Mass During Wartime
Mar 30, 2022

Mass During Wartime

The shocking images of the war currently being waged in Ukraine have galvanized the world in response. When faced with the magnitude of the evil being visited upon so many innocent men, women, and children, Christians instinctively turn to God in prayer. We sense how powerless we are in the face of such violence. We believe in the power of prayer to change the hearts of those responsible for the carnage. We ask God to move the wills of leaders to find a way to peace once again. No doubt, many parishes have included an intention for peace in Ukraine in the Prayers of the Faithful over the last several weeks. For some communities, prayer may feel like a weak response to such a grave calamity.

The selection of Masses for Various Needs and Occasions in the Roman Missal offers additional ways in which parishes can continue to pray for peace in Ukraine. These are found in Part II of the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, “For Civil Needs.” They include the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice (no. 30), the Mass In Time of War or Civil Disturbance (no. 31), and the Mass for Refugees and Exiles (no. 32). During Lent, each of these collections of prayers and antiphons may be used on most weekdays with the permission of the diocesan bishop or at his direction. Perhaps a diocese is holding a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine. One or more of these Masses could be authorized for use on that occasion throughout the churches of the diocese. These Masses cannot be authorized on a Sunday in Lent, however. During Easter season, these Masses can be used on most weekdays, even on obligatory memorials, at the discretion of the celebrant in the case of serious need or pastoral advantage. On weekdays in Ordinary Time, it is sufficient that their use simply foster the devotion of the people.

While it may not be possible to use the entire set of prayers from one of these Masses during Lent, some of the orations, nevertheless, can find a place in the community’s prayer. For example, the collects from these collections can serve as a fitting conclusion to the Prayers of the Faithful (Universal Prayer) at Mass. There are four collects for the Preservation of Peace and Justice, two In Time of War or Civil Disturbance, and one for Refugees and Exiles. None of the seven prayers was found in the previous edition of the Missale Romanum (1962) in the section “Missae votivae ad diversa.” These collects can be used to conclude the prayers of the faithful at any weekday Mass or any Sunday Mass, even during Lent.

It should be noted that the oration at the conclusion to the prayers of the faithful always uses the shorter ending, “Through Christ our Lord. Amen,” rather than the usual longer ending typical of the collect at Mass, “Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son….” The celebrant will need to remember to make this adjustment when reading the oration from the missal at the conclusion of the prayers of the faithful. Perhaps the celebrant could use the same prayer every day of the week before moving on to the next collect for the following week. In this way, those participating at Mass each day could eventually appropriate the words of the collect as part of their own prayer for peace. These can evoke in the minds of those present the suffering currently being endured in Ukraine without explicitly mentioning the conflict every day in the intentions of the prayers of the faithful.

In addition, the two Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation could also to invoke God’s divine assistance in times of war. These two canons can be used on weekdays during Lent. They cannot be used on days when there is a proper preface, as in the case of the First and Second Sunday of Lent, or the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sunday of Lent when the readings from Cycle A of the Lectionary for Mass are used, or on solemnities. Both Eucharistic prayers are appropriate for the international crisis we are experiencing. For example, the first prayer speaks about being gathered “into one Body in Christ who heals every division.” The petition for the Church in the second prayer says, “May he make your Church a sign of unity and an instrument of your peace among all people.” In the preface to the second prayer, however, one finds the most direct reference to our hope for an eventual peace in Ukraine:

“For though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation. Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect.”

These beautiful words can inspire hope in minds and hearts burdened by the senseless violence reported daily in the media. By making use of these Eucharistic prayers from time to time and by including some of the appropriate collects from the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions as the conclusion to the Universal Prayer on a regular basis, the Church gives voice to its faith and confidence in the One who blesses his people with peace.

Msgr. Marc B. Caron, S.T.L., is a vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Portland, ME. He has served as a pastor, as the director of the diocesan Office for Worship, and as a chancellor of the diocese. Most recently, he was a member of the faculty of St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA, where he was also director of liturgy. He received his licentiate degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, IL. He is the author of a number of articles which have appeared in The Jurist, Worship, Catechumenate, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

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