ASK FATHER: Lighting Advent wreath during Mass

From a reader…


Father, is it appropriate to replace the penitential rite with the lighting of the advent wreath?


Just… no.

The longer explanation is, course, Nooooooooo.

I think there is a blessing for a wreath that can be used during Mass in the Ordinary Form on the 1st Sunday of Advent only, and only in countries where it has been approved.  That doesn’t apply to other Sundays of Advent.  Also, in no way does it substitute for the penitential rite of Mass.  You bless the thing, light the candles, Mass goes on as it should according to the book.

This sounds like the triumph of low information sentimentality over good Catholic common sense.

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  1. Lepidus says:

    Assuming that the blessing of the Wreath during the first Sunday of Advent it ok, shouldn’t it only be at the first Mass (which in most cases ends up being the Saturday evening anticipation Mass)? It seems that it is either blessed or it is not blessed. After #1, isn’t it just for show?

  2. John V says:

    “the triumph of low information sentimentality over good Catholic common sense”

    Now there’s a phrase to commit to memory! So many opportunities to put it to use.

  3. REV.JAV says:

    The “Book of Blessings” indicates that it should be done after the “general intercessions”. Yet, the confusion may come from the fact that the “Bendicional” (the Spanish book of blessings approved by the bishops of Mexico) says: “La bendición se hará después del saludo inicial, en lugar del acto penitencial.” “The blessing is done after the initial greeting, in place of the penitential act.”.

    Not that I am agreeing with the practice, which, I agree, would be both silly and awful, but that may be where the confusion comes from (I have no idea what other languages or countries say). Some consistency in these books, and better versions overall, would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Clemens Romanus says:

    As REV.JAV SAS, [What does that mean?] the Book of Blessings [blech] gives the blessing after the Universal Prayer during Mass. For the succeeding Sundays, it can be done prior to the Collect. Perhaps that’s also a source of the confusion.

  5. Clemens Romanus says:


  6. In my diocese, the penitential rite is routinely replaced anyway, by some ad-libbed speechifying by the priest.

  7. Clemens Romanus says:

    Sorry, dear Father. I was naming the user above my comment, REV.JAV, and then auto correct “corrected” my misspelling of the word “says” to “SAS”.

  8. “Sentimentality” is a bullseye since in many parishes a family comes forward to light the candle each week. Yes, how sweet, and if someone were to complain that it’s not in the book, that person would no doubt be called a meanie, especially in parishes where extras are routine at Sunday Mass, especially at the main Mass.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    I think this is a side effect of having so many options in the OF Mass, that people think they can tailor it anyway they want. If I were Pope there would be one penitential rite the confiteor, followed by the Kyrie sung in Greek, not this combined thing we see most of the time.

  10. Sonshine135 says:

    I had a Priest one time that was high on theatrics and would have a family come up and light the candle on the wreath each week in this elaborate ceremony that integrated an ad-libbed blessing. My only beef with it is that it would have been just completely hunky dory if it were done prior to Mass, but the fact that he would do the Introductory Rites and then do this elaborate, ad-libbed service gets to me. Truly a Liturgy Science Theater 3000 if there ever was one, and I would provide similar commentary like Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo.

  11. TMKent says:

    I was at a parish recently where the “wreath” was an odd conglomeration of 4 tall candles stands of different heights and the priest gave a mini sermon on how it was going to move across the sanctuary each week symbolizing the “journey” we were on. He also called out a portion of the congregation for dressing nice. I hear he encourages the many “ministers” to wear jeans so as “not to distract from the mass”.

  12. scholastica says:

    Low information sentimentality-a truly apt phrase for so much of what sadly directs the liturgy these days.
    When I served on a worship committee I was often defending the Mass against these sentiments. I coined them”the liturgy of the good idea”. As in “I have a good idea” or even more scary, “in my old parish, we did________”. The blue book and girm were my constant companions even in their lack of clarity.
    I have to admit that I was guilty myself in introducing ,with pastoral approval, the family lighting/ prayer which I had participated in at my old parish. It only lasted two years when I realized it was not in the instructions. Nevertheless I have seen it in many good parishes, but I think it’s phasing out. Actually, the blue book is very clear that there is to be no ceremony or ritual after the first Sunday of advent. That is a good point about only blessing it once, not at each mass for first Sunday.
    The absolute worst incidence of LIS (low information sentimentality)was on hearing of how a previous rather grouchy pastor did “one wonderful thing each year” with the 1st communicants. He would help them make paper mache chalice s, then bring the children around the altar and yup, he used their personal chalices for the consecrated wine.
    Sadly too, it’s often true that in trying to protect and promote the true liturgy, you are cast off as a “meanie” who only cares about the”law” and not the”spirit” of the liturgy. That’s when it’s good to have an extra copy of The Spirit of the Liturgy on hand.

  13. Fr AJ says:

    In keeping with a theme in the Book of Blessings, if you note carefully, there is no actual blessing of the Advent Wreath, the blessing is on the people: “Pour forth your blessing on us as we light the candles…” or option two, “O Lord, let your blessing come upon us as we light the candles…” I added an actual blessing of the wreath after the “us.”

  14. Clemens Romanus says:

    Though I know not its provenance, there’s a beautiful blessing of an Advent Wreath floating around online. We use it at home after the Shorter Rite from the Book of Blessings:

    O God, by Whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

  15. disc.s.thom says:

    I would reiterate REV.JAV’s point that for Spanish Masses, those who use the liturgical books from Mexico (since our bishops expect us to provide the sacraments in Spanish yet have not approved a Missal or Book of Blessings for the USA in Spanish, that I’m aware of, yet) some priests offering the Mass in Spanish may have followed the Mexican rubrics.

    Though, I would argue a priest could follow the English Book of Blessings rubrics, make his own translation of the introduction and intercessions from the English Book of Blessings into Spanish, and then use the blessing from the Mexican Book of Blessings (Bendicional).

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