The Sort of Things Priests Say

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.

Screenshot from an instructional video, showing a priest leaving the sacristy to celebrate Holy Mass.

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.

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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!

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8 Responses to The Sort of Things Priests Say

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article, Father.

  2. Father Jerabek,
    Thank you for this wonderful article – previously I thought the 2 places in the Roman Canon where the priest pauses to prayer for the living and the dead were the intention the Mass is being offered for.

    I love learning little nuances of sacristy-speak. After Mass the priest will return to the sacristy and say “prosit,” (may it [the Mass] be beneficial). Father Bazzel taught me to respond “[pro] omnibus et singulis” ([for] all of us collectively and each of us individually), and Father Mackey taught me to respond “tibi quoque” (to you also). Learning and using these little sayings has been a great way for me to appreciate the Mass (and learn a little Latin) – they are very informative in their subtle way.

    I can’t help but translate the now-obsolete Novus Ordo English vernacular response, “The Lord be with you,” back into Latin: “Et quoque cum tuo.” Just leaves something to be desired…

    • By the way, do I guess correctly that the location of the screenshot in the article is the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville?

    • There’s also the “Procedamus in pace / In nomine Christi. Amen.” before leaving the sacristy. For “Prosit” I learned “Omnibus et singulis”; I’ve also heard the “Tibi quoque”; then some people simply respond by repeating “Prosit”, but I think this last thing is because they don’t know what else to say.

  3. Lori Gregory says:

    So interesting. Another tradition I remember as a child is when we would drive past a Catholic church, my aunt would make the sign of the cross. I had forgotten all about it until I was recently driving a Mexican lady home and she made the sign of the cross as we past our church. I think it a very lovely forgotten tradition.

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