liturgyfaqFrequently Asked Questions on Sacred Liturgy and it’s celebration-1

Liturgy and life are well orchestrated in the great opera of Christian living. A poorly celebrated liturgy impoverishes personal spiritual life of the missionary and his pastoral ministry. Good liturgical formation calls for proper celebration of the rituals and the knowledge of their theological and scriptural foundations. What is leant during initial formation endures for a long time. Here is a FAQ on liturgy collected from the different portals of “The Catholic Liturgical Library”. The answers to some questions are not conclusive and may be a topic still debated. Our interest is to promote deeper understanding of Liturgy and to know the norms of the Church with regard to the different liturgical celebrations.

– Arokiasamy cmf.

Altar Servers Vestments Proper

What vestments should altar servers wear at Mass?

According to the Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 65: “The vestment common to ministers of every rank is the alb, tied at the waist with a cincture, unless it is made to fit without a cincture. An amice should be put on first if the alb does not completely cover the minister’s street clothing at the neck. A surplice may not be substituted for the alb when the chasuble or dalmatic is to be worn or when a stole is used instead of the chasuble or the dalmatic. When a surplice is worn, it must be worn with the cassock.”

The dalmatic and chasuble are only worn by the priest and deacon so the vestments for altar servers are the alb with a cincture or a cassock covered by a surplice.

Commentators, Function of at Mass

What is the role of the commentator and where that role is discussed in the laws of the Church.

This minister provides explanations and commentaries with the purpose of introducing the faithful to the celebration and preparing them to understand it better. The commentator’s remarks must be meticulously prepared and marked by a simple brevity.

In performing this function the commentator stands in a convenient place visible to the faithful, but it is preferred that this not be at the lectern where the Scriptures are read.

Communion for the Sick, Proper Ministers

 Who can distribute Holy Communion to the sick? Can extraordinary ministers clean the pyx?

According to On Certain Questions, issued in 1997, “A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan bishop, using the appropriate form of blessing for these situation, to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad actum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period.” The commentary on the Code of Canon Law says that true necessity constitutes a lack of clerics and a definite need to distribute Holy Communion. If both of these conditions are not met, the practice is illicit.

According to the Notitae #238 “The remarks on the priest, deacon and acolyte [concering permission to clean vessles] are applicable to a special minister who lawfully distributes communion.” Therefore, lawfully appointed extraordinary ministers may clean the pyx. However, it should be remembered that the water used to clean liturgical vessels, if not drunk, is to be poured down the sacrarium.

Communion Under Both Species

The following response is based on our understanding of the documents relating to this topic. There is still much debate about this issue and a definitive answer does not appear to have been given yet.

What are the current rules about communion under both species? It appears that the chalice can be offered to all communicants at any and every mass -is this allowed by current legislation?

 According to the document This Holy and Living Sacrifice published by the National Council of Catholic Bishops in 1984, Holy Communion may be distributed to the faithful under both species in 19 specific circumstances. (n. 20) These include family members at baptisms, the bride and groom at their wedding Mass, and at weekday Masses. What must be remembered is that this list is an expansion of a list in the General Instruction (n. 242) which applies only to groups that are “specific, well-ordered, and homogeneous,” not to normal parishes. Specific examples would include monastic communities and groups on retreat.

That this permission does not extend to parishes in general is found in n. 21 of This Holy and Living Sacrifice. It reads “Communion under both kinds is also permitted at parish and community Masses celebrated on Sundays and holy days of obligation in the dioceses of the United States.” Why would such permission be listed separately from the previous list? It is because the previous list does not apply to parishes, only to special groups.

Further restrictions follow: “Communion under both kinds, however, is not permitted in the following cases:

  1. at Masses celebrated in the open with a great number of communicants (e.g., in a stadium);
  2. at other Masses where the number of communicants is so great as to make it difficult for Communion under both kinds to be given in an orderly and reverent way (e.g., Masses celebrated in a civic square or building that would involve the carrying of the sacred species up and down a number of steps);
  3. at Masses where the assembled congregation is of such a diverse nature that it is difficult to ascertain whether those present have been sufficiently instructed about receiving Communion under both kinds;
  4. when circumstances do not permit the assurance that due reverence can be maintained towards the consecrated wine both during and after the celebration (cf. Inaestimabile donum, 13-14).”

