Orate fratres is the incipit of a request for prayer that the priest celebrating Mass of the Roman Rite addresses to the faithful participating in it before saying the Secret or Prayer over the Gifts. It thus corresponds to the Oremus said before the Collect and the Postcommunion, and is merely an expansion of that shorter exhortation. It has gone through several alterations since the Middle Ages.
The full text of the priest's exhortation is: Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem (Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father).
This exhortation is a reminder to the people that the sacrifice being offered is not the priest's alone but theirs also ("my sacrifice and yours").
The words of the exhortation are the same as in the editio princeps of the Roman Missal issued by Pope Pius V in 1570. At a later stage, editions of the Tridentine Roman Missal introduced a rubric absent in the original, directing the priest to say the Orate fratres exhortation with his voice "raised a little" (voce paululum elevata), an indication that, unlike the Oremus, it was not to be sung, and a proof that it is not part of the old Roman Mass. This limitation was removed in the 1970 edition. When it was still the rule, Adrian Fortescue remarked: "Certainly nowhere is the whispered voice so anomalous as here, where we address the people. If the Orate fratres were an old integral part of the Mass, it would of course be sung loud."
A rubric that remains directs the priest to stand at the middle of the altar, facing the people, and to extend then join his hands, when making this request for prayer. This is the second occasion during the celebration of Mass on which the priest is directed to face the people in editions of the Roman Missal since 1970, the third in earlier editions. The more recent editions omit the indication given in earlier editions that, if celebrating ad orientem, the priest should, after turning to the people, on this occasion return to facing the altar by completing a clockwise 360° turn, unlike the other occasions, when according to the same editions, he was to turn back to the altar by reversing his turning to the people.
The people respond to the priest, saying: Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae (May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church).
The original Tridentine Roman Missal included at the end of this response the word "Amen", and directed that the response ("Amen" included) be said by "the bystanders or else by the priest himself" (Circumstantes respondent: alioquin ipsemet sacerdos). Later editions removed the "Amen" from the response and directed the priest to say the "Amen" himself in a low voice (submissa voce). In the rubric it added "the server or" before "the bystanders" (Minister, seu circumstantes respondent: alioquin ipsemet Sacerdos). Since 1970, editions of the Roman Missal assign the response to the people or, in Masses celebrated without the people, to the server, and speak of an "Amen" at this point only in response to the Secret or Prayer over the Gifts.
The response of the people emphasizes both the distinction and the similarity between the priest's sacrifice at the altar and that of the faithful.
- Adrian Fortescue, "Orate Fratres" in Catholic Encyclopedia 1911
- Pius Parsch, The Liturgy of the Mass, Rev. Frederic C. Eckhoff, trans. (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1949), 182
- 2002 typical edition of the Vatican Roman Missal
- 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal
- ICEL (official) English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. The earlier (1973) ICEL translation has "our sacrifice" in place of "my sacrifice and yours".
- Rev. D. I. Lanslots, Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of the Mass, (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1897), 145-148.
- Facsimile published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana in 1998 (ISBN 88-209-2547-8), p. 299
- Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (Longmans, Green and Co. 1912; reprinted Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2003), p. 312
- Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, VII, 7
- The Mass of the Faithful
- Definitive ICEL translation. The earlier (1973) translation omitted the word "holy".
- John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary
- "Orate Fratres". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Dom Prosper Guéranger O.S.B, Abbot of Solesmes (1805-1875), Spiegazione della santa messa