Notes on Eucharistic Prayer II

Every once in the while, when I was saying the Novus Ordo far more often than I do today (last Sunday was the first in several months, after the EF and before an EF baptism), why I used the Roman Canon and never Eucharistic Prayer II.


First, there’s the fact that the claimed origins of EP2 are thoroughly ridiculous.

And here’s a new wrinkle, from the great Fr. Hunwicke. He has a post at his place (with my emphases):

How to enjoy Eucharistic Prayer II

That charismatic writer and teacher of the 1950s and 1960s, the distinguished liturgist Fr Louis Bouyer, in his Memoires [published 2014; I am very gratefully indebted to a kind friend for these extracts], tells of his own involvement with the composition of Eucharistic Prayer II.

He [Bouyer] was summoned to join the sub-commission charged with inventing the new ‘Missal’; after seeing the drafting work aleady done, his instinct was to leave the group instantly … but Dom Bernard Botte persuaded him to stay, even if only to obtain a less dreadful result. He agreed. I give you my own probably inaccurate translation [corrections welcomed with a sigh of relief] of Bouyer’s vivid account of the early history of what has, so very sadly, become by far the most commonly used Eucharistic Prayer during this past half-century in the Western Church.

“You’ll have an idea of the deplorable conditions in which this indecently speedy reform (reforme a la sauvette) was pushed forward, when I have told you how the Second Eucharistic Prayer was tied up (ficelee). Between the fanatics who were archaeologising wildly and at random, who would have wanted to ban the Sanctus and the Intercessions from the EP, adopting the Eucharist of Hippolytus just as it was, and the others who didn’t give a damn about (qui se fichaient pas mal de) his pretended Apostolic Tradition but only wanted a botched (baclee) Mass, Dom Botte and I were charged with patching up the text so as to introduce these elements, which are certainly very ancient … in time for the very next morning! By chance, I discovered, in a writing perhaps by Hippolytus himself but certainly in his style, a happy formula on the Holy Spirit which could make a transition, of the Vere Sanctus type, leading into the brief epiclesis. Botte, for his part, fabricated an intercession more worthy of Paul Reboux [a belle epoque humourist and producer of witty pastiches] and his In the Style of … than of his own areas of academic competence. But I can never reread this weird (invraisemblable) composition without recalling the terrace of the bistro in the Trastevere where we had to work carefully at our allotted drudgery (pensum), so as to be in a position to present ourselves, with it in our hands, at the Bronze Gate at the time fixed by our bosses.” [Botte recalls in his memoires that the Pensionato in which he stayed was too full of red, purple, and cassocks; “my only break was to eat my meals in the little public restaurants on the nearby streets …”]

[… Here I’ve cut out a highly amusing chunk to force you to go over there and read the rest….]

The next paragraph begins with Bouyer informing us that the Novus Ordo Calendar was “oeuvre d’un trio de maniaques”. He also describes Archbishop Bugnini as meprisable and aussi depourvu de culture que de simple honnetete, all of which really does totally defeat either my schoolboy French or my plain old-style Anglo-Saxon sense of decency de mortuis; I’m not sure which. It’s such a terrible burden being an Englishman.

Mémoires Louis BouyerI’ll be heading to Rome in May for some research.  I must get this book.  I don’t see it yet on Amazon USA in French.  It is available at Amazon UK (HERE) and at Amazon ITALY (HERE), at Amazon CANADA (HERE) and of course Amazon FRANCE (HERE).

Let’s have a couple POLLS about the Eucharistic Prayers you usually here.

Pick the answer that best describes your situation.  Feel free to use the combox to elaborate.

Anyone can vote in both polls,  but you have to be registered to comment.

At Ordinary Form Mass on Sundays and holy days...

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Frank H says:

    Since the arrival of our newly ordained parochial vicar three years ago, I hear the Roman Canon about 50% of the time, since he uses that exclusively – praise be to God!

  2. VeritasVereVincet says:

    A combination for me, honestly. At Church 1 (unfortunately closed in mid-2012), I think II was used, with a possible occasional III–until the final pastor, who instead used both I and III. I have no concrete memory of him using II. He also frequently chanted parts of the Mass. At Church 2, I believe II has been and still is used fairly exclusively.

