How to Pray in Common
When we gather together in church to pray, whether at Mass, Adoration, or for public devotions (Rosary, Stations of the Cross, etc.), it is important that we recognize that we are in fact praying together, rather than praying alone with a bunch of others at the same time. As such, we provide the following reminders to help us all pray well in common.
Pace: Going faster or slower than others can be distracting to all, and this forgets that we pray as one. Follow the pace set by the priest. Slower/faster does not equal holier. This applies specifically to chant and hymns that have a rhythm set by the cantor or organ. Follow the speed that is set.
Volume: Speaking louder than everyone around can also be distracting. St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminds us: “When we gather to celebrate the divine mysteries with God’s priest, we should not express our prayer in unruly words; the petition that should be made to God with moderation is not to be shouted out noisily and verbosely. For God hears our heart not our voice. He sees our thoughts; he is not to be shouted at.”
Words: This same quote from St. Cyril reminds us that we are to pray the words the Church gives us, rather than our own versions of the prayers. It is very prideful to change the words of Mass to suit our ideas or preferences. Stay faithful to the prayers of the Church as we have received them.
Parts: Both the priest and the people have parts specifically for them, and these should be respected. In particular, the parts of the priest are to be said only by the priest. This applies most importantly to the Eucharistic Prayer and the Words of Consecration. Please do not say these words out loud, even if under your breath. Only the priest has been commissioned by God to say these words on behalf of the people.
Intonation: The priest is the one to start the prayers and chants (when these are not intoned by a cantor). When this happens, let the priest do this rather than trying to catch up with the prayer alone before others join in the prayer. For example, the priest begins the Confiteor (I confess), and then the congregation can join at “to almighty God.”
Punctuality: Be on time for Mass. In fact, come early. It takes time to shed the weight of the world and meet the Lord in the church and at Mass. It takes time to prepare for the Holy Sacrifice. Rushing in does not allow for such prayerful preparation. Coming in late can also be a very disrespectful gesture to the Lord and can distract many people.