Wash DC: Sunday Vespers during Lent

From a reader:

Sung Vespers will be held at 4 PM on the Sundays of Lent at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, followed by the regularly scheduled 4:30 Mass. 

The first two Sundays of Lent, Vespers will be held in the Crypt Church.  It will be help in the Great Upper Church the Remaining Sundays.  This was done during advent as well, and may become a year-round event depending on the turnout.

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  1. TNCath says:

    I have noticed that the liturgies at the National Shrine have improved significantly the last three or four years. I’m still waiting for them to use main altar under the baldachino, preferably ad orientem, but, yes, one thing at a time–brick by brick! I noticed at this year’s Mass for Life, the choir finally returned to the choir loft! They used to be behind the portable altar and behind the celebrant. So annoying!

    If EWTN carries it, I will be sure to tune in.

  2. Dan says:

    Does anyone know if Vespers will be chanted in its proper language, Latin?

  3. Chris says:

    You think things have improved there? It’s still awful.

    There is an unpublicized TLM every Wednesday at 11:10 a.m. in the Lourdes Chapel. Now that is worth the drive to the Basillica.

  4. cuaguy says:

    If it is the same as Advent, only the Magnificat will be in Latin. From what In understand, as this was my first year doing the March for life, the choir was always in the loft, due to the large number of con-celebrants. However, for the regularly scheduled Choral mass, they are still behind the Altar.

  5. Mark M says:


    I did email before but maybe it got ate up in your spam filter. Would you be able to alert readers to this:

    new Gregorian Chant Schola in Scotland

    Plans have been made for a schola to sing and promote Gregorian chant within the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. This will be a male choir which will meet on a Thursday evening in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, for sung Latin Vespers and rehearsal with half a dozen chanted Masses spread among the deaneries each year. The first public Vespers is anticipated for Thursday 19th March, the Solemnity of St Joseph.

    Anyone who is interested in joining the schola or supporting this increasingly popular music of the Church should visit edinburghschola.blogspot.com or telephone 07786 146 456 for more details.

  6. Sid says:

    Glad to see Solemn Vespers making a comeback in the USA. I’ve attended such Vespers at San Pietro in Vaticano and San Marco in Venice. Both excellent, both OF, both with the Cannons in coro, and San Marco ends with a sublime procession with the Litany of the Virgin to a haunting chant.

  7. EJ says:

    Any thing will be an improvement over the once-yearly awful Vespers celebration in St. Matthew’s Cathedral for Gaudete Sunday – I hope things at the Shrine will be a little more tastefully done, with the choir and not just a lone solo performance by a cantor at the ambo.

  8. There is an unpublicized TLM every Wednesday at 11:10 a.m. in the Lourdes Chapel.

    Odd that it’s unpublicized. Is it some sort of “private Mass” celebrated by a priest that is open to interested members of the public?

  9. Chris says:

    Yes, Rich. The students ask for it and a priest says it, but the Basilica is still filled with liberals who are hateful toward tradition. Anyone can come, but they can’t publicize it.

  10. Petrus says:


    Not everybody at the Shrine is liberal and hateful of tradition. The Bookstore has a solid selection of traditional books. Some of the employees can be of the liberal slant, but some of the priests/workers are solid folks.

  11. Chris says:

    Well Petrus, we’ll agree to disagree.

    The stores inside the Basillica are awful. They play “Christian rock” and have a terrible selection of anything. Forget traditional — that’s not happening. At best you get some neo-con selections but even that is slim pickens.

    I’ve talk to enough people there over the years to know their slant. I’m not just making statements off of one trip up there.

  12. Tom in NY says:

    BNSIC poses a problem for musicians – a long delay from the main choir loft. It can be several seconds, more than enough to spoil the music for the faithful. That’s why you’ll see a number of organs. Since the sanctuary is large, there’s room there for the ministers, an orchestra and a choir – and they’re close enough to be coordinated.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  13. kat says:

    We might go to the TLM on Wed mornings at the Shrine after Baby Sunshine is born (2 weeks to go!), but it would mean giving up on school for the day. I haven’t taken the little boys (2,4) to Mass since the whole “children at Mass” post a few weeks back.

    The bookstore does have a teeny-tiny-itsy-bitsy selection of TLM books, maybe 5. the kid’s department is pretty good, but we have most of their best already. I’m looking for a TLM children’s missal that is between the St. Joseph missal from Neumann Press and an adult missal.

  14. JohnMa says:


    Will they have that Mass this Wednesday and distribute ashes?

  15. Chris says:

    JohnMa, I am told yes, father will give ashes then have Mass.

    Always best to call the office of liturgy that morning just to make sure. You never know if he gets sick at the last moment.

    St. Mary’s, of course, will have traditional ashes and TLM at 7:30 p.m. if you can’t make it.

