Use of Instruments during Stations of the Cross in Lent
  • TeresaW
    Posts: 35
    OK so weird question here - what is to be said of using instruments to accompany singing during Stations of the Cross? I'm looking to involve my teens but many don't sing, but do play guitar, violin, sax, and clarinet.

    I honestly don't know where to go on this one.
  • Teresa,

    In Lent we gradually give up good things as we learn to be detached from the world.

    This is why we remove organ during Lent.

    Bad behaviors and such are supposed to be extirpated whenever they are identified.

    So, involve the teens (which are neither necessarily good nor evil). If you have Stations of the Cross outside, I can see a sensible case for using some instrument to accompany the singing, but neither violin nor guitar come to mind in this capacity. Saxophone seems to me wholly inappropriate for liturgical or devotional purposes.
  • 1/ it is permitted, there are no rubrics against it.
    2/ percussive instruments are generally not suitable, or are culturally associated with unsuitable musical styles. But 'the guitar' is a host of different things and different styles.
    Beware swarms of hornets invading from neighbouring threads on this forum. I think if you have a budding Segovia you might try guitar.
    3/ Pop or folk style playing is not suitable with any instrument, IMHO. (for the Stations)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,195
    I am fine with Chris being detached from the world, but it is acceptable to use instruments during Stations of the Cross. Stations is a devotion, not a liturgy. Our bishop even ordered us to divorce Stations from Benediction, which we had been doing consecutively. He said putting a devotion and a liturgy on the same footing was incorrect. It is.

    We remove organ from the mass, that is, except to accompany singing in the standard rite of the western Church, namely the Novus Ordo as mandated by the GIRM. Instruments are acceptable for devotions.
  • Charles,

    It is called the Ordinary Form, not the standard rite. I can not speak for you, but I do not merely absent the organ from Mass because GIRM tells me to do so.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,195
    Stations of the Cross is a devotion, not liturgy. Mass regulations don't apply. GIRM is the law for the Ordinary Form of mass in the U.S. - which is the standard and the majority form found in this country, but you know all that. It is binding law promulgated by lawful and legal authority. Of course if you are Protestant enough, you can ignore it. Protestants do have a history of doing just that. They are also quite good at making up their own laws and making their preferences into law.

    So to TeresaW, the original poster, you are free to use whatever instruments your pastor will allow for Stations.
  • Charles has dealt a coup de grace to this question.
    Yes, Stations not being liturgy, one may use 'whatever instruments your pastor will allow'.
    A sensitive judgment with respect to the 'spirit of the season', though, may and should temper one's choices.
    Use 'what your pastor will allow', but choose to stay within a reasonably, recognisably Lenten ethos.
    Taste is always one's most reliable tutor.
    Thanked by 3CCooze TeresaW CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,195
    For what it's worth, my pastor allows pipe organ.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Usually at our parishes there is a mini parade inside church around the stations of the cross with guitarists sometimes.
  • TeresaW
    Posts: 35
    I was moreso thinking of them being accompaniment, as some are uncomfortable singing. The idea of pop music during Stations makes me sick, so no worries, that will NOT be happening.

    I appreciate the distinction between liturgy and devotion, and I'll see what the pastor has to say. For those who have not heard a saxophone add to a well-written melody or harmony at Mass, it is not secular, and it's beautiful, actually - it plus violin creates a warm sound. I know taste is at stake here for many, but my main concern is actively involving our youth in the life of the church, not creating a perfect musical atmosphere.

    Thanks again, everyone!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I know taste is at stake here for many, but my main concern is actively involving our youth in the life of the church, not creating a perfect musical atmosphere.
    The church is not about creating a perfect musical atmosphere, but preserving a prayerful tradition of music. A huge part of this is not using instruments that are commonly heard in popular music.

    By encouraging this you are setting up a saxophonist to be turned away from the church when they move to another parish. I know this is not your goal.

    Let them not sing - sad because they read music and could enhance the singing because of their abilities. Encourage them to hum. Seriously. Youth don't want things dumbed down for them.

    Catholic high school students with an active music program at Mass have been known to refuse any of this music at Baccalaureate Mass - insisting on doing the music they do on Sundays and definitely not the school music. They are adults and want to be seen as such.

  • A huge part of this is not using instruments that are commonly heard in popular music.


    Bu that standard, the organ, which is frequently heard in ball-parks and cinemas, should not be used either.



    Its not a standard which I attribute any merit to: God should be glorified by our whole lives not just during liturgy. Every tune and every instrument can do this if performed with a right spirit.
  • This is really irksome. (Tiresome, too!)
    It is not the first time that someone has tossed, rather cavalierly, the incidence of the organ's appropriation as an entertainment medium at skating rinks and baseball stadia into our conversations - as if to insinuate that this noble instrument is, actually, ignoble. They might, as well, have tossed in its utter degradation by being adapted as so-called theatre organs by people who have more stupidly anti-creative instincts than brains, sense, or taste - not to mention zero respect for all that is noble in the human species. In such milieux the organ has been gussied up like a prostitute and used for base pleasures.

