QUAERITUR: Removal of Crucifixes from church during Lent. Fr. Z rants.

From a reader:

At my parish, we have a tradition of taking down and stowing away the San Damiano Cross replica that hangs from the ceiling over our sanctuary. This year, I discovered the plenary indulgence for praying before a crucifix on Fridays during Lent, and now there’s no way for me to achieve that in our chapel (I have a crucifix in my bedroom, but the experience isn’t the same somehow). Is this something I should be concerned about?

I should say so. Other than the fact that that was a silly thing to do at the beginning of LENT, for the love of God, the removal of the Cross makes is that much harder for many people easily to gain an indulgence offered to all the faithful during Lent on Fridays.

Holy Church has attached a plenary indulgence to praying before a Crucifix on Fridays during Lent. I will grant that that grant does not specify the Crucifix in the parish, but why remove a Cross during Lent when we even have… wait for it… Stations of the CROSS?

There is a laudable custom of covering over images and the Cross on what in the traditional calendar is called (1st) Passion Sunday, which in the new calendar is the 5th Sunday of Lent. We do this because Holy Church enters into a greater and greater liturgical deprivation, in imitation of the Passion and death of the Lord, as we move through pre-Lent, Lent and Triduum.

I don’t understand what they priests are thinking when they take away things during Lent which are of benefit during our time of spiritual combat. The remove Holy Water from stoups, for example. That is a useful sacramental in a sacred season when the Enemy is working to make us fall. Meditation on the Crucified Lord can be of consolation to those who are suffering and for those who are feeling weak in their resolve.

“Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.” as my old pastor would have said… and did say when he heard of things like this.

In any event, here is the text about the indulgence on Friday:

8 §1. A plenary indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who:

2° in any Friday in the season of Lent piously recite the prayer En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu, before an image of the Crucified Jesus Christ after communion; …

(Reference: Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 4th edition, al. concessiones.)

. . .

It doesn’t specify how long after Communion.  I suppose if you go straight home after Mass that’s fine.  I guess you could use the Crucifix on the Rosary hanging from your rear-view mirror, instead of from your hand.

Here is the prayer which could be useful.

Sometimes you get ready and get in place and then can’t think of what to say. Holy Church helped you out!

This is always good, especially after Mass… in the church… before the Crucifix which ought to be there:

En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu, ante conspectum tuum genibus me provolvo, ac maximo animi ardore te oro atque obtestor, ut meum in cor vividos fidei, spei et caritatis sensus, atque veram peccatorum meorum paenitentiam, eaque emendandi firmissimam voluntatem velis imprimere; dum magno animi affectu et dolore tua quinque vulnera mecum ipse considero, ac mente contemplor, illud prae oculis habens, quod iam in ore ponebat tuo David Propheta de te, o bone Iesu: «Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos; dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea».

Behold, o good and most sweet Jesus, I fall upon my knees before Thee, and with most fervent desire beg and beseech Thee that Thou wouldst impress upon my heart a lively sense of faith, hope and charity, true repentance for my sins, and a firm resolve to make amends. And with deep affection and grief, I reflect upon Thy five wounds, having before my eyes that which Thy prophet David spoke about Thee, o good Jesus: “They have pierced my hands and feet, they have counted all my bones.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Where is this priest living? The instructions for Lenten environment are avalable in any good liturgical material and online. Before Lent, I printed it up and hung it in the sacristy where all who care for the church can use it. A few years ago the ‘ladies’ almost had a battle over when and what should be draped in purple. Having printed directions is much easier.
    As for that beautiful prayer, I was originally taught to say it following reception of the Blessed Sacrament (in the 40’s). It used to be on the back inside cover of my missal. It is not in a lot of the newer religious prayer books.
    Thank you for this remembrance, Father.

  2. L. says:

    Our large church, completed in 1959 or thereabouts, never had a large crucifix. We have a life-size “risen Christ” statue fixed high on the wall over where the altar used to be. (I LOVE covering it up during Lent).

    We still have a processional cross that has a corpus on it (it’s actually all flat because it’s a flat wooden cross with a decoupaged corpus and background scene on it) since one is required at Mass.

    Perhaps your unfortunate reader could point out to the Priest that he has to have a crucifix at Mass?

  3. Jack Quirk says:

    This is why the government feels confident enough to attack the Church. We don’t even respect ourselves anymore. Those who like to remove crucifixes from sanctuaries will be the nice Catholics who comply with the HHS contraception mandate. We’re trending toward the situation in China where there is the government approved catholic church and the underground Catholic Church in communion with the Pope.

  4. philologus says:

    o bone et dulcissime Jesu is one of my favorite prayers.

  5. Centristian says:

    Sometimes I read things like this and I find myself at a loss for words. What could possibly be the rationale for the removal of the image of the crucified Christ during Lent? I’m quite mystified by this one.

    Funny you should mention the removal of Holy Water. I remembered your various posts about the practice from last year and just today I asked a priest I know if he replaced his Holy Water with sand (knowing him to be a bit “progressive” at times). “NO, no, no,” came his response. “That’s completely idiotic and, I might add, not allowed by the Church.” I responded that Father Z would approve. “Who?”

  6. Miriam says:

    Thank you so much for this prayer, Father Z.

    Our pastor is having confession every Thursday in addition to Saturday during Lent.
    We have adoration on Thursday so we can do both the same day.

    We also do not cover the crucifix or empty the holy water fonts.

