How Many Eucharistic Prayers Are There?


At liturgy workshops, I often ask participants how many eucharistic prayers there are from which to choose in celebrating Mass. Many people will immediately reply that there are four, and then hesitate because they remember that there are some for children and perhaps others they have heard about.
In fact, 10 eucharistic prayers are approved for use in Australia. It amazes me that at the same time people complain about there not being sufficient variety in the Mass prayers from week to week, so little use is made of this full range of eucharistic prayers.
People are very familiar with the four eucharistic prayers included in the Roman Missal published after Vatican II. Three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children were approved for use in 1974. Two Eucharistic Prayers for Masses of Reconciliation were approved for the celebration of the Holy Year in 1975 and for use afterwards "for other celebrations with the theme of reconciliation and penance, especially during Lent".
This adds up to nine. The tenth eucharistic prayer is the one sometimes referred to as the 'Swiss' eucharistic prayer because it came from the Swiss Catholic Conference of Bishops. Originally it appeared in German, French and Italian, the languages of Switzerland. It was translated into English by ICEL and given official approval for use in 1994.
This prayer is official entitled 'Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions'. (Because it is not included in current editions of the Roman Missal, it is available for purchase from The Liturgical Commission in altar and missal size.) In fact, it is really four prayers in one because there is a choice of four prefaces, each of which has a corresponding set of intercessions in the second half of the prayer.
The titles of the four strands are: A. The Church on the Way to Unity; B. God Guides the Church on the Way of Salvation; C. Jesus, Way to the Father; D. Jesus the Compassion of God.
If I were to enquire which of the 10 eucharistic prayers is used most often, the answer would be Number II. The reason that this one is so popular is that it is the shortest! What a shame greater use isn't made of this most recent eucharistic prayer with its fresh language, poetic expressiveness and beautiful imagery. Here are some examples:

We bless you, God of holiness:
you accompany us with love
as we journey through life.
As once he did for his disciples,
Christ now opens the scriptures for us
and breaks the bread. (Praise to the Father)

Open our hearts to the needs of all humanity
so that sharing their grief and anguish,
their joy and hope,
we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation
and advance together on the way to your kingdom. (Intercessions C)

You sent Jesus Christ your Son among us
as redeemer and Lord.
He was moved with compassion
for the poor and powerless,
for the sick and the sinner;
he made himself neighbour to the oppressed.
By his words and actions
he proclaimed to the world
that you care for us
as a father cares for his children. (Preface D)


Elizabeth Harrington