QUAERITUR: Light One Up – Incense, Thuribles, and You.

incenseFrom a reader:

I am writing to ask you about the proper provision for incense at Holy Mass. Can you or your readers recommend a way to ensure a plentiful supply of incense smoke from a thurible at Mass, and to avoid the “invisible smoke” effect? I am of the belief that one cannot have too much incense! Thank you!

Some of you long-time readers may remember the “Wake Up And Smell The Incense” post from 2007.  Click HERE.

Apart from our interest in liturgical decorum, with the cost of incense going up, this is a real concern. We want good smoke and we want to avoid waste.

First, make sure your coals are hot enough. That means starting them ahead so that they have enough time to get nice and hot. If you light those little self-lighting cake thingies just before Mass is about to start, you run the risk of melting the resin of the incense rather than burning it. No smoke and wasteful.

You can speed the process by blowing, of course, or using a hair-drier (which is noisy) or, if the chain is strong and the person mature and competent doing the windmill thing with the thurible.  Fun with an element of danger.  What could go wrong?

(By the way, thurible, comes from Latin thus, thuris or tus, turis, “incense”.)

Second, coals need oxygen. When the thurible is not in use, keep the cover open, up. Let the coals get air. That also keeps the cover cool so Father doesn’t fry his hand. When a thurifer is standing, holding the censer suspended, he should swing is gently, like a pendulum to keep air moving on the coals.

Third, before putting incense on the coals in the thurible, use the spoon to tap off some of the ash built up around the hot core of the coal. Then put in your incense.

Fourth, when using the censer, move it adequately with broad enough gestures that you move the smoke from out the cover.

Fifth, whoever is in charge of the sacristy and the thurifer himself has to keep an eye on the coals. If they are exhausted, or will be soon, do something! Add more or change it out in adequate time so that they will be hot enough when needed. Think ahead! The MC or sacristan may need to remind a thurifer in the case of special occasions, as when there is a procession at the end of Mass or if there is a funeral, etc.

Sixth: Depending on the composition of the incense, it could be a good idea to have a mortal and pestle or a small electric coffee grinder in the sacristy to bust up the big chunks that won’t easily burn.

I am sure some experienced priests and servers will have other smokey tips.

Anecdote: At my church in Italy where I was rector, I occasionally got coals from a bakery with a wood oven on the edge of the piazza. Real wood coals, charcoal! When I put the incense on those… PHOPF!… it went up immediately. There was no waste and they stayed hot and useful.

And then there’s this:


Okay, just one more.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. irishgirl says:

    How does one do the ‘whirlybird thingy’ with the thurible without spilling the coals or the incense inside? I think I’ve seen that at, of all things, an Episcopal church during either an Advent Lessons and Carols service or an Evensong service.
    I’d be afraid of standing too close, and getting conked on the head in the process!
    Oh, my gosh….videos of the infamous ‘Three Days of Darkness’ in LA….don’t wanna see those….

  2. Making sure that everything burns evenly and well is also a health consideration. Lots of people are allergic to lighter fluid or fake charcoal, and incense and coals that aren’t burning well make lots of particulates that people are allergic to.

    Plus real frankincense, and other good incense stuff, acts as a throat-soother; but fakey nasty incense doesn’t. I could really tell the difference this Christmas at midnight Mass in my parish, because I could really breathe that smoke in and still sing comfortably. It was like I remembered as a kid.

  3. irishgirl — Centripetal force! Just like whirling a bucket and no water falling out, or the way the oceans don’t slosh off into the atmosphere.

  4. NoTambourines says:

    I think we use Gee, Your Church Smells Terrific.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. acardnal says:

    Is there any difference between a thurible and a censer?

  6. acardnal says:

    For Suburbanbanshee: Actually, I think it is centrifugal force in this case. Whereas centripetal would be accurate your example of the case of “oceans (not) sloshing off into the atmosphere.” Any physicists out there?

  7. Warren says:

    Is it permissible to use excessive amounts of incense so as to hide, at least from my eyes, the liturgical abuses taking place? Please, say yes.

    Re crappy incense. The use of substandard incense would put the choke on the wailing, mile-wide-vibrato singers. I’m for that.