    I miss Church 1. But I am optimistic. Our new pastor at Church 2 has plans to fix some things, but has been told to do it slowly over the next few years.

  3. Simon_GNR says:

    I think many priests chose to say EP2 because its the shortest and they want Mass to be over as soon as possible. EP1 is my favourite by far, but it’s the one I hear least often. And,for me, it must be the full version with all the saints and martyrs listed (Linus, Cletus, Clement… and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all), not the shortened version with most of them left out.
    On a lighter note, after the mention of “John and Paul” I always half expect the next line to be “George and Ringo”! And I like the names of female saints and martyrs… Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy etc. It always sounds to me like a list of Bertie Wooster’s aunts and ex-fiancees!

  4. John Nolan says:

    My experience of the Novus Ordo (perhaps one Sunday in five) is atypical since it is usually in Latin and the Roman Canon is the default position. I have occasionally encountered EP III.

  5. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Our current pastor occasionally uses II or IV, but usually III. My saddest moment of his pastorate was a couple years ago when, during a homily, he quoted sections from II, III and IV to underscore a particular point and he completely neglected the Roman Canon. (A prior pastor used some pretty wacky ones including one with extensive quotations from G.M. Hopkins.)

    When I am at Mass and the priest uses the Roman Canon, I make a point to thank him for so doing.

  6. Vincent says:

    Hard to vote on this – I try only to go to ‘proper’ OF Masses if I go to them – so often hear the Roman Canon. However, I would definitely say that the majority of Masses in Britain use Eucharistic Prayer II.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Mostly I hear II. And, sadly, some priests in the States where I am still are missing bits out. At least these say the words of Consecration correctly, but I imagine these Masses are illicit, but valid.

    Very tiresome.

  8. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Not frequently at an OF Mass anymore, but years ago I had an almost schizoid parish. Two priests: one used the Roman Canon almost to the exclusion of the others; the other frequently had a soft-cover, thin, stapled booklet containing new Eucharistic Prayers. It was my experience that everyone I spoke to about such things always relaxed (sometimes visibly) when the former had Mass, and gritted his teeth when the latter did.

  9. iamlucky13 says:

    Ok, someone among us better start the admission: My answer to the polls is, “I have no idea.”

    I’m aware the different prayers exist, but I can’t identify them by number, and had not put much thought into discerning the differences. I do try to pay enough attention to actively understand what the prayer says each Mass. Perhaps I should be trying harder if others are noticing while I am not that the 2nd prayer is “dreadful.”

  10. Woody79 says:

    Although the priest does say EPII, I read the EP out of the 1962 Missal.

  11. Geoffrey says:

    I rarely hear Eucharistic Prayer I, and more often than not I hear EP II. Lately it has been one of the so-called “Swiss” EPs. I have to admit that I no longer detest the various Eucharistic Prayers since the advent of the new translations. Even EP II is much better, but my favourite aside from EP I would probably have to be EP III.

  12. Elizium23 says:

    Our parochial vicar pulls out the Canon for special occasions. I always reinforce this behavior by grinning after Mass and shouting, “Rrrrrrrrroman CANON!”

    I think at least one of our priests would go all ad orientem in Latin if it weren’t for a certain number of parishioners who would rebel…

  13. Elizium23 says:

    I do my shouting in the narthex or courtyard, for those who may be concerned. Shouting in the Real Presence is unbecoming of a choir member.

  14. Stephanus83 says:

    It seems like I read something on this blog everyday that lets me know how lucky I am to have an amazing parish. I attend the OF, but the EF is offered in my parish every Sunday. Father virtually always says the Roman Canon. Communion is distributed kneeling at the rail. Father says every mass (except for one on Sunday) ad orientem at the high altar. All the alter servers are males. Yep, I am spoiled.

  15. sw85 says:

    At my current parish, we have a solid traditionally-friendly pastor, and one visiting priest staying in the rectory, from Nigeria. The pastor uses the Roman Canon more weekdays than not; on Sundays he seems to use it and EPIII interchangeably. I don’t recall hearing him use EPII more than once. I don’t recall the visiting priest using anything but the EPII.