    The truth is that no other instrument in history has such an existential relationship with Christ, his Church, his people, and his worship as does the organ. None. I'm sure that none here need a rehearsal of the organ's origins at the hands of a Greek engineer in Alexandria in the IIIrd century BC, its vicissitudes at the very top and the very bottom of Roman society - which is to say, as a treasured and highly august attribute of ceremonial surrounding the emperor, and, at the other end, its use in military ceremonial, and its likely very raucous use at the circus. After languishing forgotten in the embattled west, it remained an essential ornament of imperial ceremonial at the Byzantine court, from whence it traveled back to the west as a gift to the the court of Charlemagne, from whence it evolved as a distinctive attribute of liturgical embellishment on 'solemnities', and, finally, every Sunday in major churches and religious houses throughout the west. Its association with royalty and imperial ceremonial were, no doubt, factors in its adoption into the festal adoration of the divine Christ. (Nor is this the only borrowing from imperial ceremonial into Christian worship of the All Holy.) Further, the organ's speech by means of wind, its sustained tone, and the likeness of that tone to the human voice, as well as it being, thus, ideal for sustaining pitch and accompanying singing, could not have been lost on our mediaeval brethren. No other instrument has been or is so owned by Christ's flock, for over a thousand years now, enjoying a unique and profoundly existential relationship with his Church. The organ, dubbed the 'King of Instruments' by Beethoven, is the instrument of the King of kings. And, the Church has spoken: the organ, and only the organ, has been singled out by the Second Vatican Council as most suited for Christian worship. No other instrument gets so much as mentioned. None! (None!)

    One can only wonder where those have been, on what planet they were born, who think of the organ only as it has been prostituted by the dregs of human intelligence.

    (As an analogy on this topic, it occurs to me that, as everyone knows, the holy grail, the ultimate goal, of the alchemist was to turn lead into gold. Many were they, from early classical times throughout the mediaeval era, who devoted their lives to this hopeless end. On the other hand, we seem, now and then, here and there, to be plagued with those who take a perverse pleasure in attempting just the opposite, figuratively speaking, with respect to certain attributes of our 'goodly heritage': namely, that of turning gold into lead.)
    Thanked by 2Reval CHGiffen
  • Reval
    Posts: 148
    For those who have not heard a saxophone add to a well-written melody or harmony at Mass, it is not secular, and it's beautiful, actually - it plus violin creates a warm sound.

    Honestly, could you even hear a violin over a saxophone? Can you hear anything over a sax? I suppose it all depends of the sophistication of your amplification system...(*sigh*)
  • could you even hear a violin over a saxophone?
    Examples of how it actually sounds to us PIPs are rarely posted. These days it is easy to record on a mobile phone from the middle of the congregation. I think it would be illuminating, though care is needed to behave with due decorum.
    This sort of thing is helpful even though not in the midst of the congregation.
  • the stations of the cross with guitarists


    I know that there are people who are anti-guitars but to actually have stations with guitarists on them seems to be going a bit far and tasteless.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,382
    o jeesh... now I am seeing Jesus carrying a guitar!
  • TeresaW
    Posts: 35
    I happen to be working with somewhat timid young musicians, so yes, I can hear the violin still...

    I would not be in exactly the same position working with professionals or amateurs.

    Thank you for your thoughts.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 380
    Get them to sing for the stations!!! Every muso needs to know how to and this could be your great opportunity for them to learn and pray.
    Alternatively pick a feast and let them form a band and hold a party in the parish hall which can include some hymns but at least it isn't a liturgical setting. Liturgy isn't really my favourite place for those instruments. That could be great fun.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,195
    I attended a wedding where a saxophone quartet did the music. It was quite nice, not brazen, loud, raucous or any other negative description one could apply. These were professionals who knew what they were doing and they did it very well. Sounded much better than any guitars I have heard.
    Thanked by 1TeresaW
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,886
    Utterly fascinating, how wickedly twisted such threads as this become, as Jackson intimated (tedious.) The OP wanted advice, not treatises.
    Discretion is (always) the better part of valor.
    PS. What the faithful thrive upon, vis a vis corporate song, is accuracy and stability. I know of many chanting celebrants/warbling "cantors" who are incapable of maintaining pitch and key accuracy, even within a simple chant/hymn/collect.
    If you have a pilot voice who maintains intonation through "Stabat Mater" or whathaveyou, what need is there of instrumental accompaniment, unless it flawlessly and elegantly couches the melody and singing? Otherwise, it will decline to distraction.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 417
    Oh how musical instruments have fallen. At one time, trombones were considered too holy to be used for secular purposes, but I really don't see anyone here suggesting the trombone for any liturgical music.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW TeresaW
  • Interesting, Mr Codova -
    Perhaps something happened to the sackbut on the way to becoming a trombone?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,195
    No, the sackbut sings in the alto section.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,173
    quite good at making up their own laws and making their preferences into law


    Not only the Prots. I know of an Order which claims to "have its customs"--but they are not licit. That Order has lots of churches in the US, all run by "canons."
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,173
    It is not the first time that someone has tossed, rather cavalierly, the incidence of the organ's appropriation as an entertainment medium


    Yes, well, Rembert Weakland, OSB, taught that pipe organs were also used in French whorehouses. We never asked how he knew that.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 380
    @TheresaW what did you decide?
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,344
    have stations with guitarists on them

    Like a fanciful renaissance painting that includes unicorns or something?

    Jesus carrying a guitar

    On His back to Calvary?

    I dont get it.
  • TeresaW
    Posts: 35
    I never had to make this decision, actually, as those kids were unavailable. I think, if done tastefully, we could have used these instruments as accompaniment. But alas, I have no proof to either degree.
    Thanked by 2Jes eft94530