Monday, September 26, 2016

Perfect Prayers for Before and After the Liturgy

Those who are familiar with the traditional Roman missal will know that it features quite a number of prayers of priestly preparation before Mass and of thanksgiving after Mass. Often a sampling of these orations, antiphons, psalms, veriscles, etc., were (and still are) printed in Daily Missals intended for the use of the laity.

It would be interesting, apart from anything else, to know how many of the clergy and laity actually employ these prayers. It must be admitted that some of them are quite long, and for some while before Mass, the priest is occupied with putting on vestments (using the appropriate vesting prayers), holding quiet parleys with MCs, servers, choir or schola directors, and well-meaning folks seeking "a word or two with Father." And while the post-Mass period is usually less chaotic, it still requires at times a heroic effort to withdraw, like Our Lord in the Gospels, into the wilderness where heartfelt thanksgiving becomes possible. (For a more in-depth treatment, see my article "Priestly Preparation Before Mass and Thanksgiving After Mass.")

Given all of these things, it has often seemed to me that it would help to have a short, well-made prayer for before liturgy and another one for afterwards -- something that could be recited in the midst of any circumstances and still wonderfully focus the mind on what is about to transpire or what has transpired.

This past summer, I finally found these prayers, and found them as the result of a happy accident. My son and I were in Chicago for a retreat, and on the way back I decided to swing by St. John Cantius, a legendary place that I had never visited. After Sunday Vespers, I bumped into one of the canons, a very affable priest whom I had met at Sacra Liturgia in Rome a few years ago, who offered to give me a tour of the hidden rooms of the immense church. One of these rooms is a Gothic side chapel with a life-size reproduction of a famous carved altar from Krakow [update: a reader has pointed out that this is a scale model]:
The chapel is beautifully appointed with Gothic furnishings:
And it was at a Gothic side altar that I spotted the two prayer cards.
The priest giving me the tour said that this was his favorite place to offer a morning private Mass and that he and other canons often used the prayers on either side of the altar:
Here is a transcription of the texts:
Let us pray:
Almighty and Merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast invited us to participate in this worship with Thy beloved Son, our High Priest and King. Grant us the grace to fulfill our sacred duty with faith, reverence, and love, so that we may please Thee, edify Thy people, and deserve to obtain the fruits of this holy service, through Christ our Lord.
We adore Thee and bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world. Amen.
Let us pray:
We give thanks, heavenly Father, for the honor bestowed upon us by assisting at this holy service. Accept, we beseech Thee, our most humble ministry and forgive us whatever failings we have committed before Thy Divine Majesty. Enlighten and strengthen us, Lord, so that we may always render Thee praiseworthy homage through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end. Amen.
These really do seem to fit the need of the moment, and therefore I gladly share them with the readers of NLM, in case others may find them suited to their needs.

But now that I am writing about my visit to St. John Cantius, I have to share a few more photos of the back rooms. What a treasure trove of relics they have!

Monstances galore, all of them (I believe) gifts to the canons -- and they use them regularly:

 A rare set of Italian papier mâché Nativity dolls:

And -- why not? -- the last pair of papal shoes worn by Pope Pius XII:

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