QUAERITUR: What do about about a liturgical abuse in the Eucharistic Prayer

From a reader:

I was at Mass today. It was a First Holy Communion. There were many things that were obviously not right, but one thing stood above the rest of the usual novelties and abuses. It was the Eucharistic Prayer. I know it didn’t seem right to me, however I am not at all familiar with the GIRM or with what is actually permitted, especially for so-called children’s liturgies. However, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t right.

Anyway, I lifted this from the Mass booklet that was produced. [Excellent.. they actually printed it.]

I was wondering if you could advise me on what exactly is going on here and what might be done to address this issue.

This is what the reader sent:

This was the Eucharistic Prayer. The congregation were encouraged to say the bits in bold.
Lord, accept these gifts of bread and wine we offer you on this happy day. In your fatherly love watch over and protect all the boys and girls who receive your body for the first time today, may this mystery of unselfish love, increase their love for you and for each other. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.
God, our loving Father, we are glad to give you thanks and praise because you love us. With Jesus we proclaim your praise.
Response:  Glory to God in the highest.
Because you love us, you gave us this great and beautiful world. With Jesus we proclaim your praise:
Response:  Glory to God in the highest.
Because you love us, you sent Jesus your son to bring us to you and to gather us around him as the children of one family. With Jesus we proclaim your praise:
Response:  Glory to God in the highest.
For such great love we thank you with the angels and saints as they praise you and sing:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might….
Blessed be Jesus, whom you sent to be the friend of children and of the poor. He came to show us how we can love you, father, by loving one another. He came to take away sin, which keeps us from being friends, and hate, which makes us all unhappy. He promised to send the Holy Spirit, to be with us always so that we can live as your children.
Response:  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
God our Father, we now ask you to send your Holy Spirit to change these gifts of bread and wine into the body + and blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The night before he died, Jesus your Son showed us how much you love us.
When he was at supper with his disciples, he took bread, and gave you thanks and praise. Then he broke the bread, gave it to his friends, and said:
Take this all of you, and eat it: This is my body, which will be given up for you.
Response:  Jesus has given his life for us.
When supper was ended, Jesus took the cup that was filled with wine. He thanked you, gave it to his friends and said:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.
Response:  Jesus has given his life for us.
Then he said to them: Do this in memory of me.
And so loving Father, we remember that Jesus died and rose again to save the world. He put himself into our hands to be the sacrifice we offer you.
Response:  We praise you, we bless you, we thank you.
Lord our God, listen to our prayer. Send the Holy Spirit to all of us who share in this meal. May this Spirit bring us closer together in the family of the Church, with Benedict, our Pope, Joseph, our bishop, and all who serve your people.
Response:  We praise you, we bless you, we thank you

And so it went like this until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.

At Holy Communion time, all the first communicants and their parents were invited to stand in an arc around the altar, and the priest shook hands with them all (perhaps 40 or 50 people) and distributed Holy Communion first to the first communicants, then to their parents.

I didn’t know there is any form of any Eucharistic Prayer that looks like this.  I did find this, however.  There are Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children.  I don’t use Eucharistic Prayers for Children.  I don’t think there should even be Eucharistic Prayers for Children.  I don’t think it is right to talk down to children when you don’t have to and when the occasion is, how to put this… not childish.

Also, I am unaware that it is permitted for people to gather around the altar in that manner.

I am also pretty sure that the priest is to receive Communion before others, not after.

What I would suggest you do when you have a doubt about something – and when you have something printed – is to send a copy of the booklet to the local bishop asking the bishop if [X] is approved.  I am assuming that the pastor of the parish has been unresponsive.

If that doesn’t produce a good anwer, or any answer, send also a copy of your letter to the bishop and a copy of the booklet to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

Ask if this is permitted and what approve book this comes from.


His Eminence
Antonio Card. Canizares Llovera
Prefect of the Congregation for
    Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
P.za Pio XII

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Latter-day Guy says:

    I found this, , which looks fairly similar (it’s an ICEL text, copyright 1975).

  2. Latter-day Guy says:

    Oops. I used the wrong brackets. Try here: http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/EPC1-3.htm

  3. Dan O says:

    It looks like the Eucharistic Prayer for Children II. I thought that it was an approved text, unless the approval has been revoked.

  4. PomeroyJohn says:

    We had a substitute priest at today’s Mass as our PP is on his way to Rome for the end of the Year of the Priest.

    He (the substitute) added “Dear Sisters and Brothers” to every prayer and made “Jesus Christ” into “Jesus The Christ”. Plus, we got one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation. (Even that he changed by changing the order of some of the phrases.) I wasn’t aware they were for Sundays. Several times, his little self-written flourishes confused people into remaining silent when their turn to respond came. Well, maybe he’ll remember to say the black when the new translation comes out.