  8. amichel says:

    I’m pretty sure the centripetal force caused by the Earth’s rotation actually encourages the water to fly off into space. Centripetal force describes the tendancy of objects to want to continue in a straight line when they are rotated around a central point. What holds the water down on the Earth and stops it from flying up into the air is plain old gravity. Liquid H2O is denser than air, so it’s pulled down more by the gravity of the mass of the earth. At least, if I understood my Chem 131 Professor correctly.

  9. digdigby says:

    One more Stomach Turning Video today and I am joining the Plymouth Brethren.

  10. Robert_H says:

    I think it’s mandatory to have a link to the Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro.

  11. For what it’s worth here, centripetal is from the Latin centrum petere (“to seek the center”). When you whirl a bucket a water around, you are the “center” of its motion round and around. The centripetal force is the force your arm exerts on the bucket of water, causing it to “seek” (petere) you so it doesn’t fly off on its own path.

    The force the bucket exerts on your arm, tending to stretch it, is the centrifugal force opposite to the centripetal force, the word centrifugal coming from the Latin centrum fugere (“to flee the center”). Since the water of its own accord (i.e., inertia) tries to flee (fugere) you at the center of its motion.

    As Father Z might say–whether or not it’s true–understanding Latin is the key to understanding everything.

  12. mamajen says:

    @Suburbanbanshee That’s a good point about the health considerations. Some incense doesn’t bother me, but at other times it sends me into a coughing fit and wreaks havoc on my sinuses. I imagine it’s even more of a concern for people with asthma. Before you try for maximum smoke, make sure you’re using good stuff and doing it safely!

  13. Bryan Boyle says:

    Bring on the smoke, fathers.

    One thing that our pastor does (and he used a copious amount yesterday….) is to leave the thurible in the Sanctuary after he finishes censing the altar and the deacon censes the congregation…so, all during the Eucharistic Prayer, it’s sitting there, quietly smoking away, filling the church with the most wonderful smells (and bells…).

    I used to love being an altar boy when they were calling for the incense…making sure the charcoal was lit, the boat was filled…and standing there with the thurible wafting. Of course, my cassock and surplice needed to be left out to ‘air out’, but, then, my room smelled, at least for most of Sunday, like the Jerusalem incense from church.

    So, fathers, bring it on. The more, the merrier.

  14. biberin says:

    If lots of parishioners complain about being allergic or irritated, I’m told the Eastern Church has much more experience with incense and may have more sources for less-irritating incense blends, as well as far more variety in general.

  15. Kieninger says:

    I generally buy incense for my parish from a company called Orthodox Incense. Eastern-type incense does not have wood chips in it as many American and French incenses do, and wood smoke appears to affect more people than incense. We used their “Damascus Rose” for Advent, “Orange Blossom” for Christmastide, and we’ll start using “Svir” for Ordinary Time. I used to get it from Monastery Icons, but their incenses can be a little harsh and I’m still uncertain about the religious nature of that organization. In my parish of over 2,000 families, where incense was almost never used before my arrival as pastor, I’ve had only one person with an actual allergy come forward, and she graciously goes into the cry room on those Masses where incense is used. All other comments I’ve heard have been positive, especially since I cannot put the thurible in the sacristy between uses because of the fire alarm system.

  16. DLe says:

    With those self-lighting charcoals, a quick way to light them in the middle of Mass is to put a new charcoal top-down on an old, remaining lump of charcoal; the heat of the old charcoal will ignite the new one in a snap, without having to deal with any flames or lighters or what not. With the Self-Lites that my church and probably many others use, don’t forget to turn over the new briquette so that the bottom touches the old charcoal and ignites that side, too. That should help it heat up evenly. That way, when I prepare to refresh the charcoals in the thurible for the Offertory/EP, I could just as well light a new batch right then and there.

    Also, since burning all the incense completely is usually but a dream, at least at my church, when I return to the sacristy I dump the thurible contents onto a small plate (I use the metal lid from the container used to hold old charcoals) and then, carefully, pick up the burning charcoals with tongs to return to the thurible. It usually dislodges any remaining incense grains or melted resins so that the sacristy does not fill up with smoke.

    One last thing — http://www.romanitaspress.com/articles/electric_burner.htm

  17. Centristian says:

    Oh, the “windmill thing”. Yikes. We used to do that in the SSPX (depending upon the size of the church). Amazing that nobody ever got knocked silly. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we see a headline that reads “ACOLYTE KILLED BY QUEEN ANNE”.

