6 Liturgical No-No's During Lent
  • 6 Liturgical No-No's During Lent

    by Jimmy Akin Wednesday, February 13, 2013 8:12 PM Comments (33)

    Should we have holy water in the fonts during Lent or should they turn into little ash trays? What does the Church say?
    Like other liturgical seasons, Lent has its own special rules, and there are certain things that should not be done in Lent.
    Here are 6 of them . . .

    1. Instrumental music with no singing
    In some parishes, instrumental music is used at certain points during Mass. A passage will be played on an organ or on another instrument or instruments, even though nobody is singing.
    But not in Lent (with a few exceptions).
    The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states:
    313. In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.

    2. Singing or saying the Gloria
    Just after Sunday Mass begins, it is common to sing or say the Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest").
    But not on the Sundays of Lent.
    The General Instruction states:
    53. The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) . . . is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.

    3. Singing or saying the Alleleuia before the Gospel
    During most of the year we sing or say the Alleluia before the reading of the Gospel.
    But not in Lent.
    The General Instruction states:
    62. a) The Alleluia is sung in every time of year other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.
    b) During Lent, instead of the Alleluia, the verse before the Gospel as given in the Lectionary is sung. It is also possible to sing another Psalm or Tract, as found in the Graduale.

    4. Flowers on the altar
    It is common for the altar to be decorated with flowers during most of the year (that is, there will be flowers around the altar, though not on top of the altar table itself).
    But not in Lent (with a few exceptions).
    The General Instruction states:
    305. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.

    5. Emptying holy water fonts
    In recent years, some parishes have taken the holy water out of the holy water fonts during Lent. They have even filled them with sand in some cases.
    The idea, they say, is to convey the thought that Lent is a time of spiritual dryness--a "desert" experience--that precedes Easter, in which we refrain from using the sacramental of holy water.
    Despite its popularity in some places, this practice is not permitted.
    It has been the Church's practice to empty the holy water fonts during Triduum, but for a different reason. It is not permitted to have them empty through the whole season of Lent.
    The Congregation for Divine Worship has stated:
    This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:
    1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being "praeter legem" [i.e., "apart from the law"] is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
    2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the sacraments is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church.
    The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday) [3/14/03: Prot. N. 569/00/L].

    6. Veiling crosses and statues before the Fifth Sunday of Lent
    In recent years, some parishes in the United States have veiled or otherwise removed crosses and statues as soon as Lent begins.
    They're jumping the gun.
    This practice is permitted beginning with the Fifth Sunday of Lent, but not before.
    The Roman Missal states:
    In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from this [Fifth] Sunday may be observed.
    Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.
    Notice that the practice is option (the practice "may be observed" not "is to be observed").
    If it is not observed, in a particular parish, from the Fifth Sunday of Lent, there is additional encouragement to do remove or veil crosses after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.
    The rubrics in the Roman Missal for that day state:
    At an appropriate time, the altar is stripped and, if possible, the crosses are removed from the church.
    It is expedient that any crosses which remain in the church be veiled.

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    Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/6-liturgical-no-nos-during-lent/#ixzz2L5ZNRZtw
    Thanked by 2tomboysuze davido
  • (I want to be in the club...secret handshake?)

    Generation Alert! On Ash Wed. I had to have a serious discussion with my instrumentalists about #313....and these are faithful, smart music-school/med-school types who are daily communicants in their early and mid 20s.

    Their generation grew up without these Lenten observances and they didn't - at first- believe me (for a mili-second) and then didn't exactly "get it". I was rather shocked...and actually had to send out a memo! Gads.
  • Had such problems with the World Youth Day Sydney 2008 theme song because the refrain was "Alleluia, Alleluia, recieve the power from the Holy Spirit, Alleluia, Alleluia, recieve the power to be the light unto the world."

