Music in Lent

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thanks for your guidance in matters liturgical.

I’m familiar with the directive in GIRM 313 that, with the exceptions of Laetare Sunday, Solemnities, and Feasts “in Lent, the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing.”  Our diocesan office distributed a lengthy list of organ pieces for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays in Lent. So, I’m wondering what your thoughts are regarding rubrics vs. reality?

Any insight is greatly appreciated. 


A: Many years ago I was an occasional organist at the cathedral where I now serve as pastor. Each week I prepared a prelude and a postlude. I kept it up during Lent, even though our choir director raised questions. But I couldn’t imagine not letting people hear some of the great organ literature for Lent, especially from the Orgelbüchlein, and especially “O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde Groß.”

Nowadays I stick by a couple of liturgical principles pertaining to the rubrics: Do what it says. Don’t do what it doesn’t say.

I also encourage people to try what the rubrics say before they conclude that their idea is better.

Yet I realize that there are bigger battles to fight. We aren’t supposed to set flowers on the altar either, but the sacristan places them on the pope’s altar for daily Mass.

In general, my advice is to trust the rubrics. They will bring you more blessings than you may imagine.