Family life and work are the two most important realities in the ordinary lives of the faithful. The Christian life is lived in the context of these two poles—home and work—and the call to holiness is made concrete by the demands, sacrifices, and joys experienced here. The Masses for Various Needs and Occasions takes this reality into account by providing orations for various aspects of work and family life. The use of these Mass formularies can enrich small group celebrations of the Eucharist at certain key moments in life. Among the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions are two formularies which pray for those closest to us, our families (no. 12) and our relatives and friends (no. 41). We are called to give thanks to God for the blessing they represent for us.
The Masses for Various Needs and Occasions also has five sets of Mass prayers asking God for qualities needed to live the Christian life. Those are Masses “For Forgiveness of Sins” (no. 38 A, B), “For Chastity” (no. 39), “For Charity” (no. 40), and “For the Grace of a Happy Death” (no. 47). These pray for the needs of the individual believer as opposed to the needs of the Church as a whole or of society as a whole.
Finally, there are several sets of Masses which relate to the world of work. These are the Mass “For Sanctification of Human Labor” (no. 26 A, B), “At Seedtime” (no. 27 A, B), “After the Harvest” (no. 28), and “At the Beginning of the Civil Year” (no. 25). The sanctification of one’s work is another daily task for the Christian life. These prayers reflect that reality.
The Roman Missal of 1962 possessed prayers for both one’s family and one’s friends. However, the various editions of the revised Roman Missal replaced the previous prayers for the family with edited versions of the orations from the feast of the Holy Family in the Christmas season. The collect and prayer over the gifts from the previous Mass for friends were taken over into the revised Roman Missal. Only the post-communion prayer is new to the revised missal. The missal suggests using the second Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs, “God Guides His Church along the Way of Salvation,” with both these sets of prayers. These orations could serve for occasions such as family reunions or birthdays. A parish might have a day for families where these prayers could be used.
The two Masses “For the Forgiveness of Sins” (no. 38A, B) could be used on the penitential days (Ember Days) at the beginning of each season of the year. For example, either Mass could serve for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the week following Pentecost and the third week of September. The Missal suggests using these prayer with Preface IV for Sundays in Ordinary Time, rather than a weekday preface. The two Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation might also be appropriate on those occasions. During those same weekdays during of the first week of Lent and the last week of Advent, the collect with the short ending could be used to conclude the prayers of the faithful in order to express the same sentiment while obviously retaining the proper seasonal orations and preface.
The prayers “For Charity” would be appropriate when there is a situation of division or conflict in a parish. Or, these prayers might correspond well with the readings at Mass on a particular weekday. The Missal once again suggests using the second Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs with the Mass “For Charity.” The prayers “For a Happy Death,” with common preface V or VI, might be used when the weekday Mass readings suggest it. The Missal already possesses a Mass for the Administration of Viaticum in the section of ritual Masses. And so, this Mass “For a Happy Death” might also be used with a family during an extended period of vigil around the impending death of a loved one. With these orations, the Missal suggests using Eucharistic Prayer IV for Various Needs, “Jesus, Who Went about Doing Good.” The Roman Missal of 1962 possessed complete sets of Mass orations for all three intentions, but none of them were taken over into the corresponding Masses in the revised Missal. In each of these three cases, the use of these orations will necessarily be very limited.
Work in Progress
In the United States, the Mass “For the Sanctification of Human Labor” (no. 26) is most appropriate on Labor Day if permitted by the rubrics. Rural communities will appreciate reference to planting season (no. 27A, B) and harvest time (no. 28) if those two Masses are used at the appropriate seasons. Some parishes might even use the prayers “After the Harvest” as an alternative on Thanksgiving or on Friday after Thanksgiving since this holiday is so closely associated with the fall harvest. Moreover, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to Ascension Thursday were historically dedicated to praying for a successful planting season. The two collects from the Mass “At Seedtime” with the shorter ending “Through Christ our Lord,” could conclude the prayers of the faithful on those days of Easter season. They could likewise do the same on April 25, the Feast of St. Mark, which itself had historic associations with the beginning of planting season. The Missal suggests using these three sets of prayers with Preface V for Sundays in Ordinary Time, rather than a weekday preface. The Mass “At the Beginning of the Civil Year” (no. 25) cannot be used on January 1, although its collect, with the shorter ending, “Through Christ our Lord,” might fittingly conclude the prayers of the faithful on that day. However, these orations could serve equally well at the beginning of the school year or the beginning of an annual period of seasonal work for example. The Missal suggests using the third Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs, “Jesus, The Way of the Father,” with the Mass “At the Beginning of the Civil Year.” These four sets of Mass prayers relating to time and work are new to the revised Roman Missal.
The celebration of the Eucharist will touch people’s hearts to the extent it reflects the lived spiritual and human realities they encounter on a daily basis. A broader use of these Masses for Various Needs and Occasions can help to bridge the gap which can exist all too often between the faith and the lives of believers.
For previous instalments of Msgr. Caron’s An Occasion to Celebrate series, see:
- Introduction: An Occasion to Celebrate: Discovering the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses of the Roman Missal
- The Liturgical Calendar’s Role in Masses for Various Needs and Votive Masses
- The Lectionary Readings in Masses for Various Needs and Votive Masses
- Masses for the Church, Council or Synod, and Spiritual and Pastoral Gatherings
- Masses for Clergy and Religious
- Masses for the Mission of the Church in the World
Msgr. Marc B. Caron, S.T.D., is the vicar general and the 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. In 2021, he received the doctoral degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, writing on the sacramental nature of the diaconate. He is the author of a number of articles which have appeared in The Jurist, Worship, Catechumenate, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
Image Source: AB/Don O’Brien on Flickr