    At my last parish, in central Texas, much more squishy (not exactly liberal, just, shall we say, thoughtlessly mainstream) , EPII was used exclusively until we got a young (30 y.o.) associate pastor, who seemed to branch out a bit more, but still rarely ever the Roman Canon (at most 3-4 times in a year), and then never on Sundays.

  16. So, em, this still doesn’t answer the million dollar question: Was Eucharistic Prayer/Canon II composed on a napkin at this restaurant?

  17. Michael says:

    The Roman Canon is my favorite by far, but I only hear it once every few months if I’m lucky. My pastor exclusively uses EPII (though he DID use the Canon, much to my surprise and with slight difficulty at points, for the Easter Vigil). My parochial vicar alternates between prayers, but uses EPIII and the second prayer for Reconciliation most. Needless to say, if I hear the Roman Canon, it will be from the parochial vicar. I always thank priests who use it. Say what you will about the new prayers, the Roman Canon is *the* Eucharistic Prayer of our rite.

  18. Latin Mass Type says:

    One priest always uses the Roman Canon, whether the Mass is in English or Spanish. Of course, he is also devoted to the Extraordinary Form.

    Another one has always used EP II. He has never used the Roman Canon but surprised me by using it on Easter Sunday! Of course I commented positively, hoping he would use it more often.

    During a recent bishop’s visit his excellency used the Roman Canon in Spanish at a bilingual Mass! I was blessed to be able to speak to him afterwards and commented on his use of it…he said he always uses it on Sundays and special days.

  19. tgarcia2 says:

    I’ve only heard the Canon when the Bishop is presiding on a Holy Day of obligation. Everyday Sunday Mass, EP III, Weekdays EP II. EP II was most common at my old campus ministry due to making sure Mass could fit in 30-45 mins so students won’t be late to class.

    What are your thoughts on EP III and IV Fr?

  20. iPadre says:

    The more I prayed, studied, read and prayed, I decided the the Roman Canon would be my option of choice for all Masses beginning with the implementation of the new translation. I love the Roman Canon, it is one we can say is truly ancient and not the creation of a group. I only used #3 under duress at a very large public gathering. That will not happen again! Only when I concelebrate do I use the other Eucharistic prayers, and that is when I know it is safe, and at that very rare.

  21. jfk03 says:

    I attend a Ukranian Greek Catholic Parish. It is culture shock for me when I occasionally visit a Latin rite parish because almost always the music is bad, the congregation is noisy and chatty, people dress inappropriately, and the priest says EP II. The anaphora is over in minutes, communion is quickly distributed by eucharistic minister, and everyone dashes out.

    The contrast is particularly acute during Lent (lengthy anaphora of St. Basil versus the very short EP II). I leave church feeling cheated, and I rarely receive communion in Latin rite churches because I am not in an appropriate frame of mind to receive the Lord. So, on my travels, I usually seek out an Orthodox Church even though I cannot receive communion. It is so sad to have these divisions and troubles among Christians. May the Mother of God, our Lady Theotokos, heal these wounds.

  22. Things are changing. As everyone knows, my habit is to get around. During the Octave of Easter this year, I attended Mass offered by eight different priests at eight different parishes in four different dioceses in three different states. I made no effort to stack the deck in favor of any particular Eucharistic Prayer, and I had never been to the parishes I visited on the two Sundays. At four of those Masses in the Octave, all in the ordinary form, the first Eucharistic Prayer was offered. It wasn’t that long ago that a sustained 50% EP I rate would have been unthinkable, especially under these circumstances.

    In defense of EP II, I will say that like everything else, it improved with the new translation.

  23. Gaetano says:

    I can count on one hand the number of times I hear EP I at Mass a year. I knew a religious community where priests of a certain age insisted on using the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses with Children.

    I am not surprised that EP II was done in the manner it was, though after attending Mass at a local Byzantine parish, even the Roman Canon pales in comparison to the Mass of St. John Chrysostom. It is liturgical poetry served with healthy portions of heavy theology.

  24. lana says:

    I get tired of EP2 all the time. But otoh it has my favorite line of all the EP’s: We thank you for counting us worthy…… For months after my reversion this line would make me cry. Still does sometimes.