    At any rate, yes, the burden is on the sacristan to get those charcoals lit and hot, and then to replace them as necessary during the course of the Mass. At a typical Mass in the Ordinary Form, the same charcoal can be used for the incensation at the beginning and the incensation of the Gospel. When the thurifer returns the thurible after the Gospel, the contents of the thurible should be dumped (outside) and a new charcoal lit (during the general intercessions) for the second incensation of the altar at the preparation of the gifts.

  18. Andy Milam says:


    Interestingly enough…

    Coughing birds didn’t come out until 1969. I think that when Bugnini promulgated his Mass in the name of Paul VI, he blackmailed the AMA and other medical bodies to state that incense is bad and that it causes allergies.

    Since that is the case, we (of the ultramontane bent) are not able to enjoy the glorious smoke and scents of Catholicism, because we might offend a myth!

    It’s all a conspiracy, I tell you, a conspiracy! It makes one wonder how there was ever incense used prior to the reforms after the Council? I’m assuming that the Smoke of Satan replaced the Holy Smoke.


    I say bring on the smoke….burn them out of the church. If they don’t like it, go to Mass at 6am.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Although as a woman I would not fall into the server category, this is one of the most interesting posts ever. Of course, my favorite incense story occurred at the The Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy I attended many years ago — the sung vespers was accentuated by the strewing of herbs and spices up the aisle, which caught fire from one of the acolytes’ candles and the end result was the stamping out of horrible, smoking weeds on the floor by the feet of those men in the procession up the aisle. It was terribly funny and never repeated, I am sure.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    By the way, I really do not think I belong to the same Church as the people in the videos. Or, maybe the same planet!

  21. Chatto says:

    I love how this evolved into a physics/Latin grammar lesson!

    We light two new charcoals during the Creed (discreetly, of course), so that there’s plenty of puff for incensing the gifts and at the Consecration. I buy our parish’s incense from Holy Transfiguration Monastery on your side of the Pond, in Boston, and I can’t speak highly enough of it. The pellets burn very cleanly – no horrible, sticky, melted resin goo on the charcoal – and they come with a lot of powder as well, so it doesn’t take long to get a cloud going. And they smell great!

    Now all I need to do is convince our wonderful priest that 1) not all the pellets have to go directly on the charcoal – being next to them is good enough, and 2) that more incense doesn’t equal more smoke! Fathers, please don’t pile it on, smothering the charcoal so it goes out, and then give your poor thurifer/MC (e.g. me) The Stare when nothing comes out over the Gospel!

  22. RichardR says:

    Some people have serious , even life threatening,reactions to incense. Based on what I have read on this site (and citing Fr. Z’s comments from the Folk Mass post) can I presume that we should pray for a biological solution to the asthma problem as well?

    Bitter Fruit

  23. Joel says:

    No advice here but ….
    Being allowed to play with fire and make smoke, indoors, legally. Reason #xx why boys are altar servers. I remember in my youth how you could become one of the greats of the server corps if you could smoke out the sacristiy and get a smoke alarm to go off.

    As I say this, maybe there is some advice I could suggest, give the servers some basic training and then let them figure it out.

  24. Phil_NL says:

    No shortage of incense in my parish (father has some sort of windwill routine as well), but I do tend to avoid sitting in the front 3 rows because of the smoke. Liturgically it’s more than nice, but at the end of the day, our lungs aren’t designed to inhale smoke of any kind. Any tips regarding incense that is more tolerable should be spread far and wide!

  25. Phil_NL says:

    PS: woefully off-topic, but good to see the ‘recent comments’ feature back in the sidebars. The more of it, the better!

  26. Peggy R says:

    These videos recall to mind something that I think was a one-time experiment last year. I don’t recall it from prior years. For Epiphany, our parish had 3 middle aged women (women of course) sashay up the aisle, dressed in dark slacks and turtle necks. (This preceded the priest’s procession to the sanctuary.) No, they were no longer of Emma Peale or Laura Petry shape. They’d prance, somewhat slowly, to the right, hold up the incense, “gold” or myrrh, then to the left…and so on til they got to the stable at the front of the church. The incense was in a bowl like the ones the women in the L.A. “event” carried and swished around.