The bishop is allowed to make exceptions for specific events only if all the norms are followed and he has personally reviewed the preparations

Based on these norms, Holy Communion under both species is permitted in parishes on Sundays and holy days of obligation. But there are further considerations now that the document On Certain Questions . . . has been published.

Article eight provides several clear rules concerning the use of extraordinary ministers. First, they are only to be used in extraordinary circumstances, (hence the name). Second, the use of extraordinary ministers is not to be habitual. It must always be remembered that distribution under both kinds is not mandatory so Sunday Masses do not “require” extraordinary ministers. If there is always a shortage of ordinary ministers, distribution under both kinds just does not occur. The bishop might set aside a particular day of special importance where extraordinary ministers are used so that distribution under both species may occur. Reservation of the Precious Blood for such occurrences would emphasize the importance of the celebration, and with proper catechesis, bring the faithful to a greater understanding of the doctrines of the Holy Eucharist.

Dalmatic, Proper Use Of

Is the deacon required, like the priest, to wear an amice under the alb? 2. What is the authority for the use of the dalmatic by a deacon? Why is it used sometimes and not others, and what is the proper basis for deciding?

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), “All who wear an alb should use a cincture and an amice, unless other provision is made.” (n. 81)

“An amice should be put on first if the alb does not completely cover the street clothing at the neck. (n. 298)

These two passages taken together show that the use of the amice (by priest and deacon) is optional but recommended. Msgr. Elliot, in his book Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, comments that “Although it is optional, the amice has a certain hygienic and practical value, especially when priests share the same albs. It absorbs perspiration and is easily laundered.”

According to the GIRM, “. . . for the deacon: alb, stole, and dalmatic; the last may be omitted either out of necessity or for less solemnity;” (n. 81)

“The dalmatic, worn over the alb and stole, is the vestment proper to the deacon.” (n. 300)

The only time that I can see a necessity not to wear a dalmatic is when there are none available. Since the dalmatic is the vestment unique to the deacon, he should wear it as often as possible. The unfortunate trend has been to abandon its use completely.

More solemn occasions would include bishops’ Masses, feasts and solemnities and sung Masses. Even so, there is no reason why a deacon could not always wear the

Deacon, Functions Of

We have the practice of having the deacon say the words: “Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith” which comes after the consecration. Is this correct?

The full rubrics for the role of the deacon can be found in the General Instruction, Chapter IV, Part I b. These rubrics do not allow the deacon to say any part of the Eucharistic Prayer. The Eucharistic Prayer is reserved solely to the priest. Any changes such as this upset the natural hierarchical structure of the liturgy and is an abuse. (Inaestimabile donum, n. 4.)

However, we received the following from a visitor in regards to German law:

The German “Messbuch” which is an authentical edition for liturgical use, edited by order of the Episcopal Conferences of Germany, Austria and Switzerland and the bishops of Lusemburg, Bolzano-Brixen and Liège, from 1975 (2nd edition 1988) says: “Dann spricht oder singt er (oder der Diakon: Geheimnis des Glaubens” (English translation: “Then he [the celebrant] (or the deacon) says or sings: This is a mystery of faith”. The “Messbuch” has gotten the “confirmatum” from the Congregation of Divine Worship on December 10th, 1974 (prot. no. 2330/74) and July 13, 1987 (prot. no. CD 924/87).

Extraordinary Ministers, Receving Communion

Are Extraordinary Ministers allowed to receive communion at the same time as the priest? 

According to On Certain Questions . . ., Article 8, the extraordinary ministers are not to receive Holy Communion apart from the faithful as concelebrants do. Since concelebrants receive Holy Communion at the same time as the celebrant, extraordinary ministers are not to do so. The priest is to distribute communion to each individually.

Purification of Vessels by Extraordinary Ministers

 Is it permissible for extraordinary ministers to purify the sacred vessels after Holy Communion or after Mass?
According to the General Instruction: “The vessels are purified by the priest or else by the deacon or acolyte after the communion or after Mass, if possible at a side table.” (n. 238) The Notitae #238 adds that “The remarks on the priest, deacon and acolyte are applicable to a special minister who lawfully distributes communion.”

