unfamiliar can be construed as a prayer. If we pray the Mass instead of praying at Mass, I think this would allow more of our “hearts upwards” instead of just being there or reading from a book.

Not a fan of the Eastern rites I see?

Purpose, yes. But formwise, there’s often very little difference at all. Except that a traditional Anglican or Lutheran service will often be more reverent and traditional. :slight_smile:

Um I could just as well say that Catholicism tends to turn God into nothing but empty ritual. But that would be inaccurate, mean, and pointless, right?

Haha yes. Some people have the gift for spontaneous prayer. But I think most don’t. And in such cases they shouldn’t inflict themselves on the rest.

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