  25. andia says:

    Have not heard it since I returned to the Church.

  26. Will D. says:

    My previous pastor used the Roman Canon for Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas, but Eucharistic Prayer #3 the rest of the time. The new pastor, however, uses Eucharistic Prayer #2 almost exclusively (#3 periodically, and the Roman Canon once in a blue moon). I think he uses #2 because he likes to preach long homilies, and figures we won’t stick around if he both preaches a long homily and uses the longer canons. I should add that he is from Nigeria and is remarkably fearless about preaching against homosexuality, abortion, remarriage, pornography, etc., I don’t think he chooses #2 out of heterodoxy.

  27. mysticalrose says:

    I love the Roman Canon, but alas (is it still Shakespeare day??) I rarely hear it. The priest doth protest too much, methinks.

  28. WYMiriam says:

    I voted “I rarely or never hear Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon)” because although our priest uses it more often than most of the other priests we’ve ever had, I think he’s got about a fifty percent use rate (I don’t keep track, and maybe I should reconsider what “frequent” means to me). However, that is all the more reason to tell him thank you (again) for using it whenever he does; he needs encouraging words, too!

  29. fionam says:

    Our Opus Dei priests use Eucharistic Prayer I, with IV being used very, very occasionally. I was totally unaware that such widespread use was being made of EPII in the States. I don’t often go to other parishes so I wouldn’t know what the trend in my own country is. I probably don’t want to know.

  30. Charles E Flynn says:

    Search at for ISBN 2204098752 .

  31. Buffy says:

    For years it has been EP2 mostly, but in the last year it has become EP3 predominantly, EP1, occasionally.

  32. Persistant says:

    I can’t think of the last time I’ve heard EPI. My priest uses EPII exclusively, so do most of priests here, but you can hear EPIII from time to time in some parishes. EPIV is also very rare, but still more often than EPI, in my experience.

  33. mpolo says:

    I use Eucharistic Prayer I on Sundays and Holy Days. By now, the parish where I usually help out has gotten used to it… On weekdays, I do use Prayer II (or Prayer III in penetential times). Tendency in the parishes is to use Eucharistic Prayer II exclusively – I had to concelebrate in a parish on Holy Thursday, and even there, we used EP II, and the celebrant even omitted the inserts for the day. I was fairly depressed.

    The bishops tend to insist on Eucharistic Prayer III for basically all Masses they celebrate, usually with the singable parts sung.

  34. jacobi says:

    I find the whole business of the New Mass Eucharistic prayers most confusing. Recently we had a new (young) priest and he said the Roman Canon. What a difference. So much better. But needless to say we won’t have him for long.

    If we have to have the New Mass, until such times as a majority of EF priest builds up again, lets have the Roman Canon!

  35. jflare says:

    I’m oddly not entirely sure which one I typically hear. I pay most attention to when we reach the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, the Mysterium Fidei, and the Pater Noster, but I don’t often keep my missal open long enough to notice which prayer they use in betwixt. I will say though, that I recall that Eucharistic Prayer I, when offered in English, does seem to differ significantly from the others, so that I would probably notice if the celebrant used it.
    Having said that, I think we do typically hear Eucharistic Prayer II, simply because I don’t notice a change very often.

  36. jflare says:

    While I’m thinking about it:
    In 2004, John Paul II issued a document discussing the various abuses and idiocies that had grown up in the Novus Ordo. I listened to a presentation by a Fr Peter(?) Stravinskas about it at the time. I remember being actually stunned to learn that while there’re typically four Eucharistic Prayers listed in the average missal, said form of Mass actually has 13(!) different approved prayers.

    For me this raises a question: Why exactly do we need 4 or 13 official prayers?
    I don’t quite get why 1 good prayer doesn’t suffice.

  37. Imrahil says:

    My own parish appears somewhat fixed on Eucharistic Prayer II.

    However, when I’m elsewhere, I usually hear Eucharistic Prayer III (even on weekdays – but then, of course, these people don’t come because they have to, and there’s no sermon), and since that is at the moment more often than not, I voted III.