    We have a seminarian this year who often gives the homilies. He has the gift.

  7. Former Altar Boy says:

    Is there any kind of crucifix in the sanctuary? I have to assume this was not a traditional Latin Mass parish, as the OF generally has a monopoly on such craziness. The OF is regulated by the GIRM, which requires a crucufix.

  8. uptoncp says:

    The Sarum rubrics did require crosses and images – and indeed the whole sanctuary – to be veiled from the beginning of Lent, not just for Passiontide. However, there’s a big difference between veiling and removing – a veiled cross is still obviously a cross, and I presume that the cross veiled by Roman rubrics on Friday before Palm Sunday would still count for the indulgence.

  9. I have a question for the inquirer. Does your parish have decent-sized Stations of the Cross? In my (very old, all original) church, we have large Stations of the Cross. We veil all crucifixes and images during Passiontide, but I just discovered tonight that there is one crucifix in the church that cannot be veiled, and it is in the Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross.

  10. NoTambourines says:

    The parish near where I work has a curious “risen Jesus” crucifix. The face seems to have a mustache-less beard (or too faint to see from below), and I find it bears an odd resemblance to Abe Lincoln. Whoever sculpted it did equip it with a quizzical expression that seems to follow you where you sit.

    I haven’t been attending Masses there long enough to see what, if anything, would be done during Lent.

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  12. John Nolan says:

    The image of Christ crucified was usually printed in missals above the En Ego prayer, the recitation of which, subject to confession, Communion and prayers for the supreme pontiff, carried a plenary indulgence whenever it was used, irrespective of day or season. I always assumed it still does.

  13. LisaP. says:

    I’ve never known this prayer.

    I’ve run into a couple things lately that lead me towards despairing of our culture — so coarse, so cruel. Then I come here and I see this prayer. The fact that it is so beautiful in itself lifts the despair and hopelessness. Thanks.

  14. twele923 says:

    I am the inquirer. The San Damiano was replaced by a large corpus-less cross; apparently this is supposed to put us in the Lenten spirit, since the San Damiano is a “resurrection crucifix”. Our Stations are stainless steel Jerusalem Crosses with a Roman numeral in the center for the Station number and a wooden placard below with an abbreviation of the Station title. Our processional cross has no corpus, and we don’t use it anyway. There are currently no corpora in our sanctuary anywhere except on individual congregants’ Rosaries.

  15. irishgirl says:

    I’ve never heard of removing crucifixes from the sanctuary during Lent.
    I have, however, seen large bare crosses off to the side of the sanctuary. I think they were draped with a purple cloth over the crossbeams during Lent, then with a red one during Holy Week, and lastly with a white one at Easter.

  16. Rich says:

    When the church I used to go to daily Mass to took the crucifix down for Lent, I sought out the image for the 12th Station of the Cross which had an OK image of Christ crucified on it, and said my prayer before the crucifix before it.

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  18. Oh, hey, I’ve seen that prayer before! Back in the Seventies, they used to print it in the back of the Missalette all the time. It always seemed like something of an outlier among all the new prayers, but it had a modern translation and they never came out and said it was old. (Or that you could get an indulgence for it.) Wonder how it managed to sneak in there?

  19. Sandy says:

    How awesome to know that this prayer carries that indulgence. I’ve been saying it after Communion since childhood, and I won’t tell you how many decades that has been! Thank God for all the great nuns and priests who taught us these things about our Faith back then. Sometimes I see some of their faces when I’m praying.

  20. DeaconPaul says:

    As a child it was standard practice for every church to have a large crucifix with a prie-dieu and the text of the “prayer before a crucifix” beneath it. Also as a child I was a bit of an indulgence collector (I still say “my Lord and my God” three times at the elevation) and never missed saying the prayer after Mass. Such practices may seem old fashioned but when you’ve said the prayer several hundred times the sentiments of the words embed themselves in your conciousness.

  21. Tom T says:

    I say that prayer every night before I go to bed before a Crucifix. It used to have a Plenary indulgence issued by Pope Pius IX, July 31 1858. I suppose that`s changed now. I presume now it is only after Communion and on Fridays in lent. Pax

  22. Father P says:

    One more historical note. Along with the Sarum some of the Rites of the Religious Orders, the O Praem’s for example would veil and remove crosses and images from the First Sunday of Lent

  23. JARay says:

    I see that Miriam has a seminarian giving homilies at her church. Is this seminarian a Deacon? Lay people are not permitted to give homilies during Mass and if this seminarian is not a Deacon then he is still a lay person until he receives, at least, the Deaconate. It is a very good idea for all seminarians to be given practice in preaching, but this practice may not take place at Mass.

  24. RichardC says:

    If nothing else, this guy could bring his roasary to Mass. After Mass, whip out his rosary and say the prayer in the presence of the rosary Crucifix.

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  26. mjkelly says:

    In some places all images are covered for Lent (accept the crucifix of course!!!). This is a custom I have had passed on to me by several Catholic Cultures.

    But let us rejoice this Lent, for these “Crucifix Removers”, most likely closely associated with the almost extinct specious of “Tambourine Tumblers” and patrons of the “Funny Fellowship of St. Bozo the Very Silly” are having their last hurrah. Indeed, NO ONE has joined the Leisure Suit Priesthood or Lapel Pin Nunnery for 2 decades now. They are disappearing with a whimper, God save them.

  27. pcoffey1 says:

    keep up the good work Father – we’re rooting for you!

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