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Q & A

What can be added to the Liturgy?

There are four places in the Roman Missal* where the Order of Mass does not give the words to say. These places include the Universal Prayer (or Prayer of the Faithful) and the homily, both of which have guidelines.


In Appendix V of the Roman Missal, there are example formularies for the Universal Prayer (beginning on pg. 1461 or in the pdf on pg. 1459). The Universal Prayer is addressed in the GIRM in Chapter II, paragraphs 69-71.

The Homily is specifically addressed in the GIRM in Chapter II, paragraphs 65-66. It is also mentioned in paragraphs 29, 55 and 67. 

The other two places where permission is given to add words are in the Roman Missal's Order of Mass in the following places:  


In the Introductory Rite, #3 is AFTER the Greeting and BEFORE the invitation to the Penitential Act. In the Roman Missal see page 521. In the pdf of the Missal, see page 514. The red text of #3 is:


the priest, or a Deacon or another minister, may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.

In the Concluding Rite, #140 is the first item. It takes place AFTER the Prayer after Communion and BEFORE the dismissal. In the Roman Missal see page 671. In the pdf of the Missal, see page 699. The red text of #140 is:

if they are necessary, any brief announcements to the people follow here.

GIRM #31, also adds a few other places where priests may add "a very few words" in the priest's "office of presider." These places, however, are NOT BEFORE the Sign of the Cross or BEFORE the Prayer after Communion, places commonly and incorrectly used for secular greetings or announcements. 

Things may also be added to the Mass because of a bishop's guidelines. These may or may not be published for the laity. Bishops' authority over the Mass are explained in the GIRM, Chapter IX, "Adaptations within the Competence of Bishops and Bishops' Conferences," beginning at 386. Father Edward McNamara, LC, in Bishops' Interpretations of Liturgical Laws in EWTN's Library, discusses how bishops "may not legally introduce liturgical novelties."

Authorized Additions to the Liturgy


In the United States, there is another source of additions to the Mass: the Book of Blessings, published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1998. (The book is not available in online form, however, some of the blessings are available online. See Church Documents for links.) Some of the most familiar blessings include those for Mother's and Father's Days, for married couples on wedding anniversaries, and a girl's Quinceañera. The Book of Blessings includes instructions for how these rites of blessing are to be included in the Mass. In general, the rite of blessing takes place after the homily or as the final blessing. The instructions are not very specific. Here are the instructions from the Blessing of Families: "62. [...] The celebrant concludes the general intercessions with the prayer of blessing, unless it is thought better to have the prayer of blessing at the end of Mass as a prayer over the people." Keep in mind, that bishops may authorize different instructions. 


* All page numbers refer to the USCCB edition of the Roman Missal. See Church Documents for information on where to find a pdf copy online. If you are outside of the United States of America, your Bishops' conference's edition may vary slightly in wording. When documenting an abuse, always refer to the documents from your Bishops' conference.


If you think Mass is too long, it's probably not because of the words and actions in the Order of Mass. When you compare the Order of Mass to what you see and hear, you may find that the Mass has been edited to include things that shouldn’t be there. If so, this unauthorized adulteration may be an example of liturgical abuse, as seen below.

This is a Catholic Mass.

The beginning of a Roman Catholic Mass with the actions in red and the words in black.

This is liturgical abuse.

The Order of Mass with blue editorial markings to illustrate liturgical abuse.
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