can a lay woman lead a penance service?


#1

My son attends a Catholic university, and he told me that he attended the university chapel’s penance service. He was disturbed by what went on.

The penance portion was preceded by a liturgical service, which was led by a woman, who was wearing an alb. She led the opening prayer, including saying, “The Lord be with you,” to which the people responded “And with your spirit.” A layperson said the reading, then the woman gave what amounted to a homily (called a “reflection” in the program). A layperson read the examination of conscience, then the woman led the people in saying the I Confess. She then said a closing prayer which again included saying “The Lord be with you,” and the response “And with your spirit.” Then the Our Father was said, then confessions began, and there were several priests available to hear confessions.

My question is, can a layperson, specifically a laywoman, lead a penance service? And is it proper for any layperson to say “The Lord be with you” and the people respond to a layperson “And with your spirit”?


#2

"And with your spirit" is probably inappropriate, and might be improper. I'm sure others will comment. I'm not sure.

What you describe however, is not Mass. It is a prayer service. Anyone can lead a prayer service. Anyone can lead others in prayer. Anyone can give a reflection.

-Tim-


#3

Was this woman the “Pastoral Leader” of the campus ministry?
If so, and the priests available, were not necessarily “known” to the students as this woman may be, I could see where she might “lead” the service.

Technically, since this was not a Mass, but a prayer service, having it lead by a woman, and having a woman give a “reflection” is not “wrong”. However, I also think that prudence must be used. I, for one, do not like anyone but priests, deacons & altar servers to be wearing albs. Also, if I were in charge, I may have asked the preists if they would like to participate in the prayer service before I enlisted any of the lay people, but that’s just me.

The “The Lord be with You” thing I cannot speak to, because I am not sure about it. I would have to do some research, and it’s just too late for that, so maybe someone else will chime in. :yawn:

All in all, jpjd, I would be happy that my college aged child actually went to the service, and encourage him/her to bring these questions to the Campus Ministry. You should be proud! College is the time when many fall away from their faith, and not only is your son going to a Penance service, he is concerned for the integrity of such things- Good job!! :thumbsup:


#4

Why have a penance service with no priests to absolve? Seems a bit superfluous and excessive to me, except in the most extreme pastoral need (ie Antarctica or something).


#5

There’s no reason anyone cannot say to anyone else “The Lord be with you.” It’s a prayer, wish, a blessing. There is also no reason people can’y say, “And with your spirit” in response.

There’s a thread here someplace about the Pope starting something in Germany where churches are essentially being led by lay persons and priests are assigned groups of parishes, travelling about confecting the Eucharist and celebrating only weekly services, so a lot of lay people are going to be leading a lot of daily Communion services. Keeping these services similar to the Mass in structure, helps people be comfortable and be more fully engaged. And a lot of the people leading them are going to be women.


#6

Can you provide an actual source for this and not just state that “there is a thread here someplace”?

A woman should not be wearing an alb and leading a penance service like this! I am solely referring to the fact that she is dressed in an alb and using phrases/blessings that a priest would use during the Mass. This is quite assuredly blurring the very defined lines between clergy and laity. She, as a lay woman, has no business (and neither would a lay man), blessing the congregated faithful and wearing liturgical vestments while leading a penance service. It sounds pretty shady to me.


#7

Where does it say this woman blessed anyone?


#8

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:4, topic:307274"]
Why have a penance service with no priests to absolve? Seems a bit superfluous and excessive to me, except in the most extreme pastoral need (ie Antarctica or something).

[/quote]

YoungTradCath - did you read the opening post carefully ?

the OP said

The penance portion was preceded by a liturgical service, which was led by a woman, who was wearing an alb. She led the opening prayer, including saying, "The Lord be with you," to which the people responded "And with your spirit." A layperson said the reading, then the woman gave what amounted to a homily (called a "reflection" in the program). A layperson read the examination of conscience, then the woman led the people in saying the I Confess. She then said a closing prayer which again included saying "The Lord be with you," and the response "And with your spirit." Then the Our Father was said, then confessions began,** and there were several priests available to hear confessions.**

Who said anything about no priests to absolve ?


#9

[quote="jpjd, post:1, topic:307274"]

The penance portion was preceded by a liturgical service, which was led by a woman, who was wearing an alb. She led the opening prayer, including saying, "The Lord be with you," to which the people responded "And with your spirit." A layperson said the reading, then the woman gave what amounted to a homily (called a "reflection" in the program). A layperson read the examination of conscience, then the woman led the people in saying the I Confess. She then said a closing prayer which again included saying "The Lord be with you," and the response "And with your spirit." Then the Our Father was said, then confessions began, and there were several priests available to hear confessions.

My question is, can a layperson, specifically a laywoman, lead a penance service? And is it proper for any layperson to say "The Lord be with you" and the people respond to a layperson "And with your spirit"?

[/quote]

Quite simply, if there were priests there to hear confession, then one of them should have led the penance service. Lay people can only carry out liturgical acts in the absence of a priest.


#10

There is nothing wrong with a woman leading a prayer service, although, with several priests present I question the wisdom of a lay leader at all.

The USCCB allows all ministers to wear albs, which are not priestly garments but rather the garment proper to the baptized. That’s what we put on our adult newly baptized and even on our older children.

*“The Lord be with you”
**“And with your spirit” ***
is reserved to the ordained, that response is recognizing an ontological difference between the ordained and the laity.