Self-Communication From the Chalice

Can extraordinary ministers or the faithful pick up the chalice and give themselves Holy Communion?

Inaestimabile donum, issued in 1980 states that:

9.Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for the purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice; still less that they should hand them from one to another.

10.The faithful, whether religious or lay, who are authorized as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can distribute Communion only when there is no priest, deacon or acolyte, when the priest is impeded by illness or advanced age, or when the number of the faithful going to communion is so large as to make the celebration of Mass excessively long. Accordingly, a reprehensible attitude is shown by those priests who, though present at the celebration, refrain from distributing Communion and leave this task to the laity.

When the U.S. bishops issued the directives for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds in the document This Holy and Living Sacrifice, they reaffirmed this statement:

46. The chalice may never be left on the altar or another place to be picked up by the communicant for self-communication (except in the case of concelebrating bishops or priests), nor may the chalice be passed from one communicant to another. There shall always be a minister of the cup.

 Sunday Celebrations Without a Priest

 Sometimes I am asked to prepare the liturgy when a priest is not available. How should I go about it?

The basic form of a liturgy without a priest is as follows:

  1. An introductory prayer is read followed by the penitential rite.
  2. The readings are read. If there is a deacon, he may read the Gospel and give a homily. If there is not a deacon, the Gospel may be read but only a brief instruction about the readings may be given. The readings may be followed by the Creed and the Prayers of the Faithful.
  3. The Our Father is said and may be followed by the Sign of Peace.
  4. Holy Communion is distributed. If there is a deacon he must distribute Holy Communion. If there is not a deacon, the selection of extraordinary ministers follows this order: Acolytes, Religious, lay ministers.
  5. The prayer after Holy Communion is read and the dismissal is given.

While it is a blessing that it is still possible to receive Holy Communion when a priest is not available (provided there are consecrated hosts available, of course), it is a sorrow that such a situation exists. Pray for more vocations so that such situations may be avoided.

For more detailed instructions please refer to the Book of Rites, Vol. 1 & 2. These books contain all the rites of the Church that are not part of the Mass.


When are we supposed to bow during Mass? Are we to bow at the name of Jesus, Jesus Christ, and Christ?

According to the General Instruction. 234:

  1. A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named to gether and at the name of Jesus, Mary, and the saint in whose honor Mass is celebrated.
  2. A bow of the body is made before the altar, if the blessed sacrament is not present; at the prayers, Almighty God, cleanse, and Lord God, we ask you to receive; in the profession of faith at the words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Roman canon at the words, Almighty God, we pray. The same kind of bow is made by the deacon when he asks the blessing before the gospel. The priest, moreover, bows slightly when he says the words of the Lord at the consecration.

 The GIRM says to bow at the name of Jesus. We have not seen documentation that distinguishes between Jesus and Jesus Christ. Traditionally, bows were made at both and we believe that the rubric covers both phrases. Christ is not Jesus’ name, but rather a title meaning annointed, so one would not bow at this time.

 Kneeling To Receive Holy Communion

Can the faithful legitimately received Holy Communion kneeling?

Yes. Here is a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship responding to this question on 2/26/03: Prot. N. 47/03/L

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter dated 1 December 2002, related to the application of the norms approved by the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America, with the subsequent recognitio of this Congegation, as regards the question of the posture for receiving Holy Communion.

As the authority by virtue of whose recognitio the norm in question has attained the force of law, this Dicastery is competent to specify the manner in which the norm is to be understood for the sake of a proper application. Having received more than a few letters regarding this matter from different locations in the United States of America, the Congregation wishes to ensure that its position on the matter is clear.

To this end, it is perhaps useful to respond to your inquiry by repeating the content of a letter that the Congregation recently addressed to a Bishop in the United States of America from whose Diocese a number of pertinent letters had been received. The letter states: “…while this Congregation gave the recognitio to the norm desired by the Bishops’ Conference of your country that people stand for Holy Communion, this was done on the condition that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. Indeed, the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion.”

This Dicastery hopes that the citation given here will provide an adequate answer to your letter. At the same time, please be assured that the Congregation remains ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again.

