The Armchair Liturgist: Long Gospel Readings

So, put yourself in the purple chair once again. The first of four weekends of long gospel readings is upon us. What do you do?

  • Use the shortened versions?
  • Let the people sit down?
  • Do something that swerves from the rubrics like dialogue formats or intersperse them with musical acclamations?
  • Warn everybody ahead of time these are longer readings (nothing in the rubrics to support that one either, by the way) then proceed to fulfill your own prophecy?
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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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11 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Long Gospel Readings

  1. Jeff Pinyan says:

    If it were up to me, I would use the longer version. I would also make use of the permission in the GIRM for the priest to briefly introduce the Liturgy of the Word (cf. GIRM 31), and in doing so, inform the faithful that because the Gospel is lengthy, those who have difficulty standing may remain seated, but those who are able to stand should stand as it is the appropriate sign of reverence dictated by the Church.

    Perhaps I’m biased because I’m not elderly, and because my legs work fine, but I don’t see why people shouldn’t be prepared to stand for the gospel reading. It’s Lent: offer it up as a mortification!

    And I guess they’re glad not to be an Eastern Catholic, standing for pretty much the entire Divine Liturgy.

  2. Matthew Meloche says:

    I don’t think there’s a need to make the announcement. If the elderly or injured really cannot stand for the entire Gospel, they’ll just sit down halfway through. They stand for longer periods of time while waiting in line at a WalMart on a Saturday afternoon.

  3. Anne says:

    Don’t deprive people of the intended version. A healthy person can stand up for it’s length. I just timed this week’s myself reading at a normal pace…6 mins. No announcements should be necessary. A sensible Catholic who doesn’t feel well will know to sit down.

  4. aplman says:

    For the coming three Sundays we’ll stand for the gospel; for the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the assembly is seated. I appreciate standing as a posture of reverence for the Word but if posture undercuts the people’s capacity to absorb and understand that Word, I believe understanding trumps the posture – and this is especially true for assemblies with children (i.e., all assemblies!).

    Sometimes when there’s a long and short version in the lectionary, I use a medium version – which is what I’ll do this week: not quite as long as the long, not quite as short as the short. Since we have pew books with the texts in them, I will announce this adaptation just before the gospel acclamation.

  5. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    The long version. On principle I have never used the shorter versions. Why we feel a need to tamper with what the evangelist wrote always bemuses me. When I take up the Sunday readings at with a study group I run in the local parish I naturally use the full versions, even when the text in the lectionary omits verses we also read them. Sometimes I will even refer to the wider context. One of the great achievements of Vatican II’s liturgical reform was a fuller Lectionary, and hearing, praying and studying the Word of God has been a wonderful grace and blessing for the people I have worked with over the years.
    As more than one commentator has observed, those who feel a need to sit will. Further we should avoid asking why some feel a need to sit, indeed I even go as far as to say that some of our more senior parishioners should be encouraged to sit, or to stand for only as long as they feel comfortable.

  6. We use the full versions.

    On occasion, I’ve prefaced the Gospel with a comment that those who need to should not hesitate to sit down, but I’m not sure if I’ll continue that.

    People here stand for the entire Passion proclamations during Holy Week; some sit.

  7. PadreVic says:

    I think in a parish it is important to tell people who have trouble standing (and their loved ones) to sit if they need to, any time they see necessary. As far as their loved ones to sit with them, The Body can take a sick/frail/challenged wife sitting with her healthy husband.

    Enjoy Lent
    peace to all

  8. For Good Friday at our parish we have tried having the people sit until the arrival at Golgotha, at which time they stand. It works as long as the reader remembers to tell the people to stand at that point.

  9. Liam says:

    Full versions. It shouldn’t be necessary to tell people they can sit if they are unable to stand for very long, but that’s a matter of pastoral judgment. As someone who has suffered repeated hamstring and related leg muscle pulls, standing in one place for more an a few minutes is about the single worse thing for my leg, and I wish I were able to stand longer, but I don’t think we should use the proclamation of the Passion as a test of how much we can mortify ourselves, as that test is a narcissistic exercise that obscures the point of the proclamation.

  10. Liam says:

    Anyway, for those of you who can stand without significant discomfort: relish the opportunity while ye may and take it as an opportunity for gratitude in the present moment. Pastors, please don’t take that opportunity away from them in the name of folks like me.

  11. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Liam: I certainly didn’t mean my comment to cause offense to people who have genuine problems with standing in one place for a period of time. Rather, it is a call for humility for people who stand for 15 minutes in line at the supermarket or a concert ticket-line… but “don’t want to” for Mass; or for people who just get absolutely bored by standing no matter what it is they’re standing for. To them (and I was one of them once!) this is an opportunity for a mortification (not so much of the flesh, but of the ego).

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