Tuesday, September 07, 2004

How to Write General Intercessons

How to Write General Intercessions

Writing the General Intercessions (Prayer of the Faithful) takes skill and talent. But you don't have to do it alone. Writing these prayers could be a small group ministry. Find the people in your parish who are skilled in writing well and elegantly, those who have a deep faith and love for the community, and those who are in touch with the parishioners and with the world around them. Ideally, this small group would include the homilist. Gather once a week to pray and follow these steps for crafting the Prayer of the Faithful.

  1. Read 10 Principles for Writing the Prayer of the Faithful.

  2. Pray for wisdom, creativity, and guidance.

  3. Read the Gospel, the first reading, psalm, and second reading for the Mass which you are writing intercessions for. Underline or list key phrases that stand out for you. Things to look for are:
    a. actions that God has done, is doing, or will do
    b. metaphors and poetic phrases
    c. commands

  4. List a few images from the liturgical season you are writing for, or images of the celebration you are preparing for (e.g., funeral, wedding, baptism). For example, Easter would have images of new life, resurrection, mission. A wedding evokes images of promise, bond, family.

  5. If possible, find out what music is being planned for the celebration. Look for strong phrases and images from the text.

  6. List the concerns that are on people’s minds right now. Include:
    a. what is going on in your parish community
    b. what is going on in your surrounding community (e.g., city, county, state)
    c. what is going on in the nation
    d. what is going on in the world

  7. Pick one form which you will use for all the intercessions. Petitions usually take one of three forms:
    a. “For _____.”
    b. “That _____.”
    c. “For _____, that _____.”

  8. Begin writing, playing with the images and scriptural phrases, using the four basic topics (General Instructions of the Roman Missal, #70) as your starting point and connecting them to the current concerns of your assembly. Stick with your chosen form (step 7 above). For this initial writing, just try to evoke the sense of the prayer, getting a feel for the need and the mood of the intention and the mood of the assembly based on the liturgical season and the scripture.

  9. Speak out loud what you have initially written. Check for “preachy” attitudes or narrow wording. Imagine your assembly. Can they all assent to this prayer? Can they all participate fully in this intention? If there’s any doubt, rewrite it.

  10. Speak out loud your second draft. Listen for the rhythm of the words and the way each line flows into the next. Cross out and rewrite weak images, phrases, or clichés, such as, “May they know the love of God.” A stronger more evocative phrase would be, “May they be embraced by the tender love of God.” Avoid “church-speak” or code language, such as, “For those in the RCIA.” You might know what “RCIA” stands for and means, but not everyone will. Instead say, “For those preparing to be baptized and for those who walk with them.”

  11. Speak out loud your third draft. Get other’s opinions and test it with fellow-parishioners before Mass. Be ready to change it Saturday night or even 5 minutes before Mass if a critical event takes place between the writing of your last draft and Mass.


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