Why do priests almost always use the Second Eucharistic Prayer?

In my experience, spanning many parishes over many years, in several different dioceses, most priests say the Second Eucharistic Prayer at almost every Mass, including daily Mass and Sunday Mass. Yet the missal contains four Eucharistic prayers (and I think maybe some additional ones for special situations), and as far as I know, the priest is free to choose any of the four Eucharistic prayers for a given Mass. So why is it that the other Eucharistic prayers are so seldom used, at least in my experience?

I have never asked a priest this question directly, because I don’t want to come across as complaining. (And I hope I don’t come across this way to any priests reading here.) I have thought about this quite a bit, and the only possible explanations I have come up with are the following:

(1) The Second Eucharistic Prayer is the shortest one, and priests don’t want Mass to be too long, especially if the priest has to celebrate several Masses on the same day. (I totally understand this as a valid reason for using the Second Eucharistic Prayer a majority of the time, but I’m not sure if it explains why this prayer is used something like 95% of the time, which has been my experience.)

(2) Perhaps priests are being instructed to use this prayer almost exclusively, either in seminary, or by their bishops, or both. (I have no idea if this is true or not – it is just speculation on my part. But if it did turn out to be true, I would be interested to know why they are being instructed this way.)

But maybe there are other reasons that I haven’t thought of, for why this prayer is used so often. Any insight would be welcome, especially from priests or seminarians, or from anyone who has talked with a priest about this question.

I believe reason #1 is most accurate, though it could be informed by reason #2. I have not been to seminary, so I cannot say anything about that. A priest friend of mine told me he does not like Eucharistic Prayer I and does not use it because of “archaic” language and concepts (he prefers IV). I suspect many priests would say the same. I’ve only heard EP I used twice in the last 4 years.

What I do know is that Masses are flooded with extraordinary ministers of Communion. This fact, coupled with the almost exclusive use of E.P. II, points to a wish that Mass - or at least the Liturgy of the Eucharist - go as quickly as possible. In my experience, the liturgy of the word is generally the longest part. The Eucharist tends to be an afterthought, because of - and influenced by - the brevity of Eucharistic Prayer II.

Of course, I am being very cynical. I know priests don’t like the Mass to last more than an hour these days. Perhaps they’re afraid of losing people. It’s a touchy subject.

It’s just coincidence. Every priest has his own preferences and choices.

Yes, it’s true that many priest choose EPII because it’s short. There’s no avoiding that simple fact. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s always the reason.

EP II was written specifically for daily Masses. The GIRM even mentions this.

Personally, I use EP II for weekday Masses. The only exception being saints’ days when the saint is mentioned in the Roman Canon (EP I), and on First Fridays.

On Sundays, I use EP III for most Masses, but I use the Roman Canon for the last Sunday morning Mass (the more solemn one at my parish).

If something goes wrong (a few times, we’ve had the lights to out during a storm) or when I’m ill I will use EP II.

Every priest has his own patterns and preferences, and his own reasons for making his choices. I cannot speak for everyone’s seminary experience (surely not!) but I don’t recall anything ever being said as far as professors trying to push one EP or the other.

Sure, some of the more left leaning priests don’t like the Roman Canon. That’s something I’ve heard quite often. There is a pattern there, but it’s not an absolute one.

Over the years, people have asked me why I choose one or the other. I’ve never been offended by the question. If you’re curious as to why your priest makes the choices that he does, I’d recommend asking him. Just make sure you’re asking him, not telling him. Words like “is it true that you only use 2 because you’re lazy?” won’t go over well (of course, I’m using a little humor there). Something like “Father, I’m just curious, since there are several options for the Eucharistic Prayers, how do you decide which one to use at any given Mass?” would probably go over just fine, unless the priest is overly sensitive, or unless there’s some pattern of people questioning/challenging his decisions.


I think that EPII is the most ancient. [However, this may be more an excuse than a reason. ;)]

EP IV can only be used with its own preface, which means it cannot be used when there is a proper preface for the day.

I’m not sure if it explains why this prayer is used something like 95% of the time, which has been my experience.

I’m not doubting that it’s your experience (although I wonder about the 95% – that would mean that, if we’re talking about Sunday Mass, you’re saying that you only hear a different EP once or twice a year?), but that doesn’t mean that it’s characteristic of all times and all places. I would have to say that, in my experience sitting in the pews, I’ve heard EP II nearly every time at daily Mass, and extremely rarely on Sunday, which would usually be EP III or I.

(2) Perhaps priests are being instructed to use this prayer almost exclusively, either in seminary, or by their bishops, or both.

No, that is not the case.

I’ve noticed this too, and it irks me sometimes because, as I understand it, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is meant to be about the same length of time as the Liturgy of the Word. EP II was mainly intended for Weekday Masses where the homily would be a bit shorter. Since homilies on Sunday Masses and on Solemnities/Feasts, the priest should select the EP that matches it in length of time. ( I think I read this in Jimmy Akin’s Mass Revision or perhaps on EWTN’s website, but I did read it from a good source.) Again, as I understand it a priest should not choose a shorter EP since his homily was long.

I’m a little sad that my new Pastor and Vicar seem to NEVER pray EP IV, even during Ordinary Time when it’s allowed. I absolutely love that EP and miss it a lot.