Choir, Proper Placement

We have formed a choir at a small rural church. Because there is not enough room at the front of the church or in the sanctuary, we perform from the choir loft. Is this acceptable as far as Vatican II?

There are four main documents that mention the proper location of the choir, none of which say that the choir should be at the front of the church or in the sanctuary.

First, “The choir and organ shall occupy a place clearly showing that the singers and the organist form a part of the united community of the faithful and allowing them best to fulfill their part in the liturgy.” (Inter Oecumenici, n. 97) — 1964

Second, “According to the design of the particular church, the place for the choir is to be such that:

its status as a part of the community with a special function is clearly evident;

the performance of its liturgical ministry is facilitated.

full, that is, sacramental, participation in the Mass remains convenient for each of the members.”

(Musicam Sacram, n. 23) — 1967

Third, “The congregation and the choir should have a place that facilitates their active participation.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n.257) — 1974

Fourth, the Ceremonial of Bishops and 2000 years of Church tradition reserve the sanctuary for the ministers of the Mass: “The sanctuary or chancel, that is, the place where the bishop, presbyters, and ministers carry out their ministries, should be set apart from the body of the church in some way.”

These statements make four requirements concerning the placement of the choir.

The choir is supposed to be part of the worshipping community. Is there anybody who thought that because the choir was in a choir loft the members weren’t really at Mass? Choir lofts do not violate this requirement, in fact, choir lofts support the next requirement that the choir’s location show that it has a special liturgical purpose.

The choir is also supposed to be placed in a location where its participation is facilitated. Choir lofts are built in the best part of a church for this. The choir is elevated, giving it a clear view of everything happening at Mass and the sound (if the church has been constructed properly) carries much better from the loft than some other portion of the church.

The choir is also supposed to be able to participate sacramentally in Mass, i.e., receive Holy Communion. As long as someone can bring Holy Communion to the choir or the choir can get down from the loft there isn’t any problem with the choir being in the loft.

The sanctuary is reserved for the ministers of the Mass. Ministers here refers to bishops, priests, deacons, acolytes, readers and cantors, not to the congregation or the choir.

The reality of the choir is that if it can be seen, it serves as a distraction to the faithful at Mass. The choir is constantly busy, switching pages, taking cues, changing positions and occassionally dropping music. Placing the choir in plain view of everyone is not only a distraction to the faithful, it is a distraction to the choir members who may get flustered when in plain view.

If churches are designed with acoustics in mind, a choir loft is the ideal location for the choir. In many churches, the choir has abandoned the loft to its own detriment. Once the choir is on the floor or in an acoustically unfriendly church or in a place in the church not originally intended for the choir, they are forced to use microphones to avoid being lost. The use of microphones frequently has the effect of drowning out the congregation which already has a difficult enough time being coaxed into singing.

In 1903 Pope Saint Pius X ordered that choirs should be hidden behind screens if they were too noticeable in church. His reasoning is still sound today.

Another consideration to note when placing the choir is that when a choir is in front of the congregation and facing the congregation, it appears that the choir is giving a concert instead of fulfilling its proper role at Mass. Also, if the choir is facing the congregation, it isn’t directing its music towards the proper focal point. In fact, it will have its back to what is most important, namely, the Eucharist.

 All Souls Day Readings

What are the proper readings for November 2, All Souls Day? I have been unable to find a web site that lists the same readings and my parish didn’t use the readings printed in the Missal. Are churches free to use different readings?

For the 1969 Missal:

There are two main options for this feast day’s readings. The first reading can be either Wisdom 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6, 7-9. The second reading can be either Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-24, 25-28. The Gospel can be either St. Matthew 25:31-46 or St. John 11:17-27. It is also permissible to choose readings from the Masses for the Dead. There are several options to choose from which can all be found in a Missal.

For the 1962 Missal:

There are three Masses that can be used on all Soul’s Day. The readings for the first Mass are 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and St. John 5:25-29. The readings for the second Mass are Machabees 12:43-46 and St. John 6:37-40. The Readings for the third Mass are Apocalypse 14:13 and St. John 6:51-55.

