Gospel Silent Prayer

I commented earlier today on haligweork about a Catholic lay silent prayer said before the gospel that involves three crosses made over the forehead, lips, and heart. The crosses are made with the thumb and forefinger and now that I think of it, probably stylistically evolved out of the crosses made with holy water. Some people do the full size cross with holy water, while others do a smaller one with the fingers and sometimes kiss their fingers (with the holy water). Anyway to the observer, these crosses are usually too small and indistinct to look much like a cross to the observer, but that is what they are intended to be.

As I was taught, the prayer is:

+ May the gospel always be on my mind

+ On my lips

+ and in my heart.

The + represents the sign of the cross over the forehead, lips or heart. It is said right before the gospel reading. If you look around you may notice that it is only used by older people. They stopped teaching this to children some time ago, I think. I suppose I do it because I have always observed my parents, particularly my father, do it. I wonder if this prayer evolved during the era of the Latin mass when the priest said his silent prayers and the laity evolved their own silent prayers. Although come to think of it, I think I recall seeing Catholic priests do it as well. If anyone reading knows the origins of this practice and why they stopped teaching it to children, comment below. I would guess that they stopped teaching it around the time of Vatican II, which happened right before I was born, because I remember my parents commenting in disgust that they shortened some of the prayers we learned in catechism (Sunday school, although Catholics never have it on Sunday). [You know sometimes its weird being just about the old as a person can be and still be completely post-Vatican II.]

I’m also curious if there are other versions of this prayer. As a silient prayer, everyone in the congregation may have a different version and no one would know it. If you know of another version, please comment below on that too.


1 thought on “Gospel Silent Prayer

  1. I don’t know where you’re based, but here in the midwest the 3 crosses before the Gospel is ubiquitous in Episcopal churches. I was bewildered when I first saw it; as an English Anglican and later East Coast Episcopalian, I’d never come across it before. I was too shy to ask anyone in my new congregation, so looked it up, and the prayer that goes with it, on the internet. It’s quite lovely, and I join in myself now. It just seems to be one of the many “Catholicisms” that are simply ingrained in midwestern Episopalianism — even in churches that are otherwise quite “low.”

    I’ve been to a midwestern RC church only a couple of times, and they all did it there (old and young) as well.

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