    To make matters worse, they also wanted to use this yet again as the Gospel Acclamation.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    TBS, remember that instrumentalists/ensembles should be regarded as "de facto" organists. They aren't prohibited from playing during Lent, they just can't do that cool improvised Kenny G sop. sax solo during a verse. As long as they're "attached" to a sung piece, they are within the letter of the law. But, I must caution, a drum solo in the middle of "With the Lord" don't make the cut. ;-)
    Thanked by 2gregp tomboysuze
  • Wish me luck.

    I'm going to tell my Pastor next week that his request for soft (reaaaally soft) organ music during the communion procession violates the GIRM.

    After he fires me, I'm coming to live with you, Froggy.

    Of course, everything else on Mr. Akin's list are followed at my parish to a tee. But I'm guilty of violating #1 on his list. Guess I'm destined for Hell.
  • Suggest a sung bit of plainchant. English if he's so inclined.
  • #5 was swiftly dealt with this week in our parish--an overzealous older woman who was decorating the church for Lent removed the stoups on Ash Wednesday. They were back in place for Mass this morning.
  • @ Melo - Thanks. That is exactly what we were trying to parse out. So they CAN play on the hymns as long as they are playing along with the singing, then? Hmmm, that is a revelation to me. I did think that the point was not even to use the organ if you didn't have to. No?

    @ Chris - hahaha....did she unscrew them from the wall? More of an "anti-decorator".

  • The use of musical instruments is only to support singing. If you can manage to sing without musical instruments then you should.

    For example, you can just sing the melody line of the hymn on its own. On Ash Wednesday we had an entire chant-only mass with 5 men singing. We had not anticipated that at the 12:30pm daily mass that over 500 people would attend. The Communion Chant wasn't long enough, so we sang "Lord Jesus, think on me" in unison. Thankfully it was printed in the liturgy guide as the hymn after the communion chant for the 7pm Ash Wednesday Mass.

    For the evening mass, it was sung entirely a capella. We even sang the hymn in 4 voices.
  • I just read Bishop Alexander Sample's pastoral letter on sacred music which states, "After the Gloria of Holy Thursday until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil, all music is exclusively vocal."

    Do you all follow this? Our parish has always had the organist during this period, but I think I could work with the choir to do the music acapella.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I think too many are substituting opinion for legislation. The GIRM is clear that instruments can be used to support singing. It doesn't say they have to be used, or can't be used. The rule was never designed to protect us from extremists.
  • @hartleymartin: Our communion processions (depending on attendance and if the priest has another priest, deacon or nun to assist in distribution, as we do NOT use EMHC's for distribution of communion) can last upwards of 7 minutes. As I'm the only organist/cantor, I have to do all of the singing. It gets tiring after 5 Masses every weekend.

    There's a little saying that goes something like, Don't let the better be the enemy of the good. As playing the organ softly during communion is the only time the organ is used as a solo instrument during Lent in my parish, otherwise it is shut off after the Gloria on Holy Thursday and not used again until the Gloria at the Vigil, it seems to me that this cannot be considered the highest sin in the kalendar.

    Would I like to bring this aspect of our Lenten liturgies into conformity? Absolutely. Is it the hill I'm prepared to die on? Absolutely not.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I also wanted to help the congregation understand why organ solo is not heard during Lent, so I posted a little note in the Sunday bulletin.(below)
    Brick by brick... I know some don't care, nor read the bulletin, but I know there are others who appreciate it, and I just have to keep trying what I can.

    Music Ministry Corner♫
    Silence in Holy Mass during Lent

    During Lent, the priest wears purple vestment, the color for the penitential season, and the sanctuary is quite ‘bare’ without flowers until Easter. We also have more silence during the Holy Mass in Lent than in Ordinary time. The organ is suppressed. It’s used only to support the singing, and there will be no organ solo in accordance with the Church’s instructions. This will allow us to pray more quietly and listen to His voice, thus preparing ourselves to participate more fully in the joyful celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection.

    Wishing everyone a blessed Lent!

