How many hands does it take…?

This year’s Easter Vigil was a real logistical ordeal for presiders. Anyone baptising new Christians or receiving anyone into full communion will have experienced this.

We already know how confusing the current Roman Missal (3rd edition) is when it comes to what happens at the Baptismal Liturgy of the Vigil, depending on baptisms/no baptisms/no font…. Not only are the options unclear to many clergy, the page layout of the Missal itself is such as to make the whole exercise fraught with frustration, uncertainty and confusion.

Add to that the fact that presiders have to go back and forth from the Missal to the RCIA ritual (Jerry Galipeau has waxed lyrical about this on his blog) and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

This year, it was worse. Much worse. Presiders were faced with having to juggle with no less than three books. If you baptise, you also confirm, and of course we now have a revised Rite of Confirmation with different texts from those used previously. So: Missal, RCIA, Rite of Confirmation……

The ideal answer, of course, is to put everything in place in sequence in a beautiful binder; but many presiders didn’t realise what they would be facing until it was too late. At the Vigil that I was part of, the presider stopped dead in the middle and nothing happened for about 20 seconds. Then he said, with a smile in his voice: “I am hoping that the red book is going to magically appear….”, leading to altar servers scurrying off to find the Rite of Confirmation for him (it had fallen down behind a chair).

How was it for you? Smooth and well-oiled (excuse the pun!), or a juggling act?


  1. I did the Easter Vigil at a local Catholic nursing home — no baptisms, confirmations or first communions. I used the Roman Missal and the Book of the Gospels, and that was all!

  2. This experience is why every parish should have a well trained and knowledgeable liturgist(like me!) who would have foreseen this disaster and have worked with the pastor, RCIA team and liturgy folks to ensure that the rites would flow gracefully and prayerfully………….despite Roman Missal III.
    I assisted our auxiliary bishop at a convent with about 150 baptisms or confirmations. After the homily, we blessed the Easter water, renewed baptismal promises followed by the General Intercessions.
    I must say I had to read the rubrics several times to figure out what prayer we should use for the blessing of the water.
    This Missal is simply not functional and as other have mentioned, the US bishops need to re visit the 1998 Sacramentary again.

  3. We used a binder, like we do for every single Sunday Mass. And honestly the Triduum is easiest of all. A few Microsoft Word “find and replace” commands, and updated General Intercessions for Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil, and you’re done!

    OK–maybe not that easy–but easier than a “regular” Sunday. The Roman Missal only appears for the Prayer Over the Gifts and the Eucharistic Prayer (with proper insert for baptisms taped into Eucharistic Prayer III).

  4. It was made easier for us because it totally escaped my notice (or my memory) that there was a new translation of the confirmation rite. But we have all the sacraments of initiation in one binder, so that wouldn’t have been too much of a problem.

  5. I prepare a binder for the candle and baptismal portions. This year the plastic sheet protectors came in handy since the weather was marginal. The musicians have an identically prepared copy. It makes it possible for our server to comfortably manage the Missal.

    Vigil takes preparation. I’ve worked with priests who literally wing-it, flipping all through the Missal, reading instructions … and yes it shows … Like the person who does not prepare for the Exsultet … good luck.

    It is only confusing if you do not prepare.

  6. “This is why God made iPads”

    How common is it to use a tablet or similar device rather than a physical book in worship? I mean specifically for the presider or deacon or lector or cantor? I don’t think I’ve ever observed it in a church. We do have a guitarist who uses a tablet rather than sheet music, but he’s sort of tucked away in a corner. I’ve used my smartphone to lead prayers in small meetings in meeting rooms, but never in church.

  7. Very grateful that we have a director of music and liturgy who prepared a binder with all my texts, except for from the offertory through communion. We also don’t do receptions into full communion at the Vigil, which on top of all the more high falutin’ reasons, makes things a little simpler!

