Percussion at Mass during Lent


Maybe someone can fill me in. I believe that there are fairly clear rules in the GIRM about instrumental music during Lent - - it’s supposed to be to “support the singing” only. However, this isn’t really being followed at my parish. When we’re hearing maracas, suspended cymbal, bongos, etc during the Lenten hymns, it seems really weird to me.
Would I ask the pastor, or the music director? Am I wrong and this is not a hard-and-fast rule? If the pastor is allowing this, should I even bother asking him (because it’s really confronting him, isn’t it?), or just go to another parish for now?


I feel you are correct. This not according to the Ordo. Instrumental music is to be used only in support of the singing. I cannot see maracas, cymbals & bongos used in accordance with Lenten hymns. I would respectfully address this with the Pastor.


The way I understand it, music to “support the singing” means accompanied singing and excludes instrumental pieces. Such as organ preludes and postludes, or for example, an interlude played after the Communion hymn finishes but distribution is still going on.

I don’t think we are entitled to a stricter sense of “support the singing” than this. That being said, this kind of percussion you mentioned seems to me to be in poor taste for Catholic liturgy in any season, but that’s merely personal opinion, and doesn’t speak to any kind of liturgical norms other than common sense, long-standing tradition, and the historical prohibition of various types of instruments, but none of this is in force today.


I would cringe about maracas and bongos but they aren’t really any more out of place during Lent than during the rest of the liturgical year. I am having a hard time picturing the use of these instruments with hymns - modern praise and worshippy music, maybe - but not sacred hymns.


Of course it’s not prudent. Nor appropriate.
I would approach the Pastor. The Music Director will feel like you are stepping on their toes (I know, I am one myself. We’re an over-sensitive bunch, especially when people point out that we may be incorrect…it’s human frailty thing.:blush:)

May I ask…is it at a cultural Mass? Last night I met with our Hispanic choir and when I told them that the Lamb of God (Cordero de Dios) was not to be so upbeat…considering what was going on in the Mass) and asked for a milder presentation in terms of tempo and rhythm the ladies were mad at me for the rest of the night. Long faces, and the definite “you don’t get our music” looks. I do. I’m Hispanic. People of all faiths can be reverent in Mass. There’s lots of opportunity for big praise and joy filled hymns. But there are times for other kinds of musical expression. Not an indictment, just a fact.

I’ve always believed that Lent and Advent are reflective times.
Just mention that you don’t feel reflective with all the hoopla. Ask if the music can be taken down a notch…simple.
Less complex, less elated. I always tell my musicians that we should picture ourselves present in those days of Christ’s life. It might be a simpler melody…a softer presentation…lyrics that are more reflective…
Peace, and good luck!




I heard a peppy and upbeat Psalm 50/51. No drums. If Catholic music directors (and Catholics in general) cannot understand that there are different moods in liturgical seasons and scripture, then the question of percussion is moot. Church music is not meant to be plug and chug; find a nice ditty and put whatever words over it. This is a huge problem with folk/pop music, but this was also an issue with opera, orchestral , and modern polyphony being introduced during Mass way back when. St. Pius X wrote a nice encyclical on sacred music, Pius XII echoed it. It’s pretty easy to call it a personal opinion to not have drums at Mass, but when Popes explicitly speak against it, it’s difficult to call it a matter of personal opinion.

I am a life-long percussionist. I’ve taught percussion privately and at high schools for years. I firmly believe drums and percussion instruments have no place at Mass.


The two churches I attend have invested heavily in their percussion instruments. Mercifully, these are rarely used, but why waste the money?


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