  38. mhazell says:

    It’s funny that this discussion on Eucharistic Prayers has come up, because on my blog Lectionary Study Aids I’ve very recently transcribed some of ICEL’s work from the 1980s regarding newly-composed EPs (and some other ICEL material).

    I’ve also scanned and made available an out-of-print and difficult to obtain 1967 book by Dom Cipriano Vagaggini called The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform. Dom Vagaggini was on the post-conciliar committee that gave us the new order of Mass and the new Eucharistic Prayers. EP III is largely based on his suggested “Canon B”, which can be found in this book.

    For those who want some background as to how and why we ended up with multiple EPs, Vagaggini’s book is essential reading!

  39. PhilipNeri says:

    I use EPII for most daily Masses. I can guarantee you that there is no heterodoxy involved in this choice. If you doubt me, I’ll meet you on the playground at noon with loaded rosaries! :-)

    I’ve timed every EP. EPII is about 30 sec. shorter than the others. However, there is the perception that it is much shorter. When folks are headed to work in the morning, even the perception of a longer prayer can be distracting. Daily Mass with preaching can be done in 30mins. At St Dominic’s in NOLA we can have up to a 100 folks at a daily celebration. I’ve never taken longer than 30 mins.

    The key is a written homily timed to 4-5 mins. Preachers who do not write their homilies out and use a text tend to ramble on for 5mins before finding their theme.

    So, this Dominican friar and homiletics prof exhorts: “Write out your homilies, Fathers!” It’s not a sin. It’s not mechanical. It’s not an act of violence against the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If the HS can inspire you in the pulpit, He can inspire you in your office before Mass.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  40. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d Father Philip Neri,

    well, your the sermons you sometimes link to from here are fantastic, and then, of course, you’re a Dominican.

    But all that being said, well, Mass would be even shorter if there wasn’t a homily. And I don’t think people would be distracted about EP III, or even the Roman Canon, in that case. (Our Dominicans too here only preach on holy days of obligation, and in addition on Wednesdays of Advent and Lent. These latter Masses are explicitly announced in the bulletins as Masses with preaching. The homily then is however even longer than on a Sunday.)

    I see, though, that a preacher may prefer to say some things on a particular Saint’s feast which he may not easily find a Sunday to say them for.

  41. Fr.Estabrook says:

    My current practice, for some years now has been:
    EP I – Sundays of Easter; 50% of Sundays of Ordinary Time; Solemnities
    EP II – Weekday Mass during Ordinary Time; NEVER on Sundays…EVER
    EP III – Funerals & Weddings
    EP IV – 50% Sundays of Ordinary Time

    EPI of Reconciliation – 50% Weekdays and Sundays of Advent and Lent
    EPII of Reconciliation – 50% Weekdays and Sundays of Advent and Lent

    EPs for Various Needs and Occasions I-IV: occasionally, when “fitting”

    Entrance and Communion Antiphons – Recited or Chanted every day
    Gospel Acclamation with verse – Chanted
    Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei and Agnus Dei – Chanted (in Latin)

    WITH a typed 300-400 word homily, weekday Mass < 30 minutes

  42. asperges says:

    They cobbled together this mess of potage and have expected us to consider it a serious, scholastic work ever since. The destruction of the Roman rite has been one of the major causes of lapsation at worst or disinterest at best IMHO in the last 50 years.

    The translation of the comments on Bugnini (I am amazed he isn’t up for canonisation under the present Vat ii obsessed regime) translate as: “utterly contemptible and devoid of (any sort of) culture or honesty.” Yet here was the main author of the Novus Ordo.

  43. A priest whose weekday Masses I frequently attend uses the Roman canon on all solemnities and feasts, EP III on all memorials and ferial days, except EP II precisely once a year on the memorial of its (falsely) alleged author St. Hippolytus, and EP IV once a year on the memorial of St. Basil.

    Given the shocking frequency of use of EP II–which “is NOT intended for use on Sundays and holy days”–one must wonder at the liturgical ignorance of so many priests, and whether they’re thinking either (1) solemnity or (2) feast or (3) memorial or (4) feria as their feet hit the floor first thing each morning, as in the case of anyone who religiously prays the Liturgy of the Hours (as I assume priests are obliged to do). And in the case of a priest who always uses EP II, just how does his celebration of the liturgy differ according as to whether the day is a solemnity, feast, memorial, or feria?

