Question: All my life I have been saying the words, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.” Only recently did I begin to wonder what it means to give glory to God. Does this mean saying as many prayers as possible or praying on a regular basis?
— Jeanine K., Twin Falls, Idaho
Answer: We can certainly hope that all our acts of worship, including our participation in the sacraments and our personal prayers, give glory to God. But God is glorified by something more profound and comprehensive than these.
St. Irenaeus, the great second-century bishop of Lyons in France, once dealt with the question as to what gives glory to God. He concluded: The glory of God is the person who is fully alive. By being fully alive, he meant being alive in the Spirit and living in a manner conformed to Christ.
I would never play down the importance of the sacraments and of personal prayer. But these alone do not give glory to God. The God of Christians is not like a primitive deity who must be constantly flattered, praised and told how great he is. He is not a God who is praised by our ritual performances in themselves.
Giving glory to God does not mean adding to God’s greatness (which is complete in itself). It means rather giving back to God what he has first given us: life itself. God is pleased when he sees his creatures become what they are called to be. God is glorified only when the prayers we say and the sacraments we celebrate translate into lives of mercy, charity, compassion and service.
I have the impression that many people feel inadequate in giving glory to God because they are not able to pray as intensely as they would wish. The solution is to begin each day with a Morning Offering (in traditional or spontaneous words) that dedicates all the acts of the day to God and then keep in mind throughout the day that every good word and deed gives glory to God because it conforms us to Christ.
God is not, as I say, a primitive deity, who needs to be flattered ritually on a regular basis. He is a God of love, who made us to embody his love. To the extent that we embody his love and goodness, God is glorified.
Hail Mary at Mass
Question: A Mass I watch on television has the priest adding a Hail Mary to the Prayers of the People. Is this acceptable?
— Name withheld, Baltimore, Md.
Answer: As liberties taken with the Mass go, this one is not the most serious I have heard about and come across. However, the practice is inappropriate, even if well-intentioned.
The various intentions used in the Prayers of Intercession or Prayers of the People are not themselves prayers, but invitations to prayer (“For Benedict our pope and John our bishop ... We pray to the Lord”). During the pause, the people in the pews pray in silence for the announced intention. The intentions should not be turned into prayers, even if the prayer is one as venerable as the Hail Mary.
Is there a way in which a Marian theme can be introduced into the Intercessions? Indeed, there is. The deacon (or reader) who should announce the intentions could say: “That through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, all Christians may become more faithful followers of Christ ... We pray to the Lord.”
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.