Lent and Holy Week

Guidance and Protocols Lent and for Holy Week

February 12, 2021

Most of what follows is guidance and best practices.  The protocols are in bold and italics.

It should be remembered that all of these practices are to be seen in the context of our overall standards:  Masks to be worn at all times covering the mouth and the nose, social distancing to be strictly observed, no congregational singing, no altar servers, and ventilation to be kept at as high a level as possible, and surfaces to be cleaned after each gathering.

Parishes should remain focused on streaming as many of their activities as possible.

During Holy Week services, one adult altar server may participate.  They must wear masks, and every attempt must be made to keep them socially distant as much as possible.

Stations of the Cross

  • Since we are not using missalettes and pamphlets, a format for the Stations of the Cross should be chosen that does not require distributing written material.
  • Those assembled in church to pray the Stations of the Cross should not follow the celebrant around the church, but should remain in their socially-distanced places in the pews, as at Sunday Mass.
  • A number of possible forms of the Stations can be found on the USCCB website: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/stations-of-the-cross
    • An advantage to these forms is that parishioners could use their phones to access the texts.
    • Additionally, parishioners who are following from home on a stream could access those texts.

Palm Sunday

  • Palms can be distributed by a volunteer with disinfected hands taking the Palms directly from the bag.
  • Palms should not be put on a table or a basket for people to take.
  • An announcement should be made that palms should not be left in the pews.
  • Processions should be minimized, and very strict social distancing observed in all processions.
  • Since we are not using missalettes and cannot distribute materials in the pews, the Passion should be read in some format that does not require the use of handouts or missalettes by the congregation, for instance simply including one more lector to read the part of the people where that is called for, or projecting the responses if the parish has the capacity to do that.
  • Attention should be paid to the length of the Mass.

Holy Thursday

  • There should be no washing of the feet.
  • Processions should be minimized, and strict social distancing should be observed in any procession.

Good Friday

  • Since we are not using missalettes and cannot distribute materials in the pews, the Passion should be read in some format that does not require the use of handouts or missalettes by the congregation, for instance simply including one more lector to read the part of the people where that is called for, or projecting the responses if the parish has the capacity to do that.
  • During the Veneration of the Cross
    • It should be made clear that parishioners should not be touching or kissing the Cross.
    • Kneelers or stanchions or some other barrier may be necessary to keep that from happening.
    • Strict social distancing should be observed in the approach to the Cross for veneration.
    • Parishioners may venerate the cross in any way that does not involve touching the cross, such as genuflection or kneeling.
    • The Veneration of the Cross could be done by the whole congregation spending time in silent prayer before the Cross, rather than by approaching it.

Easter Vigil

  • If a parish is celebrating the Easter Vigil outside, Cardinal Sean has given permission for that celebration to begin at 4:00PM. Otherwise, the celebration should begin no earlier than 7:41PM.
  • If there is an outside fire with people around it, the people should be strictly distanced.
  • Congregational tapers are not recommended, as blowing them out is impossible with a mask.
  • The length of the liturgy should be considered in choosing the number of readings.
  • See #23 in the Easter Vigil rubrics, which may work well for you this year: “In place of the responsorial psalm, a period of sacred silence may be observed, in which case the pause after ‘Let us pray’ is omitted.”
  • If catechumens and candidates are being received into the church and are going to be Confirmed, the celebrant should do that safely, checking with his Regional Bishop or Episcopal Vicar if there are any questions.

Choirs and Singing

  1. Due to the nature of Holy Week repertoire, it may be difficult if not impossible to restrain the impulse of people in the congregation to sing. While this familiar music can be included, take care to limit the number of such hymns if possible.
  2. All cantors, pianist/organist/guitarist, and other singers should wear well-fitted masks even while singing. A “well-fitted” mask: 1) has no gaps, 2) fully covers the nose, and 3) is tight around the edges.
  3. During the celebration of Holy Week Masses, a parish could have up to four singers plus the main accompanist (e.g. Organ/Piano/Guitar) and an additional instrument (e.g. Trumpet)
    • Even if the instrumentalists also sing, there should be no more than four singers.
    • There should be a clear instruction that the congregation is not to sing.
    • All musicians must be a minimum of six feet from each other in all directions.
    • Singers must stand in a straight line, all facing one way, and not in the traditional curved formation.
    • It is preferable that the singers be in the choir loft, distanced from each other and masked.  If that is not possible, they should be as far from the congregation as possible.
    • Rehearsal parameters: Because rehearsal involves continuous singing for an extended period of time, unlike the Mass with its intermittent singing, some different considerations come into play
      • Space: Use a very large space with proper airflow and high ceilings, ideally the church itself, a large parish hall or gymnasium. This makes it comparable to singing outside
      • Time: Maximum rehearsal time of 30 minute intervals.
      • Breaks: Take a 20-minute break. All participants must leave the room and allow the air to cycle
    • Any wind instrumentalists should use an appropriate mask for themselves and for their instrument
    • See the Office of Worship Website for further documentation and supporting studies for these protocols:  https://www.bostoncatholic.org/divine-worship.
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