    -Mia Coyne
    Director of Sacred Music

  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 468
    The good news is that the empty water fonts seems to be a disappearing practice. They had it and stopped doing it when I lived in Michigan. They had it and stopped doing it when I lived in Virginia. And now here in Buffalo I'm in a place frankly very likely to do it, and they don't. Just anecdotal I know, but encouraging.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Here's the deal:
    Doing Rite of Election yesterday afternoon with relatively (one year) new bishop. I like his carriage and bearing, having provided music for services over which he presided about five times, three this last month alone. But he has some trouble making liturgical praxis decisions prior to the service. The ordo yesterday specifically called for a concluding hymn and a "meet and greet" in another building on campus. Literally five minutes before the SEP Introit (cheers, congregationally sung with verve!) I'm notified that the "meet and greet" will be in the church, thus truncating the hymn. And he wants "soft organ music" wafting during the procession of the folk to the handshakes and snapshots. Fine. He's the boss. To echo my earnest friend, David in MI, I'm not dying on that hill.
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    CharlesW: "I think too many are substituting opinion for legislation."

    And substituting legislation for good judgment. But that's business as usual here.
  • Really, friends, it's not about throwing yourself to the lions - it's about trying to communicate with your pastor about what he expects from you in the liturgy.

    If you play softly during communion in Lent, does he hear that and say to himself, "I should have told Sylvia that I prefer not to have the organ played because I like the tradition of silence." but then decides not to because the last organist he had threw a screaming fit and refused to play the organ for singing at all during Lent, even on Sundays. And that resulted in an onslaught of Monday Morning Calls to the Rectory.

    IF you do not talk with Father about the music in the liturgy and he does not talk to you about music in the liturgy, any change you make ends up in MMCR. And can also become MMCC (Chancery) and then Father gets calls from the Chancery about what you are doing.

    Many priests who "know better" have accepted the status quo - non-catholic music directors and organists - and have thrown in the towel after battling to get rid of popular music at weddings....
    Thanked by 2Ally CHGiffen
  • Ally
    Posts: 227
    My pastor asked for some quiet organ music instead of a hymn at the end of Ash Wednesday. I just asked very politely, "Would it be alright if the choir sang alone instead? They have something prepared." He said sure. I have tried other times to quote documents, although politely, and it doesn't work because he will say it he prefers it differently. So this time I skipped that part altogether, and just asked.
    And the choir was great - just Attende Domine, and people really liked it too.

    I think you can ask questions, (like "can I try this instead?") but just not question him publicly, then he will understand that you are still being obedient.
  • Nicely done, Ally!

    I've always felt that mentioning the latin name of a liturgical document immediately causes people to close their years as also does mentioning the document. Your approach is wonderful!

    Most priests do not read or understand Latin and I am sure feel inferior because of this lack in their training, so when we say, "Musicam.........." may put us in the position of possibly knowing more than they do...

    The rules are NOT important. What they intend is.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Silence during Mass. Just try it. All of you. Even if it takes 7 minutes.

    I've found it exceedingly edifying, and a difficult spiritual practice.

    If you don't like it, doodle away next Lent.
    Thanked by 2tomboysuze CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 5,005

    One need not limit a cappella singing to Lent. Indeed, I believe there is enormous merit in a primary filter for music programming being music that can be sung well and sound good without any accompaniment.
    Thanked by 2Gavin CHGiffen
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Of necessity, we have sung a cappella for the past five years. Although it means that our mistakes hang out there for all the world to see, it also means that we are forced to get better and more confident over time. With the congregation, there are two things that I've noticed because of this: one, they are quieter, and two, the kids are able to hear the singing and pick it up. About a third of our congregation is under the age of 12, and we frequently have toddlers singing away with a Kyrie, Alleluia, or Amen. I tell my schola that they are the real future: the ones who will grow up knowing the sung dialogues by heart, and the Mass Ordinaries of Masses I, IV, VIII, IX, XI, and XVII at least.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,460
    forced to get better and more confident over time


    All choirs and congregations should sing a Capella with at least some regularity.
    Thanked by 2tomboysuze CHGiffen
  • Gavin, I have been there, and done exactly that. Last year, Father said half-way through the season that the silence was a problem for various reasons I won't explain here.

