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 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 and inaccurate 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 Instruction Inter Oecumenici, which came into force on 7 March 1965, simply declared: "The Leonine Prayers are suppressed." However, some celebrations of Mass in the 1962 form are still followed by the same prayers but with uncertainty about 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", not, as is sometimes said, "for the conversion 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 were never included in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal or in any other edition. But the fact that they were suppressed only after the 1962 Missal was issued is considered by some to mean that they are obligatory when Mass is celebrated in accordance with that Missal. Accordingly, they are still recited publicly sometimes after a celebration of Tridentine Mass. This is not the practice in the Ecône seminary of the Society of St. Pius X, and it has been argued that, since freedom to profess the faith has been restored in Russia, the purpose for which the Leonine Prayers were prescribed in 1930 has been achieved, leading to cessation of the law concerning them.
- ["Prayers after Mass" in The Tablet, 26 November 1904]
- Our Sunday Visitor, "Prayers after Mass"
- Handbook for Altar Servers
- Parts of the Traditional Latin Mass
- Encyclical Qui nuper of 18 June 1859
- 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
- Allocution Indictam ante of 30 June 1930, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 22 (1930), page 301
- Leonine Prayers after Low Mass
- Inter oecumenici, 48 j
- 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