Our parish has recently begun celebrating the EF. Have assisted in choir before but concerned I may not be doing so correctly. My parochial vicar will be celebrating a sung Mass on the Solemnity of St. Joseph this weekend. Can you recommend any online source that spells out the proper posture and biretta usage for priests in choir?
First, it’s great to hear that you have a Missa Cantata for wonderful St. Joseph! And it is also great that you, the pastor, are participating. Thanks for that! Soon it will be your turn, I hope.
I’ve written a few times here about “birettaquette”. Here is a distillation of the main points. Once you get the basic principles, it’s easy.
- Carry the biretta in procession (unless you are outside and you aren’t carrying a relic or monstrance, etc.).
- Only the sacred ministers wear it indoors when walking. Carry it during entrance procession and recessional.
- Wear it when seated. If it has 3 horns, the middle one is to the right, the hand you use to uncover and cover. More on that later.
- Remove it BEFORE standing. Re-cover only when seated again. IMPORTANT
- Never wear it kneeling.
- Uncover at the Holy Name by removing the biretta and lowering it to your right knee. It is good for clerics to agree beforehand, or find out the local custom, about what to do when preachers are promiscuous with the Holy Name. Commonly they uncover fully to the knee a couple times, tip on the third mention, and then do nothing after that.
- Tip it in return if ministers bow to your direction as they pass before you or if they are heading to point X across the sanctuary and make the usual honorific bows.
- Put it on correctly! If it is a three-horned biretta, what Italians call a “tricorno”, the middle “horn” goes to the right side of your head so you remove and cover using your right hand. DON’T use both hands. It’s not a football helmet.
- Servers should always offer the biretta so that the priest can grasp that middle “horn” and easily don the gear.
- When standing, hold the biretta with hands before your chest, using both hands, holding the bottom edge so that the biretta is above your hands.
- If in procession you are carrying a book (such as your Breviary), hold the book upright with the pages open to the left, binding to right, and hook the top of the biretta in your lower fingers below the book.
- Hold the biretta before your chest as described above when standing, when orations are sung, the Gospel is sung, you are being incensed, the blessing at the end, etc.
- Do not…not… sit on it! IMPORTANT
There are some fast tips for your birettiquette!
If you are looking for berettaquette, that’s a different pot of beans.
For posture, a general rule of thumb is stand when the celebrant stands.
- During the Confiteor – kneel
- When the Celebrant ascends the altar – stand
- When the Celebrant sits – sit
- When the Celebrant rises – stand
- Epistle – sit
- Gospel – stand
- Sermon – sit
- When the Celebrant goes to altar or chair after sermon – stand
- At Offertory Oremus – sit
- When minister comes to incense you – stand
- Sanctus – kneel
- After elevation of the chalice (varies with the country – USA remain kneeling – if other clergy stand, then stand as you please)
- After Communion – sit (kneel when Blessed Sacrament passes by on the way back to the altar)
- Closing of tabernacle – sit
- Dominus vobiscum – stand
- Blessing – kneel
- Last Gospel – Stand
I hope this helps a little.
Relax. Again, once the theory is grasped, it’s easy. And, repeat iuvant! Have many more of these Masses and invite all the brethren to be in choro and feed them afterward with very clerical meals.