    I do what I can to be obedient to him; I also do what I can to be faithful to the Mind of the Church. At some point we must live in the "thin places" between orthopraxis and the practicalities of moving priest and people in the direction we have come to understand as the one preferred by the Church.

    For the most part, things in my parish are far more orthodox than in pretty much any parish I've served throughout my career as a sacred musician in the Catholic Church. Were it not so, I wouldn't be able to say that I've been there for going on 4 years.

    I know that my position in this matter may appear contradictory to other comments I've made regarding standing firm on the principles of the CMAA as against the progressives and liberals, but in this case I think that the question of solo organ music as prescribed in the current discussion is not the rabbit hole I would intentionally jump down. I have no doubt that there are many parishes that are meeting with great success in catechising the Faithful of the parish in these matters, and I salute them. And I certainly appreciate the need to keep these issues in the forefront and encourage others to continue improving and influencing improvement wherever possible.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I am sure that nobody's salvation rests on whether or not they played the organ during Lent. It is just not up there with truly important things.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The priest signs the checks of course, so if one doesn't like what the priest wants, one looks for other work. As I said, I think everyone ought to give it a try. If it didn't work for your church, you learned something, but at least you tried it without just harumphing it out of hand! Certainly, given what I've heard about your church, I hardly think that a bit of filler is going to ruin the whole Mass.

    But as I said, it deserves a try. I'm not saying everyone HAS to do it (I'll leave that to the GIRM and the legalist busybodies). But I am saying everyone HAS to TRY it at least once in their life.
    Thanked by 2miacoyne CHGiffen
  • TCJ
    Posts: 977
    I've tried silence before. Actually, I'm rather partial to it because it gives me a break!
  • In vain one looks for the altruistic only to find hedonism.

    From the Liturgy of St James of Jerusalem:
    Let all mortal flesh keep SILENCE...
    We can sing about it, but, pray, let us not have to observe it.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen eft94530
  • I limit myself to no postlude, a short intonation before hymns and a soft (spanish renaissance) organ piece for communion.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I follow what is in the GIRM regarding organ playing during Lent. But if I worked for a pastor who asked otherwise, I would do as he requested without losing any sleep over it. Options are great, if you have them.
  • All the abovementioned rules are observed . I pull back a bit: hymns are on the piano...less choral...more chant... the organ is used only for the ordinary, except for the Kyrie, which is recited or chanted..

    But what about soft instrumental music during confession, right before evening prayer ? Is that permitted ? My Pastor does not have a problem with it, but I am curious.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,306
    If I understand things correctly, if confession is going on "right before evening prayer", then it is most definitely outside of Mass and the GIRM and Musicam Sacram don't apply.

    I would tell you to play soft instrumental music during confessions with a clear conscience. :)
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • My conscience was very clear. lol.. thanks...
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • frogman noel has very informative post, thanks for you post...
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • @ David Andrew

    I feel for you having to be organist and cantor at the same time. I've done it and I know that it isn't fun. As if it isn't enough having to play, keeping one eye on the music and another on the sanctuary, singing at the same time is no fun at all.

    I hope that you will have some success in recruiting some cantors to help you. I don't have the commitment of 5 Sunday masses (that must be a real marathon!) And when I do play, I have the luxry of a cantor 9/10 times though, I've only twice in the past two years had the luxury of a registrant - most organs I play have no pistons or combination pedals.

    If following the sense of the law rather than the letter, quiet, sombre music during communion at least reflects the sense of the lenten season.
  • Hartleymartin (and others):

    This is a very lengthy response, the punchline of which is I don't really have anyone in the parish to call upon to serve as a cantor.

