Traditionally, when a priest was leaving the sacristy to go celebrate Mass, and someone (frequently, another priest) passed him along the way, he would say to the priest, “memento“. That’s the Latin word for “remember” – it’s sort of an incomplete sentence, I suppose, and could be interpreted as “remember me” or “remember my intentions”.
Up until today I had no idea how to respond to this, but I felt sure that there must be some sort of traditional response. Over the last several years I’ve asked various priests whom I thought would know, but while all knew about this custom, none knew if there was a proper response. Until a priest I spoke with this afternoon.
Before I explain the response, let me give another bit of background info. In the first Eucharistic Prayer, also known as the Roman Canon – which was the only Eucharistic Prayer up until about 1970 – there are two places where the priest pauses: one called the “memorial of the living” and the other, the “memorial of the dead”. During those pauses he recalls the intentions of the living and deceased that he has brought to Holy Mass with him. (This is distinct from the intention for which the Mass is offered.) Usually, so that the pause does not become too long as he tries to remember the various intentions, he forms these two intentions before Mass, and just ceremoniously pauses during the Eucharistic prayer to offer the intentions that he already formed.
So when someone says “memento” to a priest who is going to celebrate Mass, the priest adds that person to his intentions for the “memorial of the living”. Traditionally speaking! (This is the sort of thing that I don’t recall learning in seminary, sort of “lost wisdom” that I found out about later on.)
So, how is the priest to respond? I found out today. He can say, “Deus exaudiat” – may God hear [your prayer/intention].
The (Italian) priest I spoke with mentioned another possible response, but I didn’t really understand it. Good enough – at least I know one way to respond.
Like I said, this is sort of old-fashioned stuff that fewer and fewer people know about, which is a pity, since it’s really a fine idea to ask a priest to remember you at Holy Mass.
The only times I have ever heard someone say “memento” to me while I was walking out to celebrate have been once (I think) in St. Peter’s Basilica, and once in another church here in Rome where I celebrated. And on both occasions, it was other priests who said it to me.
I’ll close with another Latin saying: oremus pro invicem – let us pray for each other.
UPDATE 3/1/14: A priest-friend told me that he used to respond “libenter” – willingly. Sounds good to me. Incidentally, that was not the second option offered to me by the priest (that I mentioned above), I am at least sure of that, even if I don’t remember exactly what that second option was. So it would seem that there are at least 3 possibilities out there!