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A Pre-Lent Checklist

by Gary D. Penkala

Here's a Pre-Lent liturgical checklist — planning for the season and beyond.

Priests

  • Have you read the rubrics for Lent and Holy Week as contained in the new Missal? They now incorporate what previously was found only in the Circular Letter.
     
  • There is no Penitential Act on Ash Wednesday; the Distribution of Ashes takes the place of this.
     
  • Our Liturgical Planning pages have the Orations [Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Prayer after Communon] pointed to show how they are sung using the Solemn Tone from the Missal, which is paradoxically easier than the Simple Tone. Check out the Liturgical Information, the [L] button, for each Sunday.
     
  • Are you singing the Prefaces? Audio files of all the Prefaces of Lent and Holy Week are available online here.
     
  • Did you know that there is a tradition of beginning Mass on the First Sunday of Lent with a procession and the Litany of the Saints. See the bottom of this page.
     
  • Will you do something to make the Fourth Sunday of Lent [Laetare Sunday] different from the others?
     
  • Did you realize that statues and crosses can be covered on the Fifth Sunday of Lent [the former "Passion Sunday"]?
     
  • Are you practicing the new versicle for the Showing of the Holy Cross on Good Friday, "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world"? Your congregation should know their correct response with music as found in the Missal — that means you need to sing your part correctly for them to respond appropriately. Better get busy!
     
  • If there's no deacon in your parish who sings, have you looked ahead at the new text and music for the Exsultet? A great resource is available here. Take this CD to your car for trips and commutes, or to your office or your study. Sing along and learn the new Exsultet quickly. Both Long Form and Short Form are available in two keys [high and low], to accommodate all situations and voices.

Deacons

  • Have you read the rubrics for Lent and Holy Week as contained in the new Missal? They now incorporate what previously was found only in the Circular Letter.
     
  • There is no Penitential Act on Ash Wednesday; the Distribution of Ashes takes the place of this.
     
  • Are you using various options for the Dismissal, perferably sung?
    • Go forth, the Mass is ended.
    • Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
    • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life.
    • Go in peace.

  • Are you practicing the new versicle for the Lucernarium at the Easter Vigil, "The Light of Christ"?
     
  • The Exsultet has new text and music! That means the process of learning this exquisitely beautiful liturgical poetry must begin again. A great resource is available here. Take this CD to your car for trips and commutes, or to your office or your study. Sing along and learn the new Exsultet quickly. Both Long Form and Short Form are available in two keys [high and low], to accommodate all situations and voices. Enjoy the newly-corrected text, which brings back mention of those industrious little bees, whose hard work allows us to enjoy the majestic wax candle about which you confidently sing!

Music Directors / Choir Directors / Liturgists

  • Have you read the rubrics for Lent and Holy Week as contained in the new Missal? They now incorporate what previously was found only in the Circular Letter.
     
  • Are you starting to use some of the Propers in your Masses? These are the texts that the Church wants us to sing. Lent may be a perfect time to start introducing some of these. CNP has some very simple resources here.
     
  • There is no Penitential Act on Ash Wednesday; the Distribution of Ashes takes the place of this.
     
  • What are you doing so that your congregation learns the correct Preface Dialogue music?
     
  • Did you know that there is a tradition of beginning Mass on the First Sunday of Lent with a procession and the Litany of the Saints. See the bottom of this page.
     
  • Will you do something to make the Fourth Sunday of Lent [Laetare Sunday] different from the others?
     
  • Unify the Liturgy of the Word during Holy Week with common music from Responsorial Psalms & Gospel Acclamations for Holy Week
     
  • Have you considered singing the poignant Reproaches on Good Friday? We have two easy a cappella versions, one by James Morrison, one by Gary Penkala.
     
  • Can your choir handle SATB psalm refrains and verses? Here's a set for the Easter Vigil.
     
  • Are you aware that the text and music for some of the responses in the Litany of the Saints for the Easter Vigil have changed in the official version found in the Roman Missal?
    • Lord, deliver us, we pray.
    • Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer.
    • Christ, graciously hear us.
    And shouldn't we be singing this official version of the litany with our congregations over someone's "creative paraphrase"?

Cantors

  • Have you read and prayed over the psalms you'll sing during Lent and Holy Week?
     
  • Do you know the Common Psalms of Lent?
  • Have you prepared some so you can sing them at a moment's notice?
     
  • Are you willing to move away from the microphone a bit and let the congregation hear themsleves sing?
     
  • What about asking the organist to do a verse of one of the Lenten hymns without any accompaniment? You might even do an entire hymn, like the Closing Hymn, a cappella each week of Lent. Beyond just the refreshing change, that helps the congregation get used to singing without the organ — a skill to be fully engaged on Good Friday.

Choir Members

  • As one of your Lenten practices, why not vow to be on time and fully attentive at every choir rehearsal?
     
  • Make plans to work on at least one choral technique this Lent:
    • Proper, deep breathing
    • Precise enunciation
    • Good vowel production
    • Watching the director as much as possible

  • Instigate a movement to sing some more Latin. How about Parce Domine or Attende Domine for Lent; or Pange lingua for Holy Thursday; or Crux fidelis for Good Friday; and the Litany of the Saints for the Easter Vigil is beautiful chanted in Latin.

Organists

  • It took me many years to reach this point of submission, but are you finally willing to acceed to the Church's wishes and give up your preludes, offertories, communions and postludes during Lent? I submit that the time is upon us to stop making excuses — and I've made them all myself ("There are so many wonderful Bach chorale preludes on Lenten hymns," "It's too awkward before/after Mass — or too noisy," "I feel like I have to do something between Ash Wednesday and Easter"). Actually, I've grown very comfortable with the idea of holding off on solo organ music during Lent. It makes Laetare Sunday different from the other four Sunday of Lent, and the Great Easter Vigil is vividly exciting! You, too, can do it. Come on, you know you can!
     
  • Even when the organ does play — on Laetare Sunday — it should still be Lenten music. Don't anticipate the festivites of Easter quite yet.
     
  • Do some verse of the Lenten hymns without accompaniment; perhaps even a complete hymn (like the Closing Hymn). This is a great way to get the congregation used to singing alone — something they should be doing on Good Friday. Warn the cantor and choir director first.
     
  • Wouldn't a short organ fanfare before the Gloria at the Easter Vigil be fantastic! What a great way to welcome back this fine instrument after its total absence from Holy Thursday onward and a way to bolster the congregational singing as the church lights are turned on fully and the altar candles are lit.

Let's make this Lent and Holy Week faithful ... and by the book!

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