All Souls Day, Gloria

What do the rubrics say regarding the use of the Gloria on All Souls Day when the commemoration falls on a Sunday? I have seen the Gloria used in some cases, omitted in others.

According to the Sacramentary “Even when November 2 falls on a Sunday, All Souls Day is celebrated. . . ” The GIRM states that “The Gloria is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, on solemnities and feasts, and at solemn local celebrations.” (no.31) There is no mention in the rubrics of omitting the Gloria on Sunday for All Souls so it should be recited. Also, since All Souls Day is not considered a feast or a solemnity, the Gloria is not mandatory for weekday commemorations of All Souls Day.

Colors, Liturgical

Can blue replace violet as the liturgical color during Advent?

Blue is not a normal liturgical color and has only been given special use in Mexico for Marian feasts and is also frequently used in conjunction with white on Marian feast days elsewhere. Advent is a season of penance, meant to prepare the faithful for the coming of Christ. There is not any document allowing for the replacement of violet with blue during Advent.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

“Traditional usage should be retained for the vestment colors.

a.White is used in the offices and Masses of the Easter and Christmas seasons; on feasts and memorials of the Lord, other than of his passion; on feasts and memorials of Mary, the angels, saints who were not martyrs, All Saints (1 November), John the Baptist (24 June), John the Evangelist (27 December), the Chair of St. Peter (22 February), and the Conversion of St. Paul (25 January).

b.Red is used on Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) and Good Friday, Pentecost, celebrations of the Lord’s passion, birthday feasts of the apostles and evangelists, and celebrations of martyrs.

c.Green is used in the offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.

d.Violet is used in Lent and Advent. It may also be worn in offices and Mass for the dead.

e.Black may be used in Masses for the dead.

f.Rose may be used on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).

The conference of bishops may choose and propose to the Apostolic See adaptations suited to the needs and cultures of peoples.”–n. 308

Easter Vigil, Proper Time

(The following is taken from the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter vol. 37. This statement is not official law, but it is an official explanation of the law.)

During the past thirty years, the BCL Newsletter has addressed the question of the time for the Easter Vigil on several occasions. Each time, the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Roman Calendar, no. 21, has been cited:

“The Easter Vigil, during the holy night when Christ rose from the dead, ranks as the ‘mother of all vigils.’ (Augustine, Sermon 219: PL 38, 1088). Keeping watch, the Church awaits Christ’s resurrection and celebrates it in the sacraments. Accordingly, the entire celebration of this vigil should take place at night, that is, it should either begin after nightfall or end before the dawn of Sunday.”

In 1988, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments addressed this question with greater specificity in its Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts. After repeating the rubric cited above, the Congregation noted that “This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept in many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Masses (no. 78).”

The intention of the Missale Romanum is clear: the Easter Vigil is to take place in darkness. Thus the approved translation of post initium noctis is after nightfall, that is, after the time in the evening when daylight is last visible. This time is roughly equivalent to astronomical twilight, which is defined by the Naval Observatory as the time after which “the Sun does not contribute to sky illumination.” Tables of sunset and astronomical twilight for each locality in the United States are available at the Naval Observatory website.

In Washington, DC, by way of example, sunset will take place at 6:45pm on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2001. However, Astronomical Twilight in the nation’s capital will not occur until 8:21pm, or 96 minutes later. Likewise, sunset in Los Angeles occurs at 6:25pm, but Astronomical Twilight (when “the Sun does not contribute to sky illumination”) occurs at 7:53pm, about 88 minutes later. While some pastoral flexibility concerning the astronomical mathematics of the question is reasonable, it is clearly the intent of the Church that the Easter Vigil not begin until it is dark.

Holy Days of Obligation

When are the Holy Days of Obligation?

For the Novus Ordo rite the Holy Days are as follows:

In Australia:

“The following holy days are to be observed in Australia:

  • The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • the Epiphany,
  • the Ascension of Christ,
  • the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ,
  • the feast of the Assumption of Mary the Mother of God.

When the feast of the Assumption falls on a Saturday or a Monday, no obligation is attached to the feast for that year;

Of these feasts, the Epiphany, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and the feast of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul are transferred to the following Sunday; the feast of the Ascension of Christ is transferred to the 7th Sunday of Easter;

While they are warmly recommended, no obligation is attached to the feasts of Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception and the feasts of St. Joseph, of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul and of all Saints.”