  16. JohnMa says:

    Chris, thanks! I live 3 blocks from St. Mary’s and attend Mass there weekly, but might not be able to make the 7:30 Mass so was glad to hear that there might be another option. Thanks for your help!

  17. Petrus says:

    Chris: The Bookstore carries a large selection of books from Tan, Angelus Press, Ignatius, Roman Catholic Books as well as the full line from Baronius. Regarding the music, The Priests have been playing for at least the past month. They do not play “rock” at all.

    You also have to realize that not every title they carry can be 100% conservative. People from all walks go there and they try to have a wide ranging seelction. Also the upper management does not like conservatism to be at the forefront.

    And I work there, not in the Bookstore, but in the Shrine.

    Regarding the Gift Shop, I do agree most of their stuff is junk.

  18. Vincent S. says:

    Being a DC resident who also lives close to the Shrine, I must dissent from the characterization of the Shrine shops presented by Chris. Are they perfect? No. But come on. Yes, they have the St. Louis Jesuits and Christian rock in their CD section. But they also have plenty of chant and classical composers. They have more recent authors and materials related to the Novus Ordo, but they also have plenty of older works (a whole section on Fulton Sheen), including reprints of classical works by publishers like TAN books. And yes, at various times in the last six months I have seen the St. Andrew’s Missal, St. Joseph’s Missal, Baronius Press Missal, Angelus Press Missal, and the Fr. Lasance Missal. In addition there are books on learning to serve in the extraordinary form, and the spirituality of the Mass. On the gift shop side I’m not sure what precisely is missing from their wide assortment of traditional devotional items.

    The Shrine is a destination for pilgrims who come from all across the country. It needs to have a broad array of items. My point is that it is not lacking in items that might appeal to the traditionally-minded. I wish there were more TLM’s there, but I think the quality of liturgies in general has improved over the past 7 or 8 years I’ve been here.

    PS – I should also note that I have not seen works by the likes of Richard McBrien, Garry Wills, et al., the books most commonly found in Borders/Barnes and Noble, etc.

  19. PxFalcon says:

    As a CUA student who frequents the Shrine, I do wonder about possible misrepresentation offered by Chris regarding the normal posting of schedules at the Shrine. Normally, as has been my experience at least, I didn’t think they posted any schedules beyond major Masses or regular Shrine Masses. I don’t remember seeing the Blue Army Masses posted regularly, though I could be wrong about this. I think it’s a non sequitur from this point to say that the Shrine is therefore against the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Also, I would ask that any such characterization of the employees be checked, since I know a few personally and have never gotten that impression from them. This Mass is a private Mass by a priest in two of my classes, so I have a little bit of information on the Mass. It is a private Mass, though all CUA students are welcome from what I know. I have seen no animosity towards the Extraordinary Form of the Mass from any employees so far, but perhaps I do not interact with them enough.

    That said, I think the sung Vespers partly in English and partly in Latin are very tastefully and correctly done. The choir and people switch off and I haven’t been to any monasteries that do it better. Perhaps sometimes the choir is a little thin, but otherwise they are good. If what Petrus says is true and they do extend the Vespers throughout the year, I believe that they will only get better.

    I am definitely looking forward to them, and wonder why they didn’t schedule them for Ash Wednesday as well.

  20. Antiquarian says:

    I would also remind Chris and others who criticize the Shrine, its employees and even its shops (!) that the FSSP was welcomed there last year for an EF Mass as part of its pilgrimage walk.

    There are many events there that are not “publicized” widely, and I don’t think that is a display of animosity on anyone’s part. And the last time I was in the bookshop (which has a wider selection than the gift shop on the other side) I bought a volume of St John Bosco’s dreams and a CD of Palestrina motets. Too bad I now find that such material is “neo-con at best.”

  21. cuaguy says:


    From what I understand, the reason that Vespers were not scheduled for Ash Wednesday is the same reason that they are not yet year-round. They are in a “trial basis” per say, and most of the servers are students, so having them before the 5:15 mass would mean that they would need servers who are out of class at that time.

  22. Ken says:

    We can probably all agree the Shrine has IMPROVED since the motu proprio. Don’t forget, this is the place that kicked the FSSP out not once, but twice, during pilgrimages pre-motu proprio — both times when the Fraternity thought they had an agreement to say the TLM there. Both times they had to go to the nearby Franciscan Monastery to do their praying.

    Also, let’s not forget that even after the motu proprio, the FSSP tried to get a High Mass scheduled in the crypt of the Shrine, only to be denied until William Cardinal Baum had to personally intervene.

    Having said that, things have gotten much, much better there. The Lourdes chapel is fully equipped for the TLM and the liturgy director is very welcoming toward any priest saying the TLM in that beautiful little chapel.

    The bookstore indeed added several traditional selections (post motu proprio) and even has a mantilla for sale on occassion. It is impressive to see the transformation.

    But there’s still a long way to go there. While we should praise the good stuff, some of the above posts seem to indicate the work is done there. FAR from it.

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