The Prône began in medieval times as a vernacular service in extra-liturgical settings that came later to be included in the Latin High Mass on Sundays and other feasts. In its more developed form the Prône included a translation or paraphrase of the Gospel reading, sometimes with an explanation, a catechetical instruction based on the creed, Lord's Prayer, or Commandments, bidding prayers, as well as notification of the banns of marriage and other announcements. The term also was used to refer to sermons, especially of an instructional type. The word itself is derived from the French prône, a grill separating the chancel from the rest of the church on which notices were posted.
In France the Prône became a common means of catechetical instruction as is evident in the following 17th century account:
The Prône contains four parts: (1) Prayers for the Church, for princes, for the state, for public and special needs. (2) Instruction on how to serve God, explanation of the Pater, the Credo, the Sacraments, the Commandments, the Gospel. (3) Announcements of Church regulations, feasts and fasts, indulgences, processions, marriages, candidates for Holy Orders and all public acts of piety.(4) Promulgation of the commands of prelates, cases of excommunication, public sinners…. Itis a public function that serves to carry out what the Fathers, the Councils, and the popes teach to the faithful, to instruct them in piety, to teach them the law of the Lord; the people, therefore, are obliged to assist at it and the parish priests to read it or have it read, as has been ordered by the capitularies of Charlemagne and since then by numberless councils, even by the first council of Orleans, as is reported by Ivo of Chartres: "On Sundays and feast days, after the sermon preached during the solemn Mass, the pastor will, in accordance with the advice of the Apostle, have the people pray for all the different needs, to pray for the king, … for peace, for the sick of the parish, for the dead; and for each of these intentions each one will say privately the Lord's Prayer and the priest will say the appropriate orations." [M. F. Grancolas, Les Anciennes liturgies (Paris 1697) 1:525–526]
An edition of the Prône in French and in English, published in Quebec in 1874, after beginning with an instruction on avoiding servile works and attending Sunday Mass, adds a series of petitions:
"We offer Thee our prayers for Thy holy Church… for the peace and tranquility of this country… for widows and orphans…. We beseechthee to protect from all danger pregnant women, that their children may receive the holy Sacrament of Baptism … to preserve the just in a state of grace, to enlighten the mind and change the hearts of sinners … to unite in the bonds of charity all the inhabitants of this parish. And, in order that we may ask of Thee all that is necessary for us, we will offer to Thee the prayer which Jesus Christ Himself has taught us."
The Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Precepts of the Church follow. Finally there is the Collect from the 22d Sunday after Pentecost (in Latin), the names of deceased, the De Profundis, and the prayer Fidelium.
In the United States a vestige of the Prône endured almost to the time of the Second Vatican Council. After the Epistle and Gospel of the day were read in Latin, the celebrant would then mount the pulpit or, where there was no pulpit, stand at the communion rail, make announcements, including the banns of matrimony, read an English translation of the Epistle and Gospel, and deliver a sermon that was often an exposition of the catechism (Creed, Commandments, sacraments, and prayer).
Bibliography: j. carmody, "An American Use of the Prône," Theological Studies 19 (1958) 228–236. j. b molin, "Les Prières du prône en Italie," Ephemerides liturgicae 76 (1962) 39–42. g. oury, "Les Survivances de l'oratio fidelium au XIIe siècle," Revue Grégorienne 40 (1962) 142–148. t. maertens, "Pour un renouveau des prières du prône," Paroisse et Liturgie 43 (1960–61) 21–28, 89–98, 245–252. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. "Prone." e. germain, j. joncheray in Aux Origines du Catéchisme en France (Relais-Desclée, 1989) 106–119; 229–246.
[j. m. carmody/eds.]