In Canada:

“In accordance with the prescriptions of c. 1246, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops hereby decrees that the holydays of obligation to be observed in Canada are: all Sundays of the year, Christmas Day, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God.

The feasts of the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) will be transferred to the following Sunday.”

In the United States:

“In accord with c. 1246, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the holydays of obligation to be observed in the United States are the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God; the solemnity of the Ascension; the solemnity of the Assumption; the solemnity of All Saints; the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; the solemnity of Christmas. The solemnity of the Epiphany shall be transferred to the first Sunday following January 1st; the solemnity of Corpus Christi shall be observed on the second Sunday following Pentecost. When the solemnities of Mary, Mother of God, the Assumption, and All Saints fall on a Saturday or a Monday they will not be observed as holy days of obligation.”

Ranking of Sundays on the Liturgical Calendar

Are all ordinary Sundays to be treated as Solemnities? We had this problem when some of our churches celebrated the dedication of the Lateran Basilica this year, overriding the Sunday celebration. Is this correct?

According to the table of precedence in the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, a Solemnity of the dedication of a particular church and the anniversary take precedence over Sundays in Ordinary Time.

The entire table of precedence is listed below.


  1. Easter triduum of the Lord’s passion and resurrection.
  2. Christmas,Epiphany,Ascension,andPentecost.

Sundays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season.
Ash Wednesday.
Weekdays of Holy Week from Monday to Thursday inclusive.
Days within the octave of Easter.

3. Solemnities of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and saints listed in the General Calendar.

All Souls.

4. Proper Solemnities, namely:

  1. Solemnity of the principal patron of the place, that is, the city or state.
  2. Solemnity of the dedication of a particular church and the anniversary.
  3. Solemnity of the title, or of the founder, or of the principal patron of a religious order or congregation.


5. Feasts of the Lord in the General Calendar.

6. Sundays of the Christmas season and Sundays in Ordinary Time.

7. Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints in the General Calendar.

8. Proper feasts, namely:

  1. Feast of the principal patron of the diocese.
  2. Feast of the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral.
  3. Feast of the principal patron of a region or province, or a country, or of a wider territory.
  4. Feast of the title, founder, or principle patron of an order or congregation and of a religious province, without prejudice to the directives in no. 4.
  5. Other feasts proper to an individual church.
  6. Other feasts listed in the calendar of a diocese or of a religious order or congregation.

9. Weekdays of Advent from 17 December to 24 December inclusive.
Days within the octave of Christmas.
Weekdays of Lent.


10. Obligatory memorials in the General Calendar.

11. Proper obligatory memorials, namely:

  1. Memorial of a secondary patron of the place, diocese, region, or province, country or wider territory, or of an order or congregation and of a religious province.
  2. Obligatory memorials listed in the calendar of a diocese, or of an order or congregation.

12. Optional memorials; but these may be celebrated even on the days listed in no. 9, in the special manner described by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and of the Liturgy of the Hours.
In the same manner obligatory memorials may be celebrated as optional memorials if they happen to fall on the Lenten weekdays.

13. Weekdays of Advent up to 16 December inclusive.
Weekdays of the Christmas season from 2 January until the Saturday after Epiphany.
Weekdays of the Easter season from Monday after the octave of Easter until the Saturday before Pentecost inclusive.
Weekdays in Ordinary Time.

For the Tridentine Calendar, the following table of precedence is followed:

Sundays are classed as Major (i.e. Greater) Sundays of the 1st or 2nd class; and Minor (i.e. Lesser, or Ordinary) Sundays;

Feasts, as doubles, simples, or commemorations;

Ferias, as major or minor.

The feasts called doubles are subdivided into: 1st class, 2nd class, greater, and lesser.

Each day in the calendar is specifically labeled to make the selection of precedence as simple as possible.

Removing Holy Water During Lent

Can the holy water be removed from fonts during Lent?

No. Here is a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship responding to this question on 3/14/03:

Prot. N. 569/00/L

Dear Father:
This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

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 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 [sic] of her 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).