I also love the EPs for Masses of Reconciliation, but I only experience this at a nearby Benedictine Monastery. I don’t recall a parish Mass for Reconciliation, though this is VERY MUCH needed in my area. ( Yes, I’m aware that there are only certain times when a priest may use this option. I just never see it getting chosen.)

I sometimes wonder if priests can get in a rut with their choices. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way. It just seems easy for a person to slip into a routine and never to allow for other choices or options, both personally and in one’s work/vocation.

Just my thoughts on this. God bless.

Not sure, although Eucharist Prayer II is used the most in our parish, but we do have the others every so often.

One priest who said how he loves Eucharistic Prayer IV also lamented the fact that there are very few opportunities to use it during the year. He said it was to do with the occasion of the Mass. However, I think I will drop some subtle hints to my parish priest at how interesting it was to learn that Eucharist Prayer IV is salvation history and how I am so looking forward to it now I understand.

He can always say it in Latin, or Spanish. The priest at one parish I sometimes attend usually says the EP1 at the Saturday vespere Mass. And without a microphone. So nice and quiet you could hear a pin drop during that time.

according to the instructions in the missal epII is better suited for weekday masses. epIII Is better suited for sundays and feasts (though not recommended for masses for the dead because it has no memento for the dead). epI can be used for any occasion especially the feasts of the saints whose names are in the canon. epIV can only be used on ferial days since the preface is immutable. (however it is not stated as a strict rule which of the ep should be used rather it is presented as a guideline on making a choice).
my experience is that most priests prefer epII because they memorize it and rattle it off during the mass. this is the reason why they use it everyday of the entire year from my own perspective.
never the less it all falls on personal preference and piety. (if I assist on Sundays I always open the epIII and allow the principal celebrant to turn it back to epII if he so desires).

Perhaps because the Holy Spirit leads them to use this prayer? :slight_smile:

Of course, there HAS to be a conspiracy behind it. :eek:

I’m sure it’s all (Obama, Hillary, Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, Vatican II, Mother Angelica, the Masons, … choose one or fill in a name of your own choosing)'s fault

With my experience, before the new edition of the Roman Missal, most priests used EPIII at most Sunday Masses. Afterwards, most have used EPII. Maybe they just chose it at first because it was the easiest of the new translations to say and just simply got used to it out of habit.

I don’t think it has much to do with the English translation. I’ve heard EPII at almost all Spanish Masses I’ve attended.

I suspect it’s due to global warming.

Our priest uses EP I more than any other. He likes it. Sunday and Weekday.

Thank you to everyone who responded.

That’s interesting about your priest friend’s dislike of EP1. I love EP1 and think it is a solemn and beautiful prayer. It is sad that I almost never hear it at Mass.

I have sometimes wondered, if brevity is the reason for choosing EP2, then why not just make the homily a minute or two shorter, at least on those days when a longer EP is used?

That is interesting; I did not know that. I have indeed heard EP2 almost to the exclusion of any other EP at weekday Masses, but the same has been true at Sunday Masses as well.

That sounds like a good system.

I wonder why they don’t like it? I guess because the language is a bit more traditional and flowery, or maybe because it mentions more saints? Though in my experience, even non-left-leaning priests seem to prefer EP2 almost exclusively. (But I see from this thread that not everyone’s experience has been the same as mine.)

Thanks, Father. I appreciate the advice.

I did not know that either. Thanks for the information.

I am glad to hear that my experience is not universal. While I haven’t kept a count, the 95% estimate seems right to me. There are about 52 Sundays in a year, and 95% of 52 is 49.4. That would mean that if 95% is right, then I hear Eucharistic prayers other than EP2 only about 2 or 3 Sundays per year, and that sounds about right – it might even be more like 1 to 2.

However, I admit that I don’t always follow along in the missal, nor do I always pay close attention, because I have small children that I have to keep a close eye on, and they can be quite a distraction. So it is possible that I miss some instances of non-EP2 Eucharistic prayers, but I tend to think that I would usually notice if the Eucharistic prayer is different.

I’m not sure whether you are critiquing my speculation, or only making a joke. If you thought that I was advancing the idea that there is some conspiracy to make priests use only EP2, I can assure you that that was not my intent.

I was trying to think of possible reasons why I hear EP2 almost exclusively. I tried to state clearly that my reasons were speculative, and that I welcomed the insight of others, since I wasn’t sure of the correct explanation. If I did not make those points as clearly as I could have (which is quite possible), and instead sounded as if I was advocating a conspiracy theory, then I apologize for not expressing myself more clearly.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have heard mostly EP2 both before and after the new translation. But I have been more disappointed with the almost exclusive usage of EP2 after the new translation than I was before, because I really want to hear the new translations of all the Eucharistic prayers. (I have read them in the missal, but I have rarely heard the new translations of EP1, EP3, or EP4 prayed at Mass.)

The English is new. However, the EP1 (or the Roman Canon) in its Latin form (Te igitur clementissime Pater…) can be easily recognized in a 750 AD Missal, so you can say that that’s traditional.

The EPs 2, 3 and 4 was added during the Second Vatican Council. EP 1 is more ancient.


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