The Last Bastion of ”Improv”


Slowly but surely, the liturgical practice of the Latin Rite has begun to improve.  The last General Instruction for the Roman Missal and the revised translation that went into effect in Advent 2011 have raised the level of practice in most parishes. 

But there’s still one hold-out from the 1970s everywhere I go:  the prayer of the faithful.

In many parishes, these prayers reflect the “causes de jour” – we plead for universal healthcare from our leaders, an end to bullying thanks to compassionate school personnel, improvement in the ground-water supply, employment, natural resource conservation, and selected disasters and addictions.  Every week is a new set of concerns.  If you’re really unlucky, there’s a surprise every day! 

Most of these petitions come from little books put out by liturgical publishers who found another income stream with these subscriptions.  And of course, liturgists, clergy, and choir directors find it hard to resist the urge to “tweak” them.

There’s the” improv.”  There’s the “me” part of the 1970s hanging on. There’s occasionally a scolding quality to the intercessions – as though we in the pews haven’t been working hard enough on these issues and better hop to it.  I thought that belonged in the homily. 

Not only are our requests specific, we tell God how He should fix the problem in case He can’t figure it out by Himself.  Maybe that’s a bit presumptuous?

If you want an all-purpose litany, simply do what the Anglicans did with Rite I. Steal the Orthodox great litany and make minor revisions (obviously they’re not interested in patriarchs, especially now).   It covers everything from weather and crops to civil disturbances, with all points in between and lets the Almighty work out the details.  Full coverage and no surprises.  Then I will no longer need to pray to be delivered from these prayers.



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About Mary Jane Ballou

Mary Jane Ballou’s life in sacred music began in a children’s choir at the age of three. Instrumental music waited until her piano lessons started in primary school. And her music life remains a joyous pairing of sacred vocal music and the instrumental repertoire of Spain, Ireland, and Scotland.

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