ANY PARISHES spend a great deal of time and energy planning their Lenten program for the year. More often than not, this planning resorts to creative ways of spicing up the Sunday liturgical celebrations.
By all means, it is good for parishes to offer extra opportunities during Lent: additional Bible studies, group almsgiving initiatives, adult faith formation series, special opportunities for performing the Works of Mercy, etc. These are all good and wonderful.
Liturgically, however, the Church already has a “Lenten program,” and it is better than anything a liturgy committee can or will come up with. The truth is that we don’t have to “plan” anything special for our Lenten liturgies; we simply need to “prepare” the liturgies as they are laid out in the liturgical books.
What does the Church’s liturgical “Lenten program” look like? In no specific order:
1. No flowers in the sanctuary and simpler altar cloths
2. Withholding of the Gloria and Alleluia
3. No instrumental music & use of the organ only to support the singing
4. Violet vestments
5. Rose vestments, along with moderate use of flowers & instrumental music, to mark the special significance of Laetare Sunday
6. Offer extra times for Confessions
7. Veiling of statues & images throughout Passiontide
8. Special devotions, such as the Stations of the Cross
9. Public recitation of the Divine Office during the Sacred Triduum
10. Tenebrae services
11. Exercising the option to read the Sunday Gospels from Year A in all three years of the Lectionary cycle
12. Use of the solemn entrance during the principal Mass on Palm Sunday
13. Silencing of the bells and use of the strepitus during the Sacred Triduum
14. Careful celebration of the Sacred Triduum liturgies according to the rubrics and the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts
15. Use of the Prayers Over the People appointed for the final blessing each day at Mass
There are probably other items that could be added to this list. The point is this: simply adhering to the tradition of the Church in these matters would be a wonderful Lenten program for every parish.