The Leonine Prayers are a set of prayers that from 1884 to early 1965 were prescribed for recitation by the priest and the people after Low Mass, but not as part of Mass itself. Hence they were commonly called Prayers after Mass. The name "Leonine" derived from the fact that they were initially introduced by Pope Leo XIII. They were slightly modified under Pope Pius X.
The intention for which the prayers were offered changed over time. Originally they were offered for the defence of the temporal sovereignty of the Holy See. After this problem was settled with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, Pope Pius XI ordered them to be said for the restoration to the people of Russia of tranquillity and freedom to profess the Catholic faith. This gave rise to the unofficial use of the name "Prayers for the Conversion of Russia" for the prayers.
The final form of the Leonine Prayers consisted of three Ave Marias, a Salve Regina followed by a versicle and response, a prayer for the conversion of sinners and the liberty and exaltation of the Catholic Church, and a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. Pope Pius X permitted the addition of the invocation "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us", repeated three times.
The Holy See's 26 September 1964 Inter Oecumenici which came into force on 7 March 1965, simply declared: "The Leonine Prayers are suppressed." However, many celebrations of Mass in the 1962 form are still followed by the same prayers with some discussion surrounding the intention for which they are offered.
In 1859, Pope Pius IX, facing rebellion against his temporal sovereignty in the course of the Risorgimento, ordered that Masses celebrated in the Papal States be followed by three Ave Marias, a Salve Regina, a versicle and response, and a collect. He did not make these prayers obligatory in other countries, but did ask Catholics everywhere to pray for the defeat of those bent on destroying the Holy See's temporal sovereignty.
On 6 January 1884, in the context of anti-clerical political and social developments in the new Kingdom of Italy, Pope Leo XIII ordered that the prayers be recited throughout the world. In 1886, the prayer that follows the Salve Regina was modified to make it a prayer for the conversion of sinners and "the freedom and exaltation of Holy Mother Church". The prayer to Saint Michael was added at the same time.
Two slight changes were made later to the prayer after the Salve Regina, and in 1904, Pope Pius X granted permission to add at the conclusion of the Leonine Prayers a threefold invocation, "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us", a permission that was universally availed of.
In 1929, the state of Vatican City was created, resolving the troubled relationship between the Holy See and the Italian state, which had been the object of the Leonine Prayers, and thus removing their raison d'être. But the following year, Pope Pius XI ordered that the Leonine Prayers should be offered "to permit tranquillity and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia".
According to the original decree of 6 January 1884 that imposed the Leonine Prayers, they were to be said after every Low Mass, but later decrees, whose interpretation was not always clear, spoke rather of "private Masses", what in present-day legislation are called Masses without the people. According to one influential rubricist, the Leonine Prayers could be omitted after a Low Mass that was celebrated with special solemnity, such as an ordination or funeral Mass, a First Friday Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart, a Nuptial Mass, or the Mass after distribution of the ashes on Ash Wednesday, or if the Mass was followed immediately by function such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament or a Novena.
They were customarily said kneeling.
The Leonine Prayers, which were suppressed in 1964, before the appearance of the post-Vatican II editions of the Roman Missal, were prayers after Low Mass, not prayers of the Mass, and so were not included in either of the two new pre-Vatican II editions that followed their imposition, that of Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and that of Pope John XXIII in 1962.
Anthony Cekada, a priest of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen says that, even if the Leonine Prayers had not been suppressed in 1964, they would by canon law have lost their obligatory character when a 1990 Russian law gave Catholics in that country the right to profess their religion, the new intention for which, after the 1929 solution of the "Roman question" of the dispute between the Holy See and Italy, Pope Pius XI decreed that the prayers were to be offered: that Christ "would permit tranquility and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia". However, such prayers may optionally be said after Mass from time to time with the at least presumed permission of the Ordinary.
- "Prayers after Mass" in The Tablet, 26 November 1904
- Pope, Charles. "Prayers after Mass", Our Sunday Visitor, May 8, 2013
- "Handbook for Altar Servers", Archconfraternity of St. Stephen
- "Parts of the Traditional Latin Mass", St. Andrew's Daily Missal
- Qui nuper, 18 June 1859, PapalEncyclicalsOnline
- This instruction was published by a decree Iam inde ab anno of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, published in Acta Sanctae Sedis 16 (1884), pages 249–250.
- Russia and the Leonine Prayers
- DiMillo, Kevin. "How the Leonine Prayers Helped Create the Vatican State and Crushed the Soviet Union". National Catholic Register, May 4, 2016
- Allocution Indictam ante of 30 June 1930, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 22 (1930), p.301
- Inter Oecumenici
- J. O’Connell, The Celebration of Mass: A Study of the Rubrics of the Roman Missal, (Milwaukee: Bruce 1941), vol. 1, pages 210–211
- A Guide to the Celebration of Low Mass
- Anthony Cekada, "Russia and the Leonine Prayers" in Sacerdotium 5 (Autumn 1992), pp. 4–5, 14, 17