  5. Magpie says:

    I thank Father Z for his kind response to my email. I should add that the priest did receive first, my apologies that I didn’t make that clear. But anyhow, after Mass, I met a friend of mine who was livid about what had just happened. I agreed but advised him that getting angry (he swore outside church!) was not the way forward. I am in a difficult position myself. I am trying to involve myself in the local parish pastoral council. Additionally, the parish priest is keen to involve me in parish catechesis. I’m doing a course of study for that. I would like to take the actions Father suggested, but I fear it would ruin everything else, in as much as I’d alienate myself with all the priests and quite possible scupper any possibility that I might be able to make a difference in other ways. There are many abuses committed by this particular priest, a curate, in our parish.

    I felt so cheated. This has happened for the last number of Sundays as there are quite a large number of first communicants. I feel cheated because I know what the Church presents us with in terms of the Holy Mass – the Roman Missal and the GIRM – and I know that people are being cheated. Many are oblivious, but others, such as myself, my friend, and my mother who was with me, realise that this just isn’t on and the Mass is reduced to a spectacle and a show. We are not familiar with the ins and outs of the details, but we can all see abuse and nonsense for what it is!

    I left Mass frustrated and upset. I called my friend afterwards to have a chat with him.

  6. Daniel says:

    That the Eucharistic Prayers for Children were being dropped by the Vatican was mentioned on this blog: https://wdtprs.com/2008/10/eucharistic-prayers-for-children-to-be-dropped/

    That article mentioned that the “change will take effect at an unspecified future date.” It would seem that they may be waiting for the implementation date of the new translation before they drop the Eucharistic Prayers for Children, they don’t want to be too hasty about it.

  7. TNCath says:

    These options need to die a very quick death. They might officially in time, but will they in actuality? I doubt it. As it stands, quite a few priests make use of these Eucharistic Prayers for Children even at Masses where children aren’t present. A year or so ago, I was in attendance at a Mass by a Franciscan who, wearing a chasuble and over his habit without an alb, announced he was using one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Children because “it is much better than one of those crazy Roman things.” And then, there are priests who use the pauses to remember the living and the dead in Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon) to give specific directions and lengthy commentaries about whom we are to pray for.

    I hope and pray that when the new translations are finally implemented, these and so many other improvisations and ad libs become a thing of the past, but I am afraid they won’t. As one priest remarked to me not long ago, “Who’s gonna police this?” Unfortunately, he has a point. I predict no one. We’ll have the new translations, yes, but who’s going to “write Father a ticket” for when he commits a liturgical violation?

  8. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I was at a First Communion Mass recently and the children were called up to surround the altar — along with their teachers — before the priest began the consecration. They stayed up and received communion at the altar. I don’t know if this was proper or not. The religious education coordinator (or whatever her title is) and the deacon love to “personalize” services.

  9. Emilio III says:

    I hope these silly patronizing parodies are done away with soon. But I notice that they could not leave even this banal version alone. Liberals are unable to “say” or “sing” anything: they must “proclaim”.

  10. david andrew says:

    I was under the impression that the “Eucharistic Prayers for Children” were to be suppressed a while back, as announced in October of 2008. So far as I know, the Holy See was going to drop any plans to re-translate them, and they would not appear in the new translation of the MR. Clearly, the new translation can’t come soon enough.

  11. PomeroyJohn — 30 May 2010 @ 2:59 pm “Several times, his little self-written flourishes confused people into remaining silent when their turn to respond came.”

    That is one of my pet peeves about liturgical improvisation. We have no idea when the priest is done with his flourishes… and sometimes, the standard response ends up sounding awkward or out-of-place because of the priest’s words.

  12. Dave N. says:

    I’ve heard this prayer used many times at so-called children’s liturgies, usually in conjunction with First Holy Communion, with the parts in bold being sung by the people. Even though the prayer’s not well-written, it’s still licit as far as I know–so I guess I’m not seeing exactly what the problem with the prayer is (other than of course, the broader issue of ICEL having promulgated poorly-written Eucharistic prayers). If I recall correctly, allowing the first communicants to receive first is a pretty ancient custom. But the gathering ’round the altar seems like a bad idea.

    Always best to research first before flying off the handle or jumping to conclusions.

  13. J Kusske says:

    TNCath, you raise a very important point. Ultimately all of us have to help make sure the new translatation and other salutary changes are being put into effect. The steps Fr. Z outlines above are one side of it, and finding other like-minded people and together asking priests nicely (strength in numbers) seems a wise course as well. Persistence will be very important too; the parable of the Unjust Judge comes to mind! I feel that the good Father here is doing signal service in informing the members of the Church, both lay and religious, so that we know what we have been missing all this time, and can finally ask for (and get) our birthright, God willing. Even I never understood the depth of what was in the older rite though I went to Novus Ordo masses in Latin most my life, and only here have I started to see the beauty in the 1962 and previous years’ prayers. I want true spiritual food, not pabalum, as the Eucharistic Prayer mentioned above (and another I can’t abide, the “Reconciliation” with it’s “when we were lost and could not find the way to you”–blech!) is…

  14. chloesmom says:

    Sounds like something that might happen at my parish — a perfect example of the Church of Aren’t We Fabulous (c Amy Welborn). I would be sorely tempted to walk out.