    Perhaps the ladies felt like idiots. I was embarrassed for them. Perhaps many people thought it hokey too.

    This year, the parish had 2 teen girls, 1 teen boy and a man participate in a more orderly procession, walking, no prancing. The first girl held a candle for light, ie, the star the wise men followed. The other girl, the boy and the man each brought up a gift. Still held them high, but no swishing, just walking. I don’t know whether this was still an exercise in feminism or what. But it was better than last year.

  27. JonPatrick says:

    In my Episcopal days we called the windmill thing a Queen Anne. I remember that term also used for the fancier maneuvers when I was in ROTC drill team, e.g. a Queen Anne present arms, where we spun the rifles around (and hopefully did not drop them).

    I remember one thing I liked about being thurifer was that after Mass for the rest of the day you could smell that incense on yourself, having been close to a smoking thurible for 90 minutes or so.

  28. persyn says:

    About the first Video: Can’t someone do something about that Cardinal interjecting stuff about God in the middle of these people happily worshipping themselves? How insensitive. Should such a narrow-minded person as this be a Prince of the Church?

  29. Centristian says:

    Have any thurifers here ever gotten the old, “I hate that black dress you’re wearing but your purse is on fire!”

    I actually thought that was funny the first five times or so.

  30. persyn says:

    And second video: I hung in until I saw two Deacons without Dalmatics. That did it. I’m done.

  31. ddoyle1220 says:

    As a semi-regular thurifer, I really only have one thing to say. Make sure that you add the coals with enough time to get hot. For example, after Father incenses the Altar at the beginning of Mass, add 1 or 2 coals for the Gospel. This not only gives time for them to get hot, but when adding new coals every time that Father needs the incense, it gives him more surface area for the incense.

    My place of worship keeps the thurible going all through Mass, including the recessional. A few months ago when I was the thurifer, I used a total of 15 charcoals during Mass, and when it got to the recessional, as I swung the thurible standing in place waiting to turn around, I got a nice cloud of smoke going so when I actually didmake the turn, I couldn’t be seen, from what I was told.

    This obviously was not only amazing, but it relates to my incense philosophy- Sacristans, it is rude to give the thurifer a boat less than full. Thurifers, it is equally rude to return a boat that isn’t empty.

  32. Chas777 says:

    ddoyle- 15 charcoals??? During a regular Sunday mass? You are my hero! I’ve hit 5 or 6 during a regular Mass, and watch out Holy Week! I have the boys light the charcoal (3, hey’s it a small one!) 10-15 min before Mass, add 1-2 new ones at the Psalm, and 1-2 during the homily (hey, our priest has been known to go 15-20 min!). Our priest or deacon loads the censer so we don’t control what goes in, but for a while, we had a smoke off going between two of our priests. Age and experience won that one!

    Oh those videos- is that Bishop Zavala? Reason #xx that we should be grateful that he has retired? When I was first watching, I wasn’t sure this was a “Catholic” mass.

    Seriously though, some people just have a visceral psychosematic response to incense. When we incense at our parish, as soon soon as some people see smoke, coughing breaks out, even though the smoke has gotten nowhere close to them.

    I love it when we incense, I can smell it on my close the rest of the day! My wife will come up to me after mass, and breath in deep, and tell me, “you smell holy!” To which I tell her, that’s the smoke honey, not me!

  33. acardnal says:

    Sorry but back to centrifugal/centripetal discussion.

    Regarding Henry Edwards response above: I think we both agree but the reasons are unclear. You said:
    “The force the bucket exerts on your arm, tending to stretch it, is the centrifugal force opposite to the centripetal force, the word centrifugal coming from the Latin centrum fugere (“to flee the center”). Since the water of its own accord (i.e., inertia) tries to flee (fugere) you at the center of its motion.”

    I agree with you. As my fist (the center of the circle) holds the chain attached to the thurible as I whirl it around in windmill fashion, the charcoal/ash/incense residue at the bottom of the thurible remains there as it “flees” to the bottom of the thurible and, therefore, does not exit from the top of the thurible where the ventilation holes are located. (For clarification of this action: while I am whirling the thurible in a windmill fashion with great acumen, the top of the thurible or cover is located toward my fist, and the bottom of the thurible is located at the very outer edge of this circle – farthest point from my fist.)

