ASK FATHER: Prefaces “ad libitum” in the 1962 Roman Missal

From a reader…


Father, what is this “Prefatio ad Libitum” in some 1962 Missals? I saw Prefaces for Advent, Sundays Throughout The Year, etc. May these be used in the Extraordinary Form?

Thank you so much for answering my question about Missa Sicca last time. Great help. Pray for more vocations here in the Diocesis S. Pauli in Insulis Philippinensis, :) Prayers for my household. Prayers for you too, Father.

Thank you for the prayers.

These are the so-called “Gallican Prefaces”, or perhaps “Neo-Gallican”, which were in some French altar missals going back to the 17th century, though the texts are more ancient, perhaps 8th c.    They were, once, proper to France, but they have come into the Roman Rite slowly but surely and, in a sense, are “tolerated”.   Some people are dead set against their use in the Roman Rite.   In new editions of the 1962 Missale Romanum they are included.  They are “ad libitum” (which is itself an oddity in the older Missal), which means that the priest can choose to use them, or not.

I would say that, yes, they can be used.  However, that doesn’t mean that they ought to be used or must be used.  Much depends on the sensibilities of the congregation.   People might not be aware of them and will be confused at hearing something that isn’t indicated in their familiar hand-missals.  That in itself doesn’t disqualify them, but we can’t just ignore the experience of the congregation.


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One Comment

  1. Imrahil says:

    I don’t know of a “For Sundays throughout the year” preface. It would probably be unwise to have one, as the repetition of the Trinity preface is a rather great feature.

    On the other prefaces… which, to my knowledge (and according to my hand missal… they are represented in hand missals) are

    1. for Advent,
    2. of the Blessed Sacrament,
    3. of Saints and Patrons,
    4. for the Dedication of the Church.

    The Liber usualis in addition has a preface of the Blessed Sacrament which is not that of the above and which apparently can be used on Maundy Thursday, with the note that in many dioceses it is actually reserved to Maundy Thursday with a second preface of the Blessed Sacrament (which is that above) for use at other occasions.

    And here’s my opinion, in brief:

    They should be used whenever legal, and made legal where they aren’t.

    In a bit more detail,
    1. the Advent preface should be used on any Advent Sunday and on any Advent Ember Day when the mass is of the day, though not necessarily when the Advent Sunday Mass is resumed through the week or on Saints feasts. (But the weekly masses will often be Votive Mass “Rorate” of the Blessed Virgin, preface of the Blessed Virgin, in any case.)
    2. the preface of the Blessed Sacrament should be used whenever possible, except perhaps on Maundy Thursday (which makes sense to have the “of the Cross” preface) if it is possible there at all.
    3. the preface of Saints and Patrons should be used on Saint’s feasts of the first and possibly second class not having their proper preface, but not on the feasts of the third class (which are pretty much the most ordinary weekdays we encounter) except perhaps (if legal) if there is a really particularly great devotion to the specific saint. I heard it once, though, for St. Michael, and given that the Common Preface is pretty much a “preface of the Angels”, and the text of this preface seems to assume we are speaking of saints not angels, I am not sure whether it should be used for feasts of Angels.
    4. the preface of the Dedication should be used whenever possible, except on St. Mary of the Snows if it is possible there at all (preface of the Blessed Virgin), and except on the Dedication of the Apostles’ Basilicas if it is possible to use the Apostle preface instead (which I don’t know).

    The reason why they should be used is that these occasions are simply not common enough to be classified under “common preface” or “normal Sunday” in the Advent case.

    While the “freezing to 1962” is the lesser evil compared with what we would otherwise get, liturgical development is not necessarily bad, and the introduction of this (limited) number of new prefaces is certainly a prime example of an improvement for the better.

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