  44. little women says:

    Though we attend the Traditional Mass every Sunday, we have a priest friend that insists, “EP1 is only for high feast days!” We’ve always assumed he meant “solemn”. Perhaps this thinking is why some readers were surprised to hear EP1 on Easter. Usually, this priest says EP2, and he acknowledges it is because it is shortest. This same priest has been studying the Traditional Latin Mass, and we just grit our teeth because he’s so sloppy with one, we cannot imagine that he will improve with the other.

  45. everett says:

    Our parish priest uses II primarily, though will do I occasionally on Sundays, and more often for feasts/Holy Days. I can’t remember the last time he did III or IV.

  46. John Nolan says:

    Oh dear. The Novus Ordo is as much of a dog’s breakfast as it was when promulgated and imposed by papal fiat in 1969. Where’s the difference?

  47. StWinefride says:

    Asperges says: “The translation of the comments on Bugnini (I am amazed he isn’t up for canonisation under the present Vat ii obsessed regime)…”

    Oh but he is!!!

  48. One of those TNCs says:

    # II about 65 % of the time
    # III about 32% of the time
    # I or # IV about 3 % of the time. Of course, I like numbers I and IV best!

  49. Thorfinn says:

    I voted for, “I don’t know the prayers by number, and I’m usually too busy keeping the little ones quiet to notice.”

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP – There are some priests who can deliver a good homily without text or notes, probably because they have both exemplary spiritual preparation and the gift of gab. But for most, yes, please, write it down. No need to be original, though – there are volumes of published sermons from the likes of Cardinal Newman that can be given verbatim, truncated, or adapted. Then reuse your old written homilies on your next parish!

  50. Gregorius says:

    I never get to enjoy EP II… I get distracted for a second, and BAM we’re already at the Doxology!

  51. asperges says:

    Thanks to St Winifride for news of Bugnini’s unnoted saintliness via The Remnant.

    Having read: “His profound humility and personal holiness, exemplified by his silent acceptance of being twice dismissed under suspicion of Freemasonry, by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, ” I can only think to misquote Oscar Wilde: “To be dismissed once may be considered a misfortune, to be dismissed twice looks like carelessness.”

  52. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    In our parish, it’s 94% II, 1% Eucharistic Prayer III, and 5% the 4th.

    Thankfully, we have a “sensitive” pastor, because he reads the 4th, he changes the words “he” (those referring to people not Christ) and “man” to “us” or “we”. Which to my un-trained ear change the meaning of what he’s saying.

    Haven’t heard the Roman Canon ever with our pastor, but visiting priests have used it.

  53. Per Signum Crucis says:

    EPI on high days and holy days; EPIII on most ordinary days; EPII either when Mass needs to be kept short or if there is something else happening that would make Mass longer than usual; but my favourite although also rarely used is EPIV.

  54. PhilipNeri says:

    Imrahil, I am deeply scandalized by the notion that there are Dominicans who do not preach at every Mass! I know that the Church does not require that homilies be preached at every Mass. . .but the very idea that a Dominican would voluntarily let an opportunity to preach pass. . .is abhorrent. What’s the difference then btw an OP friar and a diocesan priest?

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  55. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP,
    I absolutely agree that homilies should be written down. At a *bare minimum* there should be an indented outline with bullet points.
    I would as soon appear before the Supreme Court without my good suit, hat and pearls as without an indented outline. And if I didn’t have to allow for questions from the bench, I would have the argument written out AND memorized.
    As far as inspiration goes, I am in Anthony Trollope’s corner – hard work is much more productive. In almost 30 years of practice, I have seen only ONE case won on oral argument, and that was because I happened (quite innocently) to mention in passing one judge’s favorite hobby-horse.

  56. timfout says:

    Our pastor, who is a wonderful almost still young man, says the EF every Sunday and Holyday. Always High Mass and Solemn High when possible. Ironically, except for big feasts, he uses EP II exclusively in the OF.

  57. When I do venture over to the OF, it’s typically EPII….And yes, homilies should never be off he cuff, notes should always be prepared.

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