    Thus, the charcoal/ash is prevented from fleeing the thurible’s bottom due to this outward force (centrifugal) from the center ( my fist) which pushes the ash/charcoal outward against the bottom of the thurible at the outer edge of my windmill circle. Does this make sense to you? If not, perhaps I should just vanish in a fragrant puff of incense smoke. :-)

  34. disco says:

    Can we start calling the wok incense bowls mahony thuribles?

  35. worm says:

    Did someone ask for a physicist? I’m not actually a physicist, but I do play one from time to time.

    There is no such thing as centrifugal force. It is a ficticious force use to explain that tug you feel on your arm when you swing that bucket of water around. It seems and feels like the bucket of water is pulling on your arm, but it only seems that way from the reference point of you in the middle rotating with the bucket. Since this frame is rotating, it is not inertial and so it “seems” like the bucket of water is pulling on your arm (exerting a force). If the frame were not in reality rotating, Newton’s laws would require a force outward from the center to counterbalance the force of you pulling in on the bucket in order for the bucket to remain stationary. Centrifugal force would be the “force” used to explain the lack of motion.

    What really keeps the incense and coals in the thurible? Why the thurible itself. The thurifer through the chain is applying a force on the end of he thurble toward the center of the circle (the thurifer’s hand). This causes the thurible to move in a circle. However, because the incense and coals obey Newton’s Laws of motion and “want” to keep moving in a straight line, they keep colliding continuously with the end of the thurble.

    At least I’m fairly certain that is how a physicist would explain it.

  36. rodin says:

    Something similar to the dance of the vestal virgins, along with other disruptions,is still being done in a local church where I attended mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. That makes three churches to avoid here when I cannot get to the Extraordinary Form. Happily the smoke issuing from the thurible is not so dense as to cause serious coughing. A little restraint with the incense is much appreciated.

  37. RichardR says:

    “Bitter fruit?” But Father… Since you look forward to “… the slow, inexorable influence of the biological solution being applied to older priests, bishops and others in influential roles…”with whom you disagree, can you give us a list of others for whom we should pray in a similar manner? [You are probably writing after having made a rash judgment (cf CCC 2477) and I forgive you. The “biological solution” is simply a fact and my wanting it or liking it or not is entirely out of our control. Think before commenting next time.]

  38. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    My experience as an altar server is to experiment with different kinds, and feel free to mix. Some kinds create lots of smoke very easily, but are virtually scentless; others are way more fragrant, but do not smoke much.

    Solution, mix them together, and viola, the perfect incense

  39. Disc-Thrower says:

    Re coughing birds.

    I actually researched this online a few years ago out of curiosity. Amusingly, it turns out that our frankincense actually has anti-cancer properties. Incidentally, on the other hand the incense that buddhists and taoists use, which is made of sandalwood, showed carcinogenic properties.

  40. mcma3985 says:

    My favorite position as a server has always been thurifer. I have made frequent use of the windmill technique and the add -an- unlit charcoal method.
    I have found that it is better to keep the thurible moving as much as possible. One thing servers often do wrong is shying off at a sharp turn…say, at an extended gospel procession….it is better keep the thing swingin’ and let gravity move the thurible safely around a corner.
    Also, I have noticed bad technique at benediction or the elevations at mass….sometimes people are too excited for the 3 “clinks” of the chain and end up losing control of the now spinning thurible…let the bells do the sound effects, this is why we have smells and bells.
    Yesterday, at the Epiphany mass I went up to Father at the offertory to impose some incense for the altar and gifts…I thought the guard on the top of the one-chain thurible was completely covered by a non-metal substance, it turns out only the very top was…I ended up with a second degree burn on my finger which was clasping the lid. Moral of the story- gentleman, inspect the equipment you are working with lest you desire to cook your fingers (I still kept my, “when in doubt look devout” face on though).

  41. Rob Cartusciello says:

    If you’re going to refer to centrifugal force, you must cite XKCD: http://xkcd.com/123/

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  42. JeffTL says:

    If you are going to do 36os/Queen Annes/putting your thurible in the air like you just don’t care, be sure to carefully ensure the integrity of the thurible’s chain before mass. The more energy the thurible has, the more likely a weak chain would be to snap; it’d be a shame if it hit anybody.

    Advanced thurible work is also a good reason to have a fireproof floor covering — stone of some sort, such as granite, marble, terrazzo, or concrete does the job excellently. I’ve heard tales of my parish’s carpet catching on fire in the past couple years, though I didn’t witness it personally.

  43. worm says:

    @Rob Cartusciello: That link was awesome!

  44. acardnal says:

    Here’s a better link from the University of Virginia, Physics Dept. It even has photos for us ignorant folk. http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/topics/centrifugal.html

  45. ddoyle1220 says:

    Chas777- yes, up to 15 during a regular Sunday Mass, with at least 10. We start with 3 for the Processional, add 3 for the gospel, either 4 or 5 for the offertory, and then usually 4 or 5 for the recessional. Even more are used for special Masses. For the record, I am one of the occasional thurifers at the Pre-Eminent Marian Shrine in the US when the regular thurifer can’t be there.

  46. Henry, your physics is for the most part sound…though to be clear, centripetal force and centrifugal force are not opposites. Centrifugal force is just inertia and not a force at all. It is not opposite to the centripetal force which points towards centre and forces circular motion.

    Further reason why the traditional thurifer should be used…

  47. Henry, your physics is for the most part sound…though to be clear, centripetal force and centrifugal force are not opposites. Centrifugal force is just inertia and not a force at all. It is not opposite to the centripetal force which points towards centre and forces circular motion.

    Further reason why the traditional thurifer should be used…

  48. Thank you, everybody. I am now slightly less confused. :)

  49. edm says:

    If the thurible is very large, more coals are needed. In our (Anglocatholic) parish we use two full coals for the censing at the entrance and through the gospel. After the gospel, one more coal is added (broken in two halves and tossed unlit into the firepot). That is stirred up a bit just before presenting the thurible for the offertory and remains quite live through the consecration. No one has ever accused of of having too little smoke. One more coal might be needed if something is appended to Mass, such as a solemn procession or Benediction. Otherwise, we do quite well with three coals for our one-hour-and-fifteen-minutes to one-hour-and-a-half Sung or High Mass.

  50. Samthe44 says:

    Fr Z.:
    I went to the YouTube channel of these videos, and I found a video that intrigued me. In one of the videos, a priest was speaking. He was wearing a shoulder cape over his cassock, like the ones bishops, cardinals, and The Pope wear, except it was all black. Is this allowed? The priest was also wearing a cross over his cassock. I do not think that it was a pectoral cross, as it was smaller than pectoral cross, and had a simple chain, but I am not sure. I know that this the practice for priests in some Eastern Churches, but I checked, and the priest is of The Latin Church. Again, is this permitted? Here is the YouTube link:

  51. jesusthroughmary says:

    Samthe44 –

    It looks like a mozzetta, but it’s not (you can tell because a mozzetta is closed at the front with buttons). I believe it’s a pellegrina.

  52. jesusthroughmary says:

    I think the cross is a St. Benedict cross and a matter of the priest’s personal devotion.

  53. jesusthroughmary says:

    The videos make me think of Revelation 13….

  54. Charles E Flynn says:

    Two gold stars of the day in one thread!
    An earlier, related posting:
    QUAERITUR: priest switches from incense censer to a bowl.

  55. JimGB says:

    To Charles E. Flynn: the priest is still using the bowl. Used it yesterday for the feast of Epiphany!

  56. K_Suzanne says:

    And with that (the videos), I am inspired to put more effort into my workout tonight in reparation for liturgical abuses. I was contemplating skipping the exercise. Thanks, Fr. Z!

  57. Ben Yanke says:

    As my parish has quite strong chains on both thuribles, I occasionally do some 360s (or Queen Annes, as some are calling it here) if I need to get coals lit quickly. It certainly raises the cantor’s eyebrows, who usually is in line of sight with the sacristy door. :)

    And of course, what boy doesn’t like playing with fire?

    My personal favorite arrangement is the “inverted teepee.” You place three coals facing inward leaning against the outer wall of the thurible, and touching in the middle, at the lowest point. Keeps them pretty hot, and gives lots of surface area.

  58. Centristian says:

    You incense like a GIRL!


    Here’s one argument for all-male service at the altar.

  59. DLe says:

    Ben: Along with that, I’ve also done putting four coals in a square along the inner walls of the thurible, and putting either the old coal or some broken coal fragments (the brittle self-lighting coals often break up before even touching any flame) in the center. It makes a nice bed of burning coals and also uses up broken coals that otherwise would have been thrown away.

