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A Hail Mary at the End of General Intercessions

Date: July 26, 2021
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What sort of prayer is supposed to be recited at the conclusion of the Prayer of the Faithful? Is it permitted to substitute the Memorare for the Hail Mary? -- J.M., Harare, Zimbabwe

A: First of all, we must address the custom of reciting the Hail Mary during the Prayer of the Faithful.

This is not a universal custom and seems to have its roots in English liturgical practice from even before the Second Vatican Council. As one English diocese recommended in its guidelines for the Prayer of the Faithful:

“Devotional Prayer

“The Roman Rite does not envisage the inclusion of devotional prayers in the Prayer of the Faithful since, as a set of prayers directed to the Father, through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, it contains no obvious place for prayers to the Saints. The Holy See has discouraged such additional prayers.

“There has, however, been a longstanding and worthy practice in England of praying the ‘Hail Mary’ after the last intercession in the Prayers of the Faithful and there will be some occasions during the year – for example, the months of May and October, and the Marian Feasts – when the inclusion of the ‘Hail Mary’ may be deemed particularly appropriate.

“The inclusion of the Hail Mary would be inappropriate in liturgies that are ecumenical in character.”

From this we can see that, except where it exists as a deep-seated custom, it is better not to introduce devotional prayers such as the Hail Mary or Memorare into the liturgical context of the Prayer of the Faithful.

One objection to the use of the Hail Mary could be the principle that liturgical prayers at Mass are practically always directed to the Father, on rare occasions to the Son, and never directly to a saint. This is true, although when the Hail Mary is used in the Prayer of the Faithful, Our Lady is not addressed directly but is usually invoked as a mediator to carry our prayer to the Father within the context of the communion of saints.

Even when the Hail Mary is used as a final intercession, it should never replace the priest’s closing prayer.

This concluding prayer is normally in the form of a collect prayer which the priest recites with hands extended. This prayer collects the silent prayer of the assembly and expresses it with a spoken prayer addressed to God. The assembly gives assent to this prayer by saying “Amen.”

There are now many resources, some of them official, which provide suitable and multiple texts for the Prayer of the Faithful. These may be profitably used, either by themselves or as a source of inspiration in composing prayers adapted to time and place. 

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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city, and your state, province, or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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