Why are all those saints in the Roman Canon?

Peter and Paul, Andrew, James and John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian…

You probably recognize the names that are recited during Eucharistic Prayer I, but do you know their origin?

“I always wondered, during Mass, during the acclamations and they say the litany of saints … I wonder who ever selected all those names and will they ever be revised or updated since we have more great saints?” asked Cindy.

“In a sense, they have been revised and updated in the other canons. Now, you’re talking about Roman Canon which I personally tend to use almost exclusively because it is the one that grew most organically—the others were composed a few years ago. But in those other canons there’s room to add extra patron saints so in a sense it has been changed,” responded Fr. Richard Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM on Relevant Radio®.

So, why are they a part of the Eucharistic Prayer? “What’s going on with those names is an invitation to know the history both in the Scriptures and in the history of the Church … that’s one of the reasons I love the Roman Canon,” said Fr. Simon.

“I can’t tell the future, perhaps there will be more people added even to the Roman Canon, or a spot will be put into the Roman Canon where we can mention a patron saint who we think we should mention, as in the other canons already. I know the second and third canon that there’s room to add saints,” explained Fr. Simon.

So, next time you’re in Mass, listen closely to the names being recited by the priest. They list the Apostles, five early popes, along with male and female saints and martyrs of the early Church. There’s certainly something to learn from these holy men and women.

“I think it’s a lovely and beautiful tradition!” said Cindy. “I love it because I’ve had the opportunity to attend daily Mass for about 40 years and I’ve come to know the saints through reading and hearing their names.”

Hear more from Fr. Simon here:

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.