Veiling of Crucifixes and Statues During Lent

Are statues and crucifixes supposed to be veiled from the fifth Sunday of Lent until Good Friday? If the crucifixes aren’t veiled, what is the point of having an unveiling on Good Friday?

According to the Sacramentary, “The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference decides. The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday. Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter vigil.”

This statement allows the veiling of statues and crucifixes if the Episcopal conference votes in favor of the practice. In a 1995 issue of the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter (official publication for the liturgical committee of the United States), it was stated that the US bishops had never voted on this provision so in the United States at least, this practice is not to be done.

The Sacramentary also states that following the Holy Thursday Mass “the altar is stripped and, if possible, the crosses are removed from the church. It is desirable to cover any crosses which remain in the church.”

In 1988 the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued Paschale Solemnitatis, a new document on the Easter feasts. According to this document, “It is fitting that any crosses in the church be covered with a red or purple veil, unless they have already been veiled on the Saturday before the fifth Sunday of Lent.” (n. 57)

This leaves the decision to cover the crucifixes in the church up to the individual parishes but strongly encourages this tradition.

Even though the veiling of crucifixes is highly recommended and not mandatory, it does not make liturgical sense to have the unveiling of the crucifix on Good Friday if the crucifixes were never covered in the first place.

According to the Ceremonial of Bishops, there are two forms of veneration for Good Friday. The first is the one most often seen where the crucifix is unveiled in steps. The second form is a procession from the church entrance to the sanctuary with an unveiled crucifix. This would be the proper form to use if the crucifixes in the church had never been veiled.

 Active Participation

Where might I get a definition of “Full, conscious and active participation” (Article 13 of The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)? Among other things, our parish has interpreted this as full congregational singing in the vernacular. No Latin music is allowed during the liturgy. The choir (what is left of one) is merely used to lead the singing. This has created serious problems with funeral and wedding liturgies. Certain Latin music is requested by the families (i.e. Schubert’s “Ave Maria”) only to be denied. A group of parishioners have rewritten this masterpiece in english and suggest that it be done in the vernacular instead. Also, the congregation is invited to sing all songs, so there is no place for a requested vocalist to sing. This has alienated some families and even caused some long time parishioners to have weddings or funerals at other parishes. It has also caused many parishioners to leave the parish. A group of us is attempting to have this policy rescinded. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

The phrase “active participation” is one of the most frequently used and most frequently misunderstood phrases used when discussing the liturgy today. The phrase did not magically appear during the Second Vatican Council, it had been used in the past. The first instance of the phrase that I have been able to find when referring to the liturgy is in the document Mediator Dei, written by Pope Pius XII in 1947. Pius the XII encourages people to learn how to use the Roman Missal, sing hymns at Mass, and answering prayers in accordance with liturgical law. He also approves of the “dialogue Mass” where the people respond with the acolytes but warns that such Masses are not to replace the High Mass which by its nature deserves a more solemn attitude. Even though he approves of such forms of active participation he warns that “It is to be observed, also, that they have strayed from the path of truth and right reason who, led away by false opinions, make so much of these accidentals as to presume to assert that without them the Mass cannot fulfill its appointed end.”

Vatican II did not introduce some new idea on this subject, it simply reiterated what Pius XII had already said. The active participation of the people includes fulfilling all the actions that their office calls for whether they are in the choir, acolytes or in the congregation. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 28). The people are also to be “encouraged top take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 30). Nothing changed between the two documents. For a complete list of the gestures and actions of the people see Notitiae 234b.

While the people are to be encouraged to sing, they are not supposed to replace the choir. “The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches.” And further, The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.” Notice that Gregorian chant is to be the primary music of the Mass, followed by polyphony which requires a trained choir to sing it. Latin is not to be abolished from Mass. It is to be the primary language for hymns. Also, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that the people should be able to sing some of the common parts of the Mass, especially the Our Father in Latin. The American bishops have released two documents, “Music in Catholic Worship and “Liturgical Music Today” which are often used as a defense for a completely vernacular, throw out the choir liturgy. “Music in Catholic Worship, while saying many questionable things, does say that “[musicians] must find practical means of preserving and using our rich heritage of Latin chants and motets.”