    Here is the longer answer, and a question to ponder:

    Over the last 3 (nearly 4 now) years at my current parish, I have more and more felt like Sisyphus trying to roll that boulder up the hill. With each new program year I find myself trying to rebuild the program, and each year it is almost entirely from scratch. Worse, there was never in the history of the music of my parish any kind of consistency with respect to membership or rehearsal expectations, in scheduling or even in frequency. The choir meets and rehearses for a period of time before each major Feast, but not on a regular Sunday basis. The "high Mass" of the parish at 10 AM was the one with the large choir, and after 1970 it was changed from Latin to Polish. The choir may have had regular rehearsals at one point, but over time it seems that the Polish choir stopped rehearsing, and an English-language choir was formed to sing for Christmas Midnight, Triduum and Easter, May Procession, Forty Hours, and the like. As it stands now, the Polish choir is unwilling to commit to any kind of a rehearsal schedule, and prefer to sing the way they always have - loudly, to the melodies, rhythms and harmonies they grew up with.

    More recent history reveals that 1) my predecessor (or, more accurately the previous MD who was there for 15-plus years, as my immediate predecessor was only on staff for a few months and was kind enough to recommend me to the post) was essentially self-trained as an organist and choir director in the stereotypical "Polish Village" tradition, and although his personal tastes in music were vast, between his lack of understanding of what he was doing and several personal failings, he did little to build or nurture a long-term vision or appreciation for a musical legacy. He just went on like everyone else prior to him had, with no real program-building concept. By the time I inherited the program, many of the "old guard" had aged-out or passed away, and there was no vehicle in place for passing the program on to the next generation. As the culture base of the parish (indeed of the town) has dwindled and the culture war generally has waged on, fewer and fewer people have come forward with a willingness to commit to the kind of work necessary to maintain, let alone build, a thriving sacred music program. And, equally unfortunate, there are those who are willing to participate, but always on their own terms, both musically and in time commitment. There is an ideology among Polish musicians in my neck of the woods that says, "louder is better, and louder with lots of vibrato is best of all." You can do nothing to remove this notion, and every time I've tried the people who were the worst offenders would improve for a time, and then slip back into their bad habits.

    There are no young people to speak of with any interest in participating in the music of the parish, and those who do have musical interests have been secunded by the local high school choral director who runs a very extensive and competitive program, and is very territorial. Despite my best efforts to be collegial she has essentially horded the resources, if you will. Two years ago, the Archdiocese in her infinite wisdom saw fit to force the closure of our school, the last remaining Polish-American K-through-12 private school in the entire diocese. With the flight of the students to other schools, so too the parents, who may or may not have had any true sense of loyalty or commitment to the parish, have disappeared as well and other programs that relied on their participation have dwindled.

    Additionally, with first the closure of the school, and now the pending merger of our parish with another that we've been clustered with, the Pastor is rather beleaguered and while he's always been very supportive and complementary of my work, is suffering from his own kind of entropy. The problem with the music program, I fear, is simply a symptom of a much more serious, pernicious and ultimately terminal illness.

    As I prepare for the first rehearsal of Lent, I wonder how many will (or will not) show up for rehearsal, and feel like I'm rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    The band plays on, but I'm not sure for how long.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    David Andrew :

    I know exactly what you are dealing with, for I have dealt with it as well; in fact, my story would be exactly like your's save for the changing of names. You should see my first copy of Spiewnik Stulicia; all kinds of rhythmic markings to turn 3/4 to 4/4 and 4/4 to 6/8 : for some hymns, I've ditched this book and gone back to the 1890 Spiewnik Koscielnie. Gorzkie Zale was always as much fun as a kidney infection, with every person singing a different version of the tune - none of which matched any of the FOUR Polish hymnals!

    Thankfully, I've gotten them to commit to rehearsals, and everyone is now on the same page - partly due to the "Biological Solution". But the question of How much longer can this be sustained with almost no recruitment? is on my mind every Christmas and Lent. The quality of the music program is improving by leaps and bounds - but the quantity of singers is not; but, I suppose having a core group of committed people is a good thing to have...

    Good luck and best wishes.

    Pan Henry R Gaida
    Director of Music
    Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish
    Turners Falls, MA