In my seminary days, each student was responsible, on a rotating schedule, to prepare the general intercessions for the Eucharistic Liturgy of that day. This was an aspect of our liturgical training, of course, whereby we would apply the principles we had learned in the classroom.
The content and form of the General Intercessions (often referred to as "Prayers of the Faithful") do follow certain clear principles. They are general by nature. They are to reflect themes that are of concern to the entire Church. They are to embody the natural response of a Christian Community which, having been formed by the Word of God in the way they think and judge, now look at the world and what is going on in it. It makes sense, therefore, that these intercessions come at the point in the Mass just after the community has again heard God's Word proclaimed in the readings and the homily, and assented to in the Creed.
A frequent theme in these intercessions, and rightly so, is human suffering. The poor, the hungry, the sick, and those whose rights are trampled upon, are mentioned in these prayers. Indeed, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) of the Second Vatican Council begins by affirming that the joys and hopes, as well as the sufferings, of all humanity, are likewise the joys, hopes, and sufferings of the Church. The General Intercessions are a particular moment of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters.
Nor do we tire of repeating their needs, because with each passing day, new people are involved in these forms of human suffering. We as priests do not refuse to take a sick call simply because we have taken a thousand of the same kind before. We as a community do not refuse to repeat, day after day and week after week, the needs of the poor, sick, and dying.
What, then, of our brothers and sisters in the womb? The law has called them non-persons, and abortions kills one of them every 20 seconds. Those killed today never died before, which makes abortion a new tragedy every day.
Nothing takes more human life.
Does it not make good Christian and liturgical sense to include this form of human suffering and vulnerability in our General Intercessions as frequently as we include any other? Is not a simple prayer for these children a powerful expression of our solidarity with those who cannot even pray for themselves?
The abortion tragedy has so many dimensions, furthermore, that a different angle can be addressed each time. We can pray for the children in danger, for the mothers and fathers in despair both before and after abortion, for lawmakers, for medical professionals, for people in the pro-life movement, for the pro-life ministries of the Church, and so forth.
In the light of such an immense tragedy, it really is the least we can do.
Priests for Life supplies prayer materials for parishes. Contact Priests for Life: