The prayer appears both in the modern Catholic rite of Mass and in the older Tridentine Mass. It is also sometimes used in Masses celebrated in the Anglican Communion. It is said just after the Lavabo and right before the Secret or Prayer over the Gifts. Turning toward the people, the priest says in Latin: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty." To which the server or congregation responds, "May the Lord receive the Sacrifice from your hands, to the praise and glory of His Name, for our good and the good of all His Church." In the Tridentine Mass, the priest then responds, "Amen."
It is during this prayer that the priest turns to the people, extends his arms, and asks the people to pray, saying "Orate, Fratres," or "Pray, brethren."
In an eastward celebration, this is the last time the priest will turn toward the people until after the Consecration when he will turn to offer Communion to the faithful. Facing the faithful with his eyes cast down in humility, he extends his hands and rejoins them, asking in a low voice, "Orate Fratres," "Pray, brethren." It is both a plea for prayer and a short farewell; he reminds them of the importance of the sacrifice and addresses the people as the apostles did to the first Christians, as brethren. Here too the priest reminds the people that the sacrifice he is about to offer is done in their name and in union with his prayers. The Orate Fratres brings this to their attention. It is after the Orate Fratres that the Mass is most solemn; the priest asks for the prayers of the people as he prepares for this most sacred part of the Mass. This element of the Mass has gone through several alterations since the Middle Ages, but essentially the idea is for the priest to make use of the last opportunity to ask for prayers before the Canon of the Mass.
The people respond, "Amen." Although they interiorly sacrifice with the priest, they pray that the sacrifice is received by God through the priest's hands, because it is the priest's hands that have been anointed and consecrated, and he acts as mediator between the faithful and God.
- Msgr. George J. Moorman, The Latin Mass Explained, (Rockford, IL: TAN, 2007), 124.
- Rev. D. I. Lanslots, Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of the Mass, (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1897), 145-148.
- Pius Parsch, The Liturgy of the Mass, Rev. Frederic C. Eckhoff, trans. (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1949), 182.
- Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2003), 311-312.
- Rev. D. I. Lanslots, Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of the Mass, (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1897), 148.
- "Orate Fratres". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11269b.htm.
- Orate Fratres: angelqueen.org