  60. Rob Cartusciello says:

    A Gold Star of the Day!

    Nunc dimittis. Deo gratias!

  61. bobbyva2001 says:

    Those videos are scary. The MC said, “we must remember God’s grace, which has been poured out in RIDICULOUS amounts for us……..

  62. Rev. says:

    My Altar Boys are particularly enjoying this week as we go from home to home for Epiphany Blessings. Not often the get to take their thurible skills out of the Church and into homes throughout the parish. The Parishioners love it also, and there has not been one complaint, or asthma attack as the thurible has been taken out.

  63. scaron says:

    I was a server from age 7-18, and managed the servers at my parish for 12 years, and I can tell you that *nothing* gets the server corps more excited than firing up the incense. When I was a kid we had one (slightly older) server who always got that duty – and, somehow, he knew how to make actual flames leap up out of the thurbile. I am *still* not sure how he did that. But he would pace back and forth in the sacristy where only the servers on the altar could see him through the saristy door, swinging the thurible with about 2 feet of flames shooting out of the top like a jet engine. Try not laughing when you see that and are 11 years old, serving a funeral.

  64. PostCatholic says:

    Even to me, those videos are scarcely recognizable as Catholic liturgy. When I was a Catholic I attended many Masses officiated by priests on the liberal end of the spectrum, and I can’t remember liturgical innovation (some might be surprised to learn that I never enjoyed that, personally) that went to such an extreme–and definitely not one concelebrated by so many bishops.

  65. mamajen says:

    I hope that the “coughing birds” comments are 100% in jest and not a suggestion that those who have some kind of problem with incense are weak or unwilling to bear discomfort. Calling people names because they have difficulties you can’t relate to is not exactly charitable.

  66. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    @ People who know… Are specific types of incense “appropriate” for specific liturgical events?? Just wondering…

  67. irishgirl says:

    Oh, my goodness….I’m trying not to laugh out loud here in the library while reading some of the ‘servers with incense’ stories! My eyes are filling with tears, though….tears of mirth! The one from scaron is particularly hilarious!
    So, the 360s are called ‘Queen Annes’, huh? Never knew that….
    I think I can recall one incident of ‘too much smoke in the sacristy’ in a parish of my acquaintance, though I don’t think the fire alarm went off.
    Yeah, boys sure like to play around with smoke and fire….

  68. pattif says:

    It has been my observation that, if one is going to perform 360s, it is a good idea to forewarn the acolytes to keep a safe distance.

  69. Samthe44 says:

    @jesusthroughmary: Thanks. I have a great interest in clerical vestments, and I discovered the pellegrina on the Italian wikipedia. Though in this document about such matters (http://www2.fiu.edu/~mirandas/instruction69.htm), The Holy See refers to it only as a ‘shoulder cape’. I have never seen one on priests before, even a priest who wears the cassock. Though about the cross: could it not lead to confusion if the priest wore it? From sources that I have read, the rule is that priests and lay-people are free to wear pectoral crosses, though a priest must wear it under their cassock.

  70. APX says:

    It has been my observation that, if one is going to perform 360s, it is a good idea to forewarn the acolytes to keep a safe distance.

    Not a 360 story, but this did remind me of something I saw this summer. Over the summer while I was at home, our Cathedral had its 100 anniversary Mass, and I think I witnessed possibly one of the biggest incense scares of my life. Naturally incense isn’t something that is used frequently, so there isn’t a lot of thurible swinging practice, or knowledge of how much space to leave between the thurifer and the celebrant being incensed. The bishop almost got a hot thurible in the face. It looked like maybe an inch of space between. I had to turn away.

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  72. John Nolan says:

    It is said that Antonio Vivaldi used allergy to incense as an excuse for not celebrating Mass, although he was an ordained priest. The botafumeiro at Santiago Cathedral broke loose and went crashing through a window in the presence of Catherine of Aragon, no less. In the Dominican Rite incensations are carried out with an up-and-down movement rather than a swing, which produces little smoke, and there is no incensation of the altar at the beginning of Mass. I have seen 360-degree swings in Anglican processions, but if I had endeavoured one as a boy I would have got a swift clip round the ear from the MC.

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