  8. We had a reception/confirmation at our Vigil Mass and things went off nicely. There was confusion at the Good Friday liturgy, however, during the Bidding Prayers. Part of the confusion stemmed from the confusing layout of the missal and the fact that the cantor sang the introduction to each prayer but the presider recited each corresponding prayer. Because the missal lays out the introduction to each prayer in musical notation first and then again without the music, I believe the presider thought the non-musical part was the prayer. For a few of the prayers we didn’t hear a prayer but two introductions. Finally the cantor went up and whispered in the ear of the presider and everything was fine. These things happen and we move on.

  9. We did a bilingual vigil (English & Spanish) where I, the presider, prepared a binder for the first time with the prayers and texts in the appropriate language. It was much simpler than in years past when we switched between 4 or 5 different books. I also did a full rehearsal with the altar servers and deacons who were assisting. All the preparation paid off and things went smoothly and beautifully.

    I’m curious as to how many parishes do the full set of readings? We did, alternating between English and Spanish, with the Gospel read in both. With one baptism and 3 confirmations, the service lasted just under 3 hours.

  10. Oops…forgot about the new Rite of Confirmation for the one reception into the full communion of the Church I celebrated. I used the one in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults ritual. God isn’t quite so concerned about which is used, I suspect.
    Then again, how many parishes buy the Confirmation Ritual? The Bishop brings the book when he confirms the youth of the parish. And in our case we go to the Bishop at the Cathedral. I’m sure I’m not the only priest who didn’t realize there was another book needed. Maybe diocesan Offices of Worship could have sent out a memo with the proper texts. And I, too, can never make sense of the Missal’s instructions about blessing water and font. Or it’s time for the publishers to make more profits and put out a “supplement” to the Missal for Holy Saturday Vigil with everything in order with current translations with options for Vigil with Baptisms and Reception, Vigil with Baptisms only, Vigil with no Initiation Sacraments…

  11. I have a binder into which I inserted all the prayers associated with initiation and renewal of promises (in good English may I add). I use the missal for the prayers and for the Eucharistic prayer. All very simple. Oh, was there a new confirmation rite that substantially changed the former rite? I guess the bishop will use that when he come to confirm our youth. But I’ll look it up now. BTW, we only initiate catechumens at the Vigil. We welcome candidates for full communion on Holy Thursday.

  12. NB – The sacramental form did not change in the revised translation of the Order of Confirmation, and the BCDW clarified that one was not required to insert the new hand-laying prayer into other contexts for Confirmation such as the RCIA. Since we used a binder for the RCIA portion of the Vigil I went ahead and swapped in the new translation, but had we been sticklers for using only bound liturgical books I would not have added the Order of Confirmation into the mix just for that prayer.

    1. @Aaron Sanders:

      The England and Wales Liturgy Office’s advice is not the same as BCDW. It clarified that the new Rite of Confirmation was to be used from the Easter Vigil onwards, 2016. However, most people by then had not yet obtained a copy of the revised translation. This year was different.

  13. The “rites in sequence” binder works beautifully, and when the necessary items/objects are strategically arranged the presider can gracefully perform the rituals even with a dearth of assisting ministers.

  14. As far as using ipads in the liturgy, I’ve seen a bishop originally from Cuba use it for his homily..he was about 70 years old!
    I also have a Lutheran pastor friend who uses one throughout the liturgy.
    Having it for the Service of Light is both practical and innovative!
    Thank you all for your wonderful insights and practices for the Vigil….lots of wisdom.

  15. It helps to have a good idea of the flow of the entire Vigil and to be free of texts and books as much as possible. And I do *NOT* mean “winging it,” not by a long shot. I mean having a solid grasp on how the whole Vigil moves from one thing to the next, and having a view of the forest and not just the trees. Seriously, people, it’s not hard to memorize page numbers. And once you know that the spoken texts always follow the sung texts it’s easy. As in on Easter morning flipping right to the page with the promises, I still think I know it’s on page 245. As far as the confirmation, we already have those texts printed on card and inserted into a binder.

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