So let's say you put mints on the table for people at the end of dinner. Uncle Ralph sticks his ginormous hand in the bowl, scoops them all up and plops them in his mouth.
Fortunately your Mother taught you your manners well and that keeps you from blurting out, "Ralph! You big lug! Those were meant for EVERYBODY." It wouldn't matter anyway because he would just say, "What? They were just sitting there and nobody was taking any anyway."
Some things are just so open to abuse.
So it is with the Universal Prayers. (Petitions at Mass) This is one of those things that make me cringe. God allows this part of the Mass to teach me patience and to get over myself.
First of all, this is NOT a required part of the Mass. Yup. You can skip it. It is "DESIRABLE" that there "usually be" such a prayer at Masses with the people, which means you could dump it. (Just try it and see how many people freak out.)
Here are some of the various titles of this prayer to help us understand what their function is:
"Prayer of the Faithful"
What aren't they?
"Prayer of a Faithful"
These prayers are intended for the collective good: for the salvation of all and expressive of the prayer of the entire community. So, no, it isn't proper to say, "and for the intentions that you now mention."
"For ME as I go to take finals today."
"For my Aunt Fifi who is going in for nose surgery."
It is also an abuse (though not a big one - just one I find annoying) to say, "And for the intentions, which we hold in the silence of our hearts." Pause. Pause. Pause.
Why make a fuss about this? BECAUSE WE HAVE ALREADY DONE THIS. Remember at the beginning of Mass at the Collect (opening prayer) when the priest said, "Let us pray"? THAT is when we should be praying for our final exam, Aunt Fifi, and ALL of the prayers which we hold in the silence of our hearts. They are then collected in the Collect prayer and offered up to the Father to be prayed for in this Mass.
Bu that is another mountain not worth fighting on . . . but I got it out of my system.
Generally these prayers do have a form: 1) For the needs of the Church. 2) For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world. 3) For those burdened by any kind of difficulty. 4) For the local community.
They should be "sober" (whatever that means,) composed with wise liberty (whatever that means) and "few words." (We know EXACTLY what that means.)
Finally, one last personal peeve. If you construct these prayers, do your best to avoid the word "that". It greatly reduces the scope of the prayer and makes a hoop through which God must jump. Here is the difference:
"For Catholic grade school education."
"For Catholic grade school education, that God preserve our schools, keep students coming, tuition flowing, and parishioners supporting."
Okay, that might be very good and all. But what if God wants to remake our model of schools? What if there is a better way? What if, by failing, we come up with a more economical, better educationally, more tenable model? While He is working at that, we are looking at our petition and thinking, "Well, obviously THAT didn't work because God is not jumping through our hoop."
I'm just saying.