How Many Eucharistic Prayers Are There?

Many people, if asked, would say that there are four different eucharistic prayers that can be used in the celebration of Mass, namely the four that I wrote about in the last two columns. Actually, there are a total of ten which are approved for use.
Apart from Eucharistic Prayers I to IV, there are three eucharistic prayers for children, two for reconciliation and one called ‘Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions’.
In 1973 Pope Paul VI requested the Congregation for Divine Worship to prepare eucharistic prayers for use at liturgies with children and also one that could be used during the Holy Year of 1975. In October 1974 the new prayers were approved – three for children’s Masses and two for the Holy Year on the theme of reconciliation. These prayers were translated into the vernacular and authorised for experimental use for a period of three years. In 1977 this authorisation was extended for a further three years and in 1980 permission was given for a further indefinite period.
The three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children are restricted to Masses which are celebrated with children only or where the majority of participants are children. Because they are intended to lead pre-adolescents to the celebration of Mass with adults, these prayers for children have the same elements and structure as Eucharistic Prayers I to IV. The wording of the introductory dialogue, the institution narrative and the closing doxology is identical to that of the adult prayers but all other elements are expressed in language more appropriate for children. Two of them also include responses that are repeated during the prayer to enhance participation.
It is a pity that the Eucharistic Prayers for Masses of Reconciliation are not used more often. The wording of these prayers makes them most appropriate for any Mass where the focus of the readings, the liturgical season or the particular celebration is on forgiveness, mercy and justice.
The Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions was composed in Switzerland in Italian, French and German versions more than twenty-five years ago. A Latin version of the prayer was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the early 1990s and an English translation prepared and approved in 1995.
This eucharistic prayer is in fact four prayers in one, having four different prefaces and four corresponding sections in the second half of the prayer. The language of these prayers is fresh and contemporary:
“As once he did for his disciples,Christ now opens the scriptures for usand breaks the bread.”
“Keep your Church alert in faith to the signs of the timesand eager to accept the challenge of the gospel.”
The reason for departing from the Roman tradition of using only one eucharistic prayer is best expressed in the words of the Council:“To consider the variety of anaphoras (eucharistic prayers) in the tradition of the universal Church is to realise that one alone cannot contain everything. In adding new anaphoras, the Church's intent is to enrich the Roman liturgy pastorally, spiritually, and liturgically”.


Elizabeth Harrington