  15. I don’t care for these anaphoras much myself. It’s not the responses interspersed so much — this characteristic is not native to the Roman Rite, but is very common in the Eastern churches — as the childish language employed (that’s “childish” as opposed to “childlike”), and also the degree of latitude in using them. The “Directory for Masses with Children” calls for their use when the majority of the congregation is of pre-adolescent age. In my experience, that is rarely the case.

    I had forgotten there were plans to eliminate them. I would look forward to that, as well as any announcement which makes it abundantly clear that they are eliminated.

  16. Daniel says:

    Dave N:

    The issue is not that the First Communicants received prior to the remainder of the congregation, but that they received before the priest. I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that it is an ancient custom that they receive prior to the priest. It’s a custom I have never received, and goes against the instructions.

  17. Daniel says:

    While the new translation’s implementation has not occurred, the new General Instructions for the Roman Missal were implemented some time ago. I believe that with that implementation, the practice of having people gather around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer was supposed to come to an end.

  18. TNCath says:

    J Kusske, I appreciate what you have to say. However, experience has taught me that most priests who choose to ad lib parts of the Mass are quite resentful of anyone, especially laity, questioning what they believe is their “right” to say Mass any way they choose. Persistence works only to a point, and usually that points is reached when the pastor of the parish suggests thqt those individuals who object to the way Mass is celebrated to leave the parish.

    Next week the priests of our diocese are attending a three day session on the new translations. Conducting the workshop is Father Paul Turner, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City and a “facilitator” for ICEL. If you check out his website, you will see that his approach is a bit on the “nuanced” side. I suspect this will be the approach by most diocese in the U.S.


  19. Dave N. says:

    The issue is not that the First Communicants received prior to the remainder of the congregation, but that they received before the priest. I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that it is an ancient custom that they receive prior to the priest. It’s a custom I have never received, and goes against the instructions.

    Note that according to the author of the original inquiry, the priest received first. So I don’t understand that to be what’s at issue here.

  20. mpolo says:

    The Eucharistic Prayers for Children are not in the latest edition of the Latin Missale Romanum, so it seems that they are going away. I’ve never had a Mass where I felt I could actually apply the rubric that allows it to be said — that the majority of the Mass-goers are of a pre-adolescent age. I suppose it might happen on children’s retreats and such… But presumably with the new translation they will lose their licitness in English as well. Of course, I’m in Germany, where we still haven’t managed to translate the GIRM from 2002 (which would invalidate [illicitate?] a large number of common usages here, but since it’s not translated, we can’t be expected to implement it, right?)

  21. eyeclinic says:

    From personal experience, if you have a child/grandchild/godchild who is to receive first Sacraments, please check into the formalities EARLY in the process to make sure things are on the up-and-up. Weeks in advance is not too soon. Had I suspected that things could go wrong, my family members would not have been subjected to the John Denver tunes at my son’s special Mass. I think that even our pastor was somewhat embarrassed by the “festivities”.

  22. Daniel says:

    Dave N.:

    It looks like what Fr. Z quoted from the inquirer did only mention the first communicants receiving first prior to their parents. As he went on to say:
    “I am also pretty sure that the priest is to receive Communion before others, not after”; he may have had additional info beyond what was quoted. On the rare occasion where I’ve seen a priest not receive Communion until after everybody else, it is usually when he has gathered people around the altar. It perhaps did not happen in this case as it is not mentioned in the quote from the inquirer, I was thinking it had since Fr Z mentions it shortly after he ended the quote.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    This sort of thing, both the laity standing around the altar and the word changes, are old school circa 1980-1995 around here. I don’t know that this stuff happens routinely anywhere in this diocese anymore because I don’t get around everywhere, but it used to be de rigeur for daily masses in a lot of parishes here.

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    Used to occasionally find picnic table (real picnic table) masses around here too. Our diocesan 40th year celebration was a beach mass exercise, complete with swimsuits. Sad, sad, sad.

  25. Magpie says:

    I just clarify again, as the author of the original enquiry, that the priest did, on this occasion, receive Holy Communion first. This was not made clear in my email to Fr Z. Apologies once again. That aside, the Mass was still celebrated in a most disgraceful fashion. And we wonder what’s up with Maynooth – the place where this particular priest was formed.

  26. irishgirl says:

    I hope that when the new Missal is implemented, this ‘improvisation’ goes out the door!

    Emilio III-I’m with you!

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