Sunday, March 13, 2011

How About Them Intercessions?

The home user of the Divine Office might  find the Intercession sections of Morning and Evening prayer kind of awkward. The are so clearly designed for a group divided into two "choirs", that it feels funny doing them on one's own. And funnier still  reading the two parts to each petition and then having to jump back to the repeated response (e.g.,"Lord, show us your mercy").  Furthermore, the two-part petitions are often so verbose that the tired woman reading them can lose the train of what exactly it is she is praying for.

At least, this is what I have sometimes felt. Here is some help for Intercession Discomfort Syndrome, gleaned from the General Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours.

If you are praying by yourself, you  need not read the introductory/invitation statement (e.g. "Christ is our Savior, in joy let us cry out to him:") nor do you use the repeated response (e.g. "Lord, show us your mercy"). This is meant for public occasions when a priest or other minister is leading the congregation. Instead you just dive in to the actual petitions. Read each one.The second part of each is the "response". 

And if, like me, you would like to sometimes see some shorter, more to-the-point petitions: the Church, thoughtful Mother that she is to her ADHD children, has some  optional petitions  that are made to order. You can only find these in each volume of  the four-volume breviary.  They are only to be used at Evening Prayer. When we are too tired to follow the more flowery petitions, I guess.

Another nice suggestion from the General Instructions: "it is permissible to include particular intentions at both morning and evening prayer." So after you read what's in the book, you may pray for the particular needs of your family and friends.

All of the above make me a lot more comfortable with the Intercessions than I used to be.


  1. Funny, I'm the opposite, I always like to pray all the verbose petitions, even when I know I don't have to. In fact, my dad is a secular Carmelite who prays the office daily as part of his rule of life and he's always telling me that I'm not supposed to pray the response in private recitation. But I want to pray the response. I like the response. It helps me to focus somehow.

  2. With me, I think it's something with my eyes. I look back up to say the response, then, if I'm several petitions down, really have to hunt to find my place again. So cutting out the response solves that problem.

  3. I've been told the particular intercessions should be made after the final intercession at Lauds and after the penultimate intercession at Vespers. Do you know if this is correct and if so where this is laid down?

    1. Your info is correct; here are the relevant sections from the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours, a very useful document which you can get to from the General Instruction tab up on top of this page:

      186. In the intercessions at evening prayer the last intention is always for the dead.

      187. Since the liturgy of the hours is above all the prayer of the whole Church for the whole Church, indeed for the salvation of the whole world, [16] universal intentions should take precedence over all others, namely, for: the Church and its ministers; secular authorities; the poor, the sick, and the sorrowful; the needs of the whole world, that is, peace and other intentions of this kind.

      188. It is permissible, however, to include particular intentions at both morning prayer and evening prayer.