The lay leader should open with the Sign of the Cross and a greeting should be something similar to what we have in the *Sunday Celebration of the Word & Hours *(Canada’s version of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest):

Blessed be the God of all consolation,
who has shown us his great mercy.
Bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God forever.

I’ve never been to a penitential service where a priest read the examination of conscience. It’s always been a lay person and it’s always been a ‘have I?’ type of reflection.

In some cases the person has the bishop’s OK to preach or give a reflection at these services. At Mass only a priest, bishop or Deacon may give a homily but the same rule doesn’t apply outside of Mass. Then it’s up to the Bishop.


#11

Thanks for all the responses.

My son said that the program even said "Liturgy of the Word" on the program. I don't know if this new information would change any your responses.

It was a liturgy, which means it was more than just a simple prayer service. My understanding is that lay people can give a Liturgy of the Word with their bishop's permission and with training; however, my concern is that in this situation, it was not a case of a Liturgy of the Word being given in place of a Mass due to no priest being available. This was a penance service and because the Liturgy of the Word is very close in look and feel to the first part of the Mass, to have a lay woman in particular lead it seems very much like an opportunity for a woman to "play the role" of a priest. I don't understand why any layperson should lead a penance service when by definition at least one priest would have to be present for the confessions and therefore available to do the penance service himself.

I also have had a chance to do some looking around. I found this article that explains the meaning of "And with your spirit," and here is an excerpt that addresses lay people using the greeting:
blog.adw.org/2010/05/and-with-your-spirit-its-not-what-you-think/

This understanding of the Greeting and response is confirmed by the fact that only a Bishop, priest or deacon may give the greeting “The Lord be with you” and hence receive the response, “and with your spirit. For example the General Instruction for the Celebration of Mass in the Absence of a Priest says:

"The layperson is not to use words that are proper to a priest or deacon and is to omit rites that are too readily associated with the Mass, for example, greetings – especially “The Lord be with you” – and dismissals, since these might give the impression that the layperson is a sacred minister. (SCAP # 39)"

Disclaimer: Not all Sacramental Theologians accept this line of thinking. There is seldom perfect agreement on most things liturgical and how they are historically understood. However the view presented here seems largely to be the thinking in Rome and on the Vox Clara Commission which is responsible for overseeing the New Translation.


#12

[quote="jpjd, post:1, topic:307274"]
My son attends a Catholic university, and he told me that he attended the university chapel's penance service. He was disturbed by what went on.

The penance portion was preceded by a liturgical service, which was led by a woman, who was wearing an alb. She led the opening prayer, including saying, "The Lord be with you," to which the people responded "And with your spirit." A layperson said the reading, then the woman gave what amounted to a homily (called a "reflection" in the program). A layperson read the examination of conscience, then the woman led the people in saying the I Confess. She then said a closing prayer which again included saying "The Lord be with you," and the response "And with your spirit." Then the Our Father was said, then confessions began, and there were several priests available to hear confessions.

My question is, can a layperson, specifically a laywoman, lead a penance service? And is it proper for any layperson to say "The Lord be with you" and the people respond to a layperson "And with your spirit"?

[/quote]

Can a woman lead a penance service? NO.


#13

And your source for that assertion is…?


#14

[quote="paperwight66, post:13, topic:307274"]
And your source for that assertion is....?

[/quote]

A woman wearing an alb? You have to be kidding. Someone should have told her to sit down and be quiet.


#15

An alb is the proper dress of any baptized person. She wasn’t wearing a cassock or stole.
Remember that any action properly done by a layperson can be done by a woman or a man.

The prayer service wasn’t a liturgy, so it was fine to have a lay person (man or woman) lead it. And it was fine for that person to wear an alb. EDIT: Even if the program said Liturgy of the Word, it wesn’t exactly the same thing as the LOW in Mass.

The reflection may have been something from a book or may have been something she wrote herself. That’s OK. This wasn’t a Mass, so it wasn’t a homily.

The statement “The Lord be with you” can be said by anyone; however, the response “And with your spirit” should only be said to an ordained person. “Amen” would have been better responses. But unless a different response was written into the program everyone was probably on autopilot which isn’t her fault.

I am very glad to hear that there were sufficient priests there to hear confession. Since none of us (including your son) were part of the planning for this event, we don’t know if the priests were asked to lead the service and they declined or exactly how everything was decided on.

Has your son never seen this woman before? She is likely the administrator of the chapel. (Again a job that perfectly appropriate for a lay person (man or woman) with the proper credentials to hold. One doesn’t have to be ordained to administer a parish or chapel or retreat center, etc.)


#16

I’d walk right out.


#17

And then you would have missed the opportunity for sacramental confession. :frowning:


#18

No, I’d be missing an opportunity to be harassed by a wacko female wannabe looking for a captive audience.

I’d walk out.


#19

There should never be a Communion Service on a weekday. If no priest is available, Mass is to be canceled.

Communion services are only for Sundays and Holy Days where there is an obligation to attend.

God Bless


#20

I've seen communion services during the week when there was enough consecrated hosts and no priest available lead by a nun in an alb. These types of threads are difficult to answer and assess because none of us were there. The best thing would be to have your son check with the campus chapel or the priest who is running it and ask about what he observed or thought he observed and why. Was the women a nun or some sort of campus minister or pastoral assistant? Was this just scripture reading and the women leading it was wearing an alb because that is what their lectors wear? Why was this a "penance" service with no priest to hear confession and give absolution? He should try to get answers from the chapel instead of having it go third person on the internet.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.