Why don't some church use a thurible?


The church that we use to go to uses a thurible and we are trying to find a church that also uses it. We have been to 3 (in texas), and none of them use it. Is there a reason for it? Are there certain ‘types’ of church that uses it, or is it just at the discretion of the parish, and/or even building codes (fire/smoke risk)?


I’m in Texas, but in a different city for college. My church back home uses it on special holidays and for Confirmations. They also use it if they have Eucharistic Adoration planned. It just depends. We don’t use it every week though.


Ah! So that’s what they call the censor thing!

As with Kurisu, our church generally only uses the thurible only for special occasions also.
I lean towards the idea that it’s under the discretion of the parish, but I hear its use is limited in other places. It’d be interesting to know the reasoning behind this.


Our weekly EF uses it. Really wonderful symbolism there.


I would imagine most parishes do not use a thurible on a regular basis. However, occasionally I go to Sunday Mass at our local Trappist abbey, and they use it every Sunday. As I have never attended weekday Mass there, I can’t answer to that.

Being old enough to have been an altar boy well prior to the changes in the Mass, we didn’t use it on a regular Sunday basis back then either. And that was in the 50’s… However, it was hauled out for Benediction which was associated with novenas during the week in the evenings.


Historically, for Mass, the thurible was only used (and as a matter of fact mandatory) in a Solemn High Mass (with deacon and subdeacon), meaning most parishes that only had a Sung Mass on normal Sundays did not use it except for Adoration, and the most important holidays if they had access to enough priests (the roles of subdeacon and deacon were most often filled by priests, since deacons and subdeacons in general were transitional).

Later, some countries (at first England, if I remember correctly) were given dispensation to use the thurible also in Sung Masses, as far as I know because the rules caused many parishes to never use it, due to a lack of priests. This quickly spread also to other areas. In some parishes the thurible was adopted for all sung Masses (when celebrated similar to a Solemn Mass, with MC, acolytes etc.), but other parishes adopted it only for the most important holidays. This might also have been because many parishes celebrated Sung Mass in the manner of Low Mass (with a choir, but without acolytes and so on), in which case the thurible was rarely (if ever) used. The “in the manner of Solemn Mass” form is quite a lot of work, and several small parishes might not even have had enough altar servers on a regular basis.

Today, I have found this history to be reflected in how different parishes use the thurible. The parish closest to where my parents live is small, and used to be minuscule. They still only use the thurible for important holidays - at best. The parish I go to where I live (in the capital) is big (pre-reform probably big enough to celebrate Solemn Mass on a regular basis), and the thurible is used every Sunday.

In a sense, only using the thurible for holidays is more traditional than using it every Sunday; it reflects the difference between the forms of Mass in the Latin Rite. Of course except if a deacon is involved: In that case, no thurible (and no choir) is an invention. In a Low Mass, there was no function of deacon. Of course, the distinction is now gone, so it is perfectly ‘legal’ to celebrate spoken Mass with deacon and without incense. It is just a bit odd, in the historical sense; back when deacons were always present during Mass, every Mass was celebrated in the solemn form.


Keep in mind that there is cost and effort involved with incense beyond just that which we see visibly at the Mass.

The coals and incense cost money. Good incense isn’t cheap.

Incense leaves a sticky residue and a good sacristan will clean the thurible after every use so that the priest doesn’t grab it and get a hand full of stick stuff at the start of Mass. Altar servers have to be trained to use it and the thing gets extremely hot. Not every altar server gets to be a thurifer and you have to be specifically trained at my parish before you get to do it.

There has to be a place to dispose of the coals after Mass. It can’t be brought into some parts of modern buildings with smoke detectors - we can’t leave it burning in the narthex at our Church for any length of time or the alarm will ring and the fire department will show up.

There is more to it than just lighting it up and shoving some incense in.



I love the smell of incense.

They only use it at the main Mass on Sundays.


Another issue I’ve encountered is the “sensitivity / allergy” complaint. We seem to be hyper-vigilant concerning substances that might irritate someone, and I have heard this reason used as to why our parish uses incense literally only at funerals - at Masses, that is. Monthly Benediction certainly uses incense.


I’ve known parishioners to buy the censer, the boat, the coal, and the incense. (They even make nice Christmas gifts. :))

Where there is a will, there is a way.


True, and I purchased two ablution cups recently for our parish, but three coals burning and a few spoons of incense will cover the thurible with sticky gunk and somebody has to clean the thing after every use, or every two or three uses at a minimum.

We have several including one which is never to be touched by anyone under pain of excommunication. It is reserved for funerals only and the head sacristan polishes it personally after every use.

You can have all the will in the world but you gotta have a body able and ready to do it.



It’s not required of a Mass but Trent Session XXII lists it under apostolica discinplina:

Cumque natura hominum ea sit, ut non facile queat sine adminiculis exterioribus ad rerum divinarum meditationem sustolli, propterea pia mater Ecclesia ritus quosdam, ut scilicet quædam summissa voce, alia vero elatiore, in missa pronunciarentur, instituit. Cerimonias item, adhibuit, ut mysticas benedictiones, lumina, thymiamata, vestes, aliaque id genus multa ex apostolica disciplina et traditione, quo et majestas tanti sacrificii commendaretur, et mentes fidelium per hæc visibilia religionis et pietatis signa ad rerum altissimarum, quæ in hoc sacrificio latent, contemplationem excitarentur.

And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he can not easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has holy Mother Church instituted certain rites, to wit, that certain things be pronounced in the mass in a low, and others in a louder, tone. She has likewise employed ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.


I am on staff at a growing parish and we are building a new church. I was at a planning meeting for the dedication Mass and learned that the church will be filled with incense smoke at the Mass. I, for one, love the incense but our pastor does not.


I heard a priest tell a story about another PP who had an old lady that would start coughing every time she saw the thurible in the procession line-up. She complained about allergies and it making her feel ill. One day, the PP told the thurifer to get out the thurible but not put any coals or incense in it at all. Sure enough, when they lined up for Mass, the same old lady starts coughing up a lung so everyone knows she’s upset. The PP took the thurible up to her, opened it in front of her and showed her it was completely empty.

I know that some people are sensitive to incense (I once got some bronchitis as a thurifer when I put too much of the cheap incense in the thurible I was in charge of). However, I don’t think that we should relegate such an iconic element of Catholic worship to suit the concerns of a few. If a parish really wants incense, tell the people that it will be offered at a particular Mass on Sunday. that way the people that don’t want it can go to a different Mass. It’s about setting expectations.

We actually did this with our Gregorian chant group. Most people like us, but some prefer a different style of music. So we made it clear that we would only be at a particular Mass on the 1st Sunday of each month. People respected that and there was not a big uproar. We were even able to teach the people some Latin Ordinaries.


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