Q: Can you give some comments on the way people usually write the petitions of the Universal Prayer?
A: Here’s how the GIRM describes them:
70. The series of intentions is usually to be:
a) for the needs of the Church;
b) for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
c) for those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
d) for the local community.
Nevertheless, in any particular celebration, such as a Confirmation, a Marriage, or at a Funeral, the series of intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion.
Many people who compose petitions include the pope and the bishop in the first one. I find such a petition unnecessary for two reasons. One is that the first petition is to be for “the Church,” which, of course, includes many more people besides the hierarchy. Second, the pope and the bishop will both be mentioned by name in the Eucharistic Prayer, which is a more spiritual location for them to be remembered. It’s rare that anyone else gets mentioned in the eucharistic prayer. A person who has died, a newly married couple, godparents for the elect and the newly baptized all get a mention in the eucharistic prayer, but you see how rare it is. Consequently, I think that 70a is referring to other people.
Writers often include these intentions for the last two petitions: one for the dead and another for personal intentions. As you can see from GIRM 70, neither of those is explicitly included. Again, the dead will be included in the eucharistic prayer, and the silent petitions are supposed to be made at the beginning of mass when the priest says, “Let us pray,” though very few people know that.
These are small points, but generic ones that let you know how I think about the Universal Prayer.