While many people, both within and without the Catholic world, are speculating heavily about the man who will become Pope, it can’t hurt to actually pray for that man, since really the choice of only the 115 men who will be locked up “with a key” (cum clave – in the conclave) matters when it comes to who will become Pope.
To that end, let’s discuss the liturgical prayers that have been provided for this time while the Roman See is vacant. These official liturgical prayers would be good formulas on which to base personal prayer.
The USCCB’s office for Divine Worship released the text of the Mass for the Election of a Pope or a Bishop, which we will present here. That Mass can be said on weekdays of Lent at the “direction” or with the permission of the local bishop.
The introit, or entrance antiphon, is taken from First Samuel, and reads:
I will raise up for myself a faithful priest,
who shall do according to my heart and mind;
I will establish a lasting house for him
and he shall walk before me all his days.
The first line of this prayer beautifully shows the Church’s priority when electing the Pope: fidelity. Contra concerns of nationality or age, what the Church cares about is that the vicar of Christ be faithful, like the prophet Samuel. We could also pray that Samuel himself intercede for the cardinal-electors and the Pope whom they elect.
And now the collect, or opening prayer:
O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Through our Lord…
This highlights the dual responsibility the Pope has: both to God (to be holy) and to us (to watchfully care for us).
Next the prayer over the offerings, which I, out of deference to Benedict XVI’s hermeneutic of continuity, would call the secret:
May your abundant kindness favor us, O Lord,
that, through the sacred offerings we reverently bring to you,
we may come to rejoice that a pastor pleasing to your majesty
presides over your holy Church.
Through Christ our Lord.
This is a beautiful prayer full of hope, which also mirrors the exitus-reditus cycle of Catholic prayer. There’s an outpouring (exitus) from God of abundant kindness, which results in our return (reditus) to him through our offerings. Then there’s also the hopeful expectation that God will give us a new Pope, and our joyous response.
Sadly, the offertory antiphon isn’t provided (maybe it hasn’t even been written for this Mass) but the communion antiphon, a text from John’s Gospel, is:
I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, says the Lord, fruit that will last.
This of course comes from Christ’s discourse to his disciples during Holy Week.
And finally the post-communion:
As we have been renewed, O Lord,
with the supreme Sacrament of salvation,
the Body and Blood of your Only Begotten Son,
may the wondrous grace of your majesty
gladden us with the gift of a shepherd
who will instruct your people by his virtues
and imbue the minds of the faithful with the truth of the Gospel.
This prayer hearkens back to the imagery we say in the secret earlier. Not that it should supplant the post-communion at a Lenten Mass, but I think that during one’s meditation after receiving communion, one could do well to pray over both this text, and the communion antiphon as well.
These texts would be great to take with you into a holy hour to pray for our future Roman Pontiff, so that you can let the words provided to us by the Church form your prayer life.
Today we’ve examined the prayers used in the ordinary form of the Mass, but keep checking, as I’ll be writing an analogous post for the prayers for the election of a Pope in the extraordinary form.
Anyway, let us pray whilst we await the joyful day when we hear the words “habemus Papam”, and we can open up our Pabst Blue Ribbons and toast our Holy Father. (Or champagne, if you’re into that sort of thing.)