This is my experience based on the three parishes I’ve been a member of and countless other parishes I’ve attended. It’s not about Loras’ on-campus parish specifically. When I hear the “Universal Prayer” also known as the “Prayer of the Faithful” used to pray for marriages, I’m always blown away. Even more so if it’s used to pray for an increase in response to the call of marriage; I think I heard that prayed for once. I began listening for prayers concerning married life a number of years ago, but I don’t think I’ve heard marriage prayed for during mass even ten times, aside from wedding ceremonies and anniversaries. This has been especially on my mind since World Marriage Day on Feb. 10.
For those who might not know, The “Universal Prayer” is the part of the mass where, together, we offer our petitions to God. The petitions are read aloud; they can be read by anyone, though usually the priest does it. After each petition the response is: “Lord, hear our prayer.” In general the prayers follow a sequence: First the needs of the Church, then public servants along with the whole world, those who are struggling, and the local community. Along with prayers for the Church, the most common prayer I hear is: “An increase in vocations, especially those of the priesthood, religious life, and the diaconate.” When I don’t hear this followed by a specific prayer for marriage, or for people to respond to the call to marriage, I offer up my own: “For a greater response from those who are called to the married life and haven’t yet accepted the call.”
It’s often said we don’t pray to change God, we pray to change ourselves so our will is in line with God’s will. In our nation, considering the high divorce rate, high annulment rate, and high cohabitation rate, among other problems plaguing marriage, maybe it’s time to consider how we are aligning our will. When we pray for an increase to the religious life, we should consider where the professed religious come from and pray for faithful marriages. The problems facing marriage today offer clear evidence that people, en masse, are rejecting their call to marriage, or are at least postponing their response; there’s enough reason for concern, and that concern needs to be followed by prayer and action. It might be encouraging for those who are called to marriage to know they are being prayed for. It might even be encouraging to hear that marriage is a calling. There’s a universal call to holiness; failing to respond to one’s vocation hinders that universal call, and hurts the Church as a whole.
I expressed this view to about a dozen students here on campus, and they mainly agreed — only one didn’t answer. I’ve posited the same view at multiple parishes since I became aware of it as a problem, and so far, no disagreements the only time I’ve ever found myself in the apparent majority.
There’s another aspect of this that deserves mentioning. We are facing a global shortage of priests, especially in the United States. The emphasis in prayer is understandable, as fewer priests become increasingly overworked to serve their parishes and deliver the sacraments. Many people see the sacrament of marriage as robbing people from the call to the priesthood, but don’t see the priesthood as possibly robbing people from the call to marriage.
The Lorian would like to take a poll to know your thoughts on the subject. We want to encourage people to answer the survey. The link for the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/L8PZQ8S. Or if you would like to answer via email, respond to Andrew.Hansen@loras.edu to the questions below:
- Do you believe there’s an imbalance in the amount of time we spend praying for certain vocations versus other vocations?
- Do you think praying for an increase to faithful marriage during the Prayer of The Faithful would benefit the Church as a whole, or do we spend enough time praying for marriage already?
- Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share?