The Priest’s “Secret” Prayers at Mass

Offering the Mystical and Holy Mass     Did you know that the Church gives priests celebrating the Mass several prayers to say in a low voice such that few (if any) in the church hear them? These are called the “secret” prayers (from the Latin word for “hidden.”) May the great beauty of these prayers inform and inspire your own devotion at Holy Mass.

The priest, before proclaiming the Gospel, pauses in front of the altar to bow and pray:

“Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel.”

 At the end of the Gospel, the priest (or proclaiming deacon) kisses the book and prays:

“Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.”

During the Offertory, the priest (or assisting deacon) pours a little water into the chalice of unconsecrated wine and prays:

By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

After thanking God for the gifts of bread and wine He has given us to offer (“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation…”) the priest bows behind the altar and prays:

“With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.”

While the priest washes his hands, he prays:

“Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

During the “Lamb of God,” the priest places a small piece of the Host into the chalice, praying:

“May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.”

At the end of the “Lamb of God,” the priest joins his hands and prays one of these two prayers:

1. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.”

2. “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”

Before consuming the Body of Christ, the priest prays:

May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.

Before consuming the Blood of Christ from the chalice, the priest prays:

May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.

Finally, while purifying the sacred vessels following the distribution of Communion, the priest prays:

“What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”

23 Responses to “The Priest’s “Secret” Prayers at Mass”

  1. Paul O Says:

    Too many priests say them aloud.

  2. Deacon Lou Koeniger Says:

    The first three secret prayers may also be said by a deacon.

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      Thanks. I made edits to note the prayers an assisting deacon might say.

      In the case of a deacon about to process to proclaim the Gospel, he bows before the priest (or bishop) and requests in a low voice: “Your blessing, Father.” The priest then blesses him, saying: “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The deacon signs himself with the sign of the cross and answers, “Amen.” (

      A bishop prays each of the “secret” priest prayers above if he is the main celebrant.

  3. practicing Catholic Says:

    Can you explain why these prayers are “hidden” from the Faithful who are trying to fully participate in the Mass? thank you.

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      Hopefully, all of the faithful at Holy Mass are offering silent, individual prayers in addition to the communal prayers spoken aloud. This is an aspect of full participation. The priest has several such prayers of his own, but his words are provided by the Church.

  4. bill from denver Says:

    Makes me wonder about a priests love for self!!

  5. Sky Says:

    There are quite a few priests who fail to offer these prayers according to the instructions. For example, it is not unusual to hear them being prayed out loud as if they were meant to be heard by all.
    It is necessary to recall that every direction in the missal, large or small, has a reason. The celebration of the Mass can be compared to a finely designed symphony. The composer of music for a symphony knows what effect he intends with every little note, pause, etc. So it is with the priest’s celebration of the Mass. Every little part of it has meaning and the priest must take care to faithfully observe each detail. He has no right to alter even small things because he thinks he has figured out a better way.

    • bill from Denver Says:

      “The celebration of the Mass can be compared to a finely designed symphony. The composer of music for a symphony knows what effect he intends with every little note, pause, etc.”

      Comes across as “fake” and manipulative!!

      • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

        Think of Jesus Christ, alive in his Church, as the composer of the liturgy. The priest is like the conductor, or lead chair musician, because he must be faithful to the author’s composition and lead others in playing their parts in it well.

  6. Jay P Says:

    Bill from Denver, the Reporter needs you back for troll class.

    Thank you Father for this instruction. The Secret has been lost to the V II mass as a community meal class, along with the other mysteries within a proper mass celebration reserved for the priest to pray for worthiness to say the mass for the good of the people to lead them to heaven.

    • bill from Denver Says:

      “Bill from Denver, the Reporter needs you back for troll class.”

      Jay P—Please don’t personally attack me or any others like me who are not well educated—particularly when they are just attempting to learn or simply expressing an opinion. Judgement of others is just not very nice!

  7. AnneG Says:

    Thank you, Father. I knew some of these prayers, but not all. One of our priests says the two prayers of thanksgiving over the elements out loud if there is no music, like at daily mass. I kind of like that. The rest he says silently.
    I think it helps to be aware of all the parts of the mass so one can begin to get a picture of the whole for full participation. Our responses are not rote. They are each meaningful.

  8. TG in SA Says:

    We learned all of these way back in grade school (before the times) when we heard the Mass in Latin, responded in Latin, and read the quiet parts in our Missallet. Or — followed in a daily missal. TG in SA

  9. sue Says:

    It is ok for the priest to say it aloud. It is just that often these prayers r said when the choir is singing. If there is no choir then they can be heard.
    They r beautiful prayers and no prayer is Secret, just means actually Quietly as to not interrupt singing.

    People can get very rigid and legalistic without understanding what something actually means.
    They’re not top secret:-)

  10. James Braddick Says:

    It seems to me that these silent,secret prayers arejust as meaningful for the congregation as they are for the priest.
    The congregation are really concelebrants by virtue of their baptism, not passive spectators, although most most likely do not realize this. Each of these”secret” prayers, with the changing of a few personal pronouns, apply to the congregation every bit as much as they apply to the priest celebrant. Silent prayers offered solely by the priest imply that only the priest is worthy to offer these prayers to God.

  11. James Braddick Says:

    Almost all the secret prayers pertain to the congregation and would be most meaningful to them.

  12. S. Says:

    The priest prays quietly when he is speaking to God personally, on his own behalf, and not when he is speaking in the person of Christ., for the whole assembly.

    The prayers over the gifts are not this kind of prayer. They are prayed aloud if there is no singing.

  13. Constantine Pardalis Says:

    It should not up to laymen to teach the clergy but when the issue is serious even the ‘stones may speak’…
    Do you not think that it is not a coincidence that when the Lord prayed for the sanctification of the Holy gifts we are not told what He said…
    ‘let those who have…”

  14. Billie Says:

    Is it appropriate for a parishioner to pray the words the priest prays at mass?

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      Prayed silently or very quietly, I think you may employ these prayers in your personal Eucharistic devotion at Mass.

  15. Judith Denny Says:

    What Biblical passages are the basis for these prayers?
    Why are these prayers “secret” as they speak of eternal life? Eternal life would be for all communicants would it not?

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      Hi Judith,
      These prayers are “secret/hidden” only in the sense that they are said silently or quietly by the priest at Mass, just as hopefully everyone at church is offering private prayers amidst the prayers we recite together. Eternal life is willed for everyone and no saving knowledge is being withheld.

      Some of these prayers are Bible verses. For instance, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin,” is a quote of Psalm 51:2. “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted,” comes from Daniel 3:39. Other prayers are inspired by, or in accord with, Sacred Scripture.

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