Q: I am leading a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd course for adults who work with children ages 9-12. As part of the work of the child is to learn how to lead prayer for the other children. We offer them introductory formulas, etc to work on prayer language, etc. in the past, we have used:
“The Lord be with you” and
“May the peace of the Lord be with you always”
and the response we taught was
“And with your spirit”
My question: I thought we only responded “And with you spirit” to the ordained, so is it appropriate to be using this? If not, should we have another response to “the Lord be with you”? Or remove that as an introductory formula that we offer the children. As an option for communal prayer?
A: The liturgical texts reserve the response “And with your spirit” to circumstances when the people are addressing a bishop, priest or deacon. In Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, for example, the leader says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God for ever.” And all respond, “Blessed be God for ever.” Not “And with your spirit.”
This is also why the GIRM offers a suggested dialogue during the sign of peace. Each one may say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” but the recommended response is not, “And with your spirit,” but “Amen” (154). Virtually no one does this. Most just say “Peace” to each other.
The second edition of the Order of Celebrating Matrimony includes a chapter for the unusual circumstance when a layperson presides at a wedding. This chapter has been removed from the books in certain countries, including the United States. But when it is permitted, the layperson says, “Blessed be God, the Father of all consolation, who has shown us his mercy.” People answer either “Amen” or “Blessed be God forever.”
Clearly the liturgical texts want to avoid having people say “And with your spirit” to a non-ordained minister. Personally, I don’t think there’s any problem with it because there is a biblical precedent in Paul’s letters where he speaks about the “spirit” of the community. But the liturgy restricts its usage.
To help prepare children for prayer, if a child is leading, it’s probably better to have the other children answer “Amen” or “Blessed be God for ever.” It will slowly train them in a response that few Catholic adults have had the opportunity to learn.