Question by Matilda Agyarkwa:

The Catholic faith teaches that consecration time is the highest peak of the sacrifice of the Mass and that petitions are best heard or granted by our Lord at that time. This means that we need to pray intensely at that point with all our senses and put our petitions across. Unfortunately, most of our priests are quick to lower the Lord when they raise Him at consecration and we are hardly able to put our petitions to Him. Can this matter be addressed?

Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:

I would like to begin by commenting on the opening statement by Matilda, namely, The Catholic faith teaches that consecration time is the highest peak of the sacrifice of the Mass and that petitions are best heard or granted by our Lord at that time. I would like to comment on the first part of her statement by referring to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2003).  

After the Prayer over the Offerings has been said by the celebrant, the General Instruction says, “Now the centre and summit of the entire celebration begins: namely, the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification” (GIRM 78).  Thus, “the centre and summit” of the Mass is the Eucharistic Prayer.  Although the Institution narrative and Consecration may be seen as the heart of the Eucharistic Prayer, they form part of a bigger whole – the Eucharistic Prayer.

With regard to the second part of Matilda’s statement that petitions are best heard or granted by our Lord” at the time of consecration, I am not aware of any document of the Church that teaches that, and I would be most grateful if someone could draw my attention to such a document or documents.  In connection with petitions to God during Mass, I would like to point out that during the celebration of Mass there is a time or period dedicated to presentingour needs to God.

On Sundays and solemnities, after the Creed we have the Universal Prayer or what is usuallycalled the Prayer of the Faithful or the General Intercessions.  The church, after hearing the word of God, exercises its priestly function by interceding for all humanity.   The General Instruction says, “It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation” (GIRM 69).  

In practice, the Prayer of the Faithful is a normal part of the Mass on all Sundays and solemnities.  It would be appropriate on major feasts and memorials.  But it is not obligatory to have these prayers at every weekday Mass.  For reasons of time – for example, when workers attend Mass early in the morning on their way to work – this Universal Prayer may be omitted.  However, the priest could include a short form of it in each weekday Mass.

During the Prayer of the Faithful, the Church prays not only for its own needs but also for those of the world, for civil authorities, for those oppressed by any burden, and for the local community, particularly those who are sick or who have died.  During this Prayer, there is also a moment when all those in church can offer their personal intentions to God in silence.  This is the moment when Matilda can put all her needs before God rather than at the time of the elevation of the consecrated elements.

At the time of consecration, the priest pronounces the words of institution:

Take this, all of you, and eat of it:

for this is my body which will be given up for you.

Take this, all of you, and drink from it:

for this is the chalice of my blood,

the blood of the new and eternal covenant.

which will be poured out for you and for many

for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this in memory of me.

After the Institution narrative and Consecration, the rubric says that the priest “shows the consecrated host to the people, places it again on the paten, and genuflects in adoration”. Similarly, for the chalice, “He shows the chalice to the people, places it again on the corporal, and genuflects in adoration”.  

No indication is offered as to the duration of either the showing or the genuflection. Here one must be guided by the general principles of the Roman rite, which eschews exaggerated or dramatic gestures. Since the showing is done so that the people can see the host and the chalice, and the genuflection is an act of adoration, these gestures should not be done hurriedly but with a degree of pause and decorum that underlines their liturgical function.

The gesture of elevation should be reverent, but not prolonged, as it might affect the unity and continuity of the Eucharistic Prayer.  In this connection, we should note that in Ghana some priests are guilty of this, as they spend far too much time on the elevation, sometimes to the accompaniment of a song like, “O come, let us adore him…”  The idea of the elevation is that the faithful will see the consecrated elements.  The elevation is not intended to be a time for extended adoration or for offering our intentions to God. The latter would have been done already during the Prayer of the Faithful.

If, during Mass,everyone in Church was to offer their intentions to God at the point of the elevation, the priest would not know when to put the consecrated elements down, since he would have no means of knowing whether or not all the people had finished putting their intentions to God!

For further explanations or enquiries, you may contact the author, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Catholic Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, on this number: 0244488904, or on WhatsApp (with the same number).  

Authored by Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu