QUAERITUR: Inserting a ditty into the reading of the Passion

UPDATE:  A reader in a comment below shows that I was wrong about my answer.  But I am going to claim that I am also right, depending on which country you are in.  It was inconceivable to me as I was answering this that such a thing could be permitted, so I didn’t double check the Novus Ordo rubrics in different countries, through my bad, my bad, my – like – totally bad.

I think this is a really BAD idea to have this as an option anywhere, but… they didn’t ask me.

That said, and with my mistake in mind:


From a reader:

During the reading of the Passion today, the choir jumped in at random moments to sing part of “What Wondrous Love Is This”. That feels wrong; is it?

What part of Say The Black – Do The Red don’t they understand?

I was unaware that the text of the song “What Wondrous Love Is This” was in the Gospel.

This strikes me as well-intentioned, but ultimately condescending to the congregation.

It is as if the people and priest who organized this had such a dim view of the intelligence of the congregation that they thought they had to spiff-up the Gospel.

The Gospel narrative wasn’t enough on its own.

Furthermore, it reveals an attitude of superiority in regard to the Church’s liturgical worship: we can do anything we want to it.

I recommend you send the priests and “liturgy committee”, Say The Black – Do The Red mugs.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. In the Roman Missal Lectionary, at several parts during the proclamation of the Gospel it has the rubric,

    “At this point all may join in singing an appropriate acclamation”

    This rubric is written

    “And so said all the disciples”
    “And he went out and wept bitterly”
    “… they compelled this man to carry his cross”
    ” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.”

    One could argue whether it was an appropriate acclamation. But the rubrics (the red) does say it can be done.

  2. William says:

    In a similar vein: folks at our place have been asked to come to Holy Thursday Mass with hand bells so they can participate in the Gloria. Wrong-headed? stupid? or both?

  3. Margaret says:

    PuffTheMagicDragon, I did not know that. Wow. There’s certainly no such note in the missalette out in the pews. I kept gritting my teeth though “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

    We didn’t even hear about the good thief in yesterday’s Gospel, for Pete’s sake…

  4. Well, On Holy Thursday, that is just plain wrong. Though I have been at a parish where we were asked to bring hand bells to ring during the Gloria on Easter Vigil.

    “After the last reading from the Old testament wth its responsory and prayer, the altar candles are lighted, and the priest intones the Gloria which is taken up by all present. The Church bells are rung according to local custom.”

    Hand bells could be considered bring the “church” bells indoors. But still Holy Thursday, does NOT have that option, at least no where I can find it.
    In my Roman Missal I find no such “rubric” for Holy Thursday

  5. Margaret, the Gospel for yesterday was Matthew’s. He omits the good Thief’s conversion.

  6. Oops, i just realized what you meant. Yikes, they could have gone with Pie Iesu instead.

  7. I offered William an anwer and for some reason it isn’t showing up, when my answers to Margaret are. If it’s found somehwere in the ether, feel free to delete it or this one or both. Ta’

    As for ringing handbells during the Gloria. The rubric is found for “ringing church bells” during the Gloria on Easter Vigil. You could argue that hand bells are a way of bringing the church bells inside.

    I find no such rubric for Holy Thursday

  8. Jordanes says:

    A few years ago my family went to Palm Sunday Mass at a parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and they did something similar: At various intervals during the reading of the Passion, a tone deaf cantor in the choir loft would interrupt with a fingernails-on-blackboard horrible rendition of “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom . . . .” That was just the beginning of liturgical abuse at that Mass: I’m pretty sure the priest ad libbed almost all of the Eucharistic Prayer (at least he did the Words of Consecration correctly). On previous visits we’d experienced other abuses at other parishes. After that catastrophic Palm Sunday Mass, we resolved that on future visits to that archdiocese we’d never again go to another Mass in the Ordinary Form — and so, the last time we visited, we went to the Institute of Christ the King’s standing-room-only traditional Latin Mass in Milwaukee.

  9. Seen similar things as well. Only rates a 1 or maybe 2 on the Liturgical Outrage Scale (t) (LOS), depending on how bad the music is. The LOS scoring weights heavily toward ‘improvements’ meant to contradict or minimize Catholic teaching, less towards dumb but heartfelt ideas.

    Here’s are rough examples of the LOS schedule, more Mercalli than Richter. Work in progress, here:

    1. Sleepwalking through the liturgy, but otherwise doing the red and reading the black;
    2. Friendly greeting before Mass (“hi, welcome to today’s Liturgy! I’m Father Bob!) and post-closing-blessings blessings (Priest “And have a nice day!” People: “You to, Father!” aside: this would go down easier if it were in Latin. Just sayin’);
    3. Ad-libbing the prayers, using the ‘or similar words’ as an excuse to fit in an extra homily or 6 into the Mass;
    4. Purposely changing the words, but not in an heretical way. Bad, ego-maniacal, but not EVIL evil;
    (Now we, like Dante before the gates of Dis, enter into the realm of active sin)
    5. Praying intentions that are, at best, ambiguous or incoherent, or, at worse, out and out decisive – you can pray for the poor, for example, without mentioning a particular political program or policy you’d like to see supported;
    6. Non-Catholic or Anti-Catholic music – as Catholics, I’m afraid we DON’T sing a New Church Into Being. We’re sort of attached to the one we have – the Body of Christ in this world.
    7. Improving the texts in blatantly heretical ways.
    8. Roll Your Own Liturgy, where everything the mean old hierarchical Church has oppressed you with is open for creative reinterpretation.
    9. Heresy proudly proclaimed (is there any other way?) from the pulpit.
    10. Clown Mass. Clown Mass gets frozen into the ice at the feet of Satan because, if you see a clown Mass, you can bet 1-9 are also happening in spades.

    Like I say, work in progress. And, like Mercalli, damage on the ground matters more than just shaking – a nice, holy priest who improvises prayers out of well-intended ignorance is way better than than a priest who does things mostly by the book while radiating contempt on his more liturgically conservative parishioners. Liturgical dance could be anywhere from a 3 to an 11, for example.

    YMMV. Give up coffee for Lent, no telling where your mind will run….

  10. Rob Cartusciello says:

    They’ve done this at my parent’s parish the last two years. The verse they sang was “Were you there when they crucified my Lord”.

    The Reading of the Passion according to St. Matthew was done by a deacon and two female lectors. Each reader would read a section, regardless as to was “speaking” in the passage. Thus, the women spoke the words of Christ.

    This also deprived the congregation of >any active participation< in the Passion narrative, including crying "Crucify him!". Thus we were deprived of one of the most profound parts of the liturgical season.

    Can I get a citation for the correct usage so that I can write the necessary people?

  11. John Nolan says:

    @ William

    Neither wrong-headed nor stupid. The Gloria on Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday is preceded by a ‘strepitus’ (Latin for a god-awful row) with organ and bells, the more the merrier!

  12. ghlad says:

    Interesting. Just to double-check, am I correct in understanding that the N.O. missal includes the “appropriate acclimation” part, while the 1962 Missal does not?

    It would be one more reason why I do prefer the 1962 Missal. I don’t recall, but I’m almost sure that last year’s Palm Sunday when I was at a TLM run by FSSP that there were no interruptions during the Passion reading. Or maybe there were, but they were from the Schola, in which case the music is much more aligned with the liturgy so as to not create such a break and perhaps I didn’t notice it.

    At any rate, at the mass I went to last night (at a university student center) they broke up the Passion reading with the refrain: “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” It did somewhat bother me.

    Then the mass ended with Sister Civilian-Clothes telling the students about a Stations of the Cross march for justice (or some such nonsense) on Good Friday. :|

  13. teomatteo says:

    The newest inovation in our Liturgy… it was announced the week before for all of us to wear red for both Palm Sunday as well as for Good Friday services. The reason? ‘So that all may feel more unity”.
    O.K…..Processing up to communion isnt enough?
    But then maybe it from the Diocese? maybe?

  14. In the inferior “Novalis” paperette pew book (I won’t call it a Missal) in the Passion is the instruction, “the congegation may sing an acclamation” and thus is printed Kyrie elieson, Christ eleison, etc. at a few points.

    However, Puff, Father quite rightly pointed out on Saturday whilst preparing for the Vigil Mass that IT IS NOT in the New NSRV Lectionary in Canada APPROVED by the Holy See. Not that I would have sung it anyway.

    As Father says, the Passion stands on its own, stop the tinkering or get out and form the 38,598 protestant congregation.

  15. Ioannes Andreades says:

    During the Good Friday liturgy, one of the places for an “appropriate acclamation” during the Passion is immediately after the words, “And at that moment a cock crowed.”

    Why do I feel like I’m being baited? [ROFL!]

    One of these years. One of these years.

  16. Corinne says:

    At the Mass I attended yesterday we too had the acclamation of “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” I loved it because it reminded me of the Divine Liturgy (Eastern Rite-Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom/St. Basil) where just before receiving communion the people say:
    …Receive me today, Son of God, as a partaker of Your mystical Supper. I will not reveal Your mystery to Your adversaries. Nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas. But as the thief I confess to You: Lord, remember me in Your kingdom.
    I think this is such a beautiful and humble confession so I did not mind the acclamation yesterday.

  17. P.McGrath says:

    1. Is sitting (of the congregation) during the reading of the Passion all right according to the rubrics? We recently moved to a new parish — at my former parish we always stood, so it was a shock for me to sit during the Passion.

    2. Then, at the end of Mass, my wife and I had a total please-get-us-out-of-here, we-want-to-commit-seppuku moment. After the dismissal, Father then said, “Please be seated.” There was then a fifteen-minute minute “passion play,” with parish teens as the actors (“biblical” costuming), accompanied by “country” music — sung VERY off key by two of the teens. If we wanted country music, we would have gone to Nashville.

    Did anything like that happen to anyone else?

  18. chironomo says:

    Yes, sadly this is in the rubrics, even if unwisely so. And here’s the real sad part…. we will insert 4 VERSES of (insert banal hymn title here) into the longest Gospel reading of the year, extending it perhaps 2 – 3 minutes longer, but then the following Sunday (that would be Easter) we will omit the chanting of the Sequence because it takes too long….

  19. Father G says:

    @ Puff Magic Dragon

    I have not been able to find that rubric which you mention. Could you be more specific when you say “Roman Missal lectionary” ? I’ve gone through the Introduction to the Lectionary and could not find it.

    My parish has the supplement books which have the Passion Gospel printed for use with three people, including the rubrics. No mention is made of any acclamations.

    I found one reference on-line that the option which you cite is only permitted in Canada and not in the USA.

    Please cite specifically your source.

  20. chironomo says:


    At the EF Parish here in Sarasota, the Pastor (Fr. Fryar) chanted the entire Passion… beginning to end… and had no need of acclamations. It took some 35 minutes, but that was definitely time well spent….

  21. Fr. Basil says:

    If the Passion is CHANTED in dialogue, as it should be in the Roman Rite, that is itself the Passion Play.

    While this is not part of the Byzantine tradition, we have the equivalent of a Passion Play in the Matins of Holy Friday, usually celebrated on Holy Thursday Evening in Parishes (commonly called the Twelve Passion Gospels).


  22. Bryan Boyle says:

    @P.McGrath: not as obviously in bad taste as a post-Mass ‘passion play’, but the good father celebrant (and pastor of the parish) said something to the effect that ‘the Church, in her pastoral solicitude, allows me to omit the first two readings this week’ so the beautiful hymn of St. Paul as well as the first reading were dropped. Fortunately, there was none of the other dreck I hear about…well, besides the stoups being empty since last weekend…I’m waiting for the paraphrased and dialogued readings for the Vigil (which I have to attend since my RCIA class is being received this coming Saturday evening, at the 7:30 start….yeah, an hour and a half before twilight…oh well..)

    Funny, in all my years studying the liturgy…never heard that at Sunday Mass, the first two readings were EVER optional (neither is the Creed unless it’s replaced with the Baptismal Promises…and that doesn’t include the Scrutinies, Father’s homily going long, or desire to watch the ball game…). The pastor has his own ideas…most of them in line with the Church….some of them not…and unfortunately, our current bishop (Metuchen) does not seem to care one way or the other as long as the distance from reservation is not too far…

    Say the black, do the red? Most of the time, but subject to ‘performance art’ whims, it seems. And the unfortunate thing is that, for the most part, the butts in the seats, even if it seems a bit odd, just ruminate that ‘well, if Father says it, it must be ok…’.

  23. Jon says:

    I was blessed yesterday to be at the exquisitely beautiful Mass of my FSSP parish, where I didn’t have to worry about such tragic silliness.

    This morning, however, I received an email from a friend who was heartbroken about the Mass he attended with his family. Given his description, I was heartbroken too.

    May I suggest again, that all of you who attend the Novus Ordo commence Phase Two of the Reform of the Reform; a new, traditional, General Instruction to the Roman Missal. Talk about it; in conversation with your priests, bishops, and friends. Write about it. Write letters to the Holy Father, the CDW, your bishop, and make it part of your blog posts with the least possible excuse whenever you can. And don’t forget to pray, and then pray some more.

    You have the new translation. Now take the next step.

  24. jfm says:

    I always spend part of Palm Sunday listening to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion (and/or if I am on a bus going to visit family on Good Friday, I listen to either the St. Matthew or the St. John passions of Bach).

    What I love about these Passion settings is that the gospel is sung and its lessons serve as launching points for meditations (either by soloist/soloists, choir, or full congregation). The whole experience is quite moving and quite a journey. The gospel is not belittled by these reflections. Musically/stylistically they flow beautifully. (The St. Matthew Passion, in particular, has several settings/harmonizations of “O Sacred Head Surrounded”.)

    The Passion is the greatest story ever told. Musical interpolations should meet a very high standard for inclusion, otherwise the story stands perfectly well on its own.

  25. thomas ryan says:

    @ puff magic dragon

    I agree with Father G.; I cannot find a single official source — the use of refrains or hymns in the course of the Passion proclamation is not mentioned in the 1998 second typical edition of the Lectionary for the dioceses of the USA (nor is it in the 1970, first typical edition). Nor is it mentioned in the booklet that arranged the proclamation in parts (1999, “concordat cum originali” by Msgr. Moroney of the then-NCCB). Nor is it in the 1988 Paschale Solemnitatis collection of official rubrics.

    The practice itself is indeed widespread (and in some diocesan norms), but not because it is countenanced by the official books. Perhaps you are using some missalette company’s “rules”?

  26. Father G, sure

    Revises by decree of the Second Vatican Council and published by Authority of Pope Paul VI

    Sundays and Solemnities : Study Edition
    Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ottawa, Canada, 1992

    it is not in the Introduction. the Rubrics are included as notes in the gospel citation itself
    Passion (Palm) Sunday Year A
    Gospel of Matthew
    pp. 144, after 26: 35
    pp. 147, after 26: 75
    pp. 149, after 27: 32
    pp. 150, after 27: 50

  27. I am not using a missalette. I am using a Lectionary. A “study version but a Lectionary

  28. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I don’t have ready access to a U.S. Lectionary, but I found this note over at Fr. Just’s site:


    Cf. note #4 (Detailed Rubrics):

    The Canadian Lectionary repeatedly prints several explicit rubrics (instructions for the readers in red type) within the text, while the United States Lectionary generally contains the same instructions only in the Introduction, but not in the text itself:

    After each First Reading and each Second Reading: “A period of silence is observed after the reading.”
    With each Gospel Acclamation: “This verse may accompany the singing of the Alleluia. If the Alleluia is not sung, the acclamation is omitted.”
    Within the Passion Readings (Palm Sunday and Good Friday): “At this point all may join in singing an appropriate acclamation.”

  29. thomas ryan says:

    @ puff magic dragon

    OK, now we see why we differ. On many points, the official litugical books for each area of the universal church incorporate rubrics specific to that area (sometimes a country, sometimes a broader area). The Canadian books are NEVER to be used as a sure way to let those in the USA know what is permitted there. In thanks for that, we in the USA promise not to presume that you Canadians need to follow all the national particularities built into the USA books.

  30. @Rob Cartusciello
    I will preface this by saying that I am referencing Roman Missal Lectionary for Canada, but I am very sure, that even in the US version, if the Gospel is to be proclaimed by more than one person
    1. They are: Christ, Narrator, Speaker 1, Speaker 2 and Speaker 3

    2. The Words of Christ is ALWAYS given to the Pastor/ Celebrant – always always always

    There may be only one Person doing all 3 Speaker 1-3, But no other says Christ’s words but the Priest. Which would make sense, since the Priest is in “Persona Christi”

  31. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    through my bad, my bad, my – like – totally bad.
    Nice. Is that from the Confiteor from the Linguistically Inept Teen Mass? I still have PTSD from my high school English teacher’s angry fits everytime someone used that phrase in class.

    last year’s Palm Sunday when I was at a TLM run by FSSP that there were no interruptions during the Passion reading. Or maybe there were, but they were from the Schola, in which case the music is much more aligned with the liturgy so as to not create such a break and perhaps I didn’t notice it.

    I was at an FSSP TLM yesterday and there were no interruptions while the priest sung the Passion.

  32. AnAmericanMother says:


    Always listen to this chorale in the Johannes-Passion on Good Friday:

    Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein

    O Lord, thy dearest angels send,
    In my last hour my soul attend,
    To Abraham’s arms bear it.
    This body in its narrow room,
    So softly rests from pain and gloom,
    And waits the day prepared it.
    Then, Lord, from death awaken me,
    Unbind my eyes that I may see
    In paradise thy holy face,
    My saviour and my throne of grace.
    Lord Jesus Christ! remember me, remember me!
    I will thee praise eternally.

  33. Henry Edwards says:

    Re karaoke Passion acclamations . . . Without having checked anything, I still assume that no such foolishness is included in the actual rubrics in the Latin typical edition of the Missale Romanum 2002. It’s simply too ridiculous to be conceivable. Even for the Novus Ordo. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

  34. yatzer says:

    We had occasional verses of “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”. It’s a really good parish, so I can put up with that once a year. Maybe next year, with the new translation, we will not have it anyway.

  35. @Thomas Ryan

    Thank you, And for mypart, I should have noted that I was citing a Canadian Lectionary. But Father Z. did not mention from whence the query came.

    @ David in TO: I was referring to what is still permitted now, not what will NOT be permitted next year

  36. Joan M says:

    We had no such insertions. What impressed me was that we actually stood for the Gospel. We normally do stand for the Gospel on Sundays and weekdays, but when it is a reading of the Passion, our Parish Priest usually invites us to sit. Yesterday, at the 8:00 am Mass the celebrant was the assistant priest and he simply did not make such an invitation, resulting in about 95% of people standing all the way through, while those who were not strong / fit enough to make it all the way sat when they got tired out.

  37. David in TO. I was NOT using a missalette. how dare you suggest that I should become or am a protestant just because I pointed out what is in the presently approved Canadian Lectionary, published by the CCCB

    That statement was totally uncalled for. I never said I like the usage, I pointed out it was a legitimate option promulgated by the Canadian Bishops.

  38. Henry Edwards says:

    What impressed me was that we actually stood for the Gospel.

    Yesterday I “just” attended a beautiful EF high Mass (preceded by Blessing of the Palms and Procession outside and around the church) celebrated at the beautiful old high altar in an ordinary diocesan parish. But the last time I attended a solemn high Mass of Palm Sunday, the FSSP priest and two clerics took 39 minutes to chant the Passion Gospel solemnly. Of course, everyone without infirmity stood the whole 39 minutes. However, when the priest proceeded to the pulpit, he mercifully remarked that he assumed that no one would object to it if–just this once–he dispensed with repeating the Gospel in English. So far as I know, no one did.

  39. Ed the Roman says:

    “Give up coffee for Lent”

    I did that once. My family asked me not to do that anymore.

  40. Margaret says:

    LOL, Ed– same here when I gave up my caffeine of choice, Diet Coke. I think I lasted three days and it became apparent to all and sundry that my mortification was serving only to mortify my family…

  41. Jordanes says:

    Is sitting (of the congregation) during the reading of the Passion all right according to the rubrics?

    Not as far as I know, but someone who know will have to answer that for you. However, that reminds me that at the awful Palm Sunday Mass I mentioned above, the priest announced at the start of the liturgy that because the Passion is so long, everyone will sit rather than stand. Another of the liturgical abuses during that Mass. As I understand it, those who cannot stand, or who cannot stand for very long, are excused from standing — but it’s a usurpation to instruct people who can stand during the Gospel to disobey liturgical law.

    Yesterday in our parish, the priest told everyone (needlessly in my opinion) that because the Passion is so long, if we can’t stand for the whole reading we may sit down. But at least he didn’t instruct us to sit down, and I thank God that the Passion was not interrupted with “appropriate (sic) acclamations.”

  42. Father G says:

    @ Puff Magic Dragon,

    Thank you for the clarification.

  43. Rob Cartusciello says:

    @ Puff – Thanks for the clarification. While time/jurisdiction limited, it was still appreciated.

    That having been said, is there any specific authority I can cite that requires that the words of Christ in the Passion narrative be recited by the priest? (Persona Christi and all that)

    I’m lining up my authorities for my letter.

  44. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Paschalis Sollemnitatis 33 (Palm Sunday):
    The passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the part of Christ, the narrator, and the people. The passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers. In the latter case, the part of the Christ should be reserved to the priest.

    66. (Good Friday) The readings are to be read in their entirety. The responsorial psalm and the chant before the gospel are to be sung in the usual manner. The narrative of the Lord’s passion according to John is sung or read in the way prescribed for the previous Sunday (cf. n. 33).

  45. mpolo says:

    Is sitting (of the congregation) during the reading of the Passion all right according to the rubrics?

    The German rubrics have an “At this point, everybody should stand up” when the actual crucifixion begins. However, they forget to put an “Everybody sits down” rubric at the beginning (given that they had stood up for the Gospel Acclamation), so we (alas) “forget” every year to have the congregation sit down. I don’t feel very guilty about ignoring this (sort of) rubric.

Comments are closed.