Pray Tell Poll: Covering Crosses?

“In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the Church from [the Fifth Sunday of Lent] may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”

[poll id=”14″]

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. If any covering takes place, it’s usually from Palm Sunday onward, not the former Passion Sunday. The 5th Sunday of Lent is no longer perceived to be a prelude to Holy Week in the way that Passion Sunday was.

    1. Unfortunately, RM allows it from the Fifth Sunday in the dioceses of the US; I agree with you about the perception.

    2. In the fifth week the preface changes to a meditation on the cross, and the hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours MAY be the ones used in Holy Week. There is still a subtle change.

      1. Correct, the residue of what was formerly known as Passiontide has not been erased entirely.

    3. In Rome, the covering of images was not a generally observed custom, though I saw it more in Southern Italy. Crucifixes were veiled for Good Friday almost everywhere I went. The Roman Missal links the possibility to the last two weeks, which is what many places do now in the UK, particularly where the custom has been revived. However, I also recall from my childhood, some places that veiled crucifixes and images for the whole of Lent. So, I suspect, a variety of usages surround this practice.

  2. I’ve come to believe the covering the crosses and images is a good thing.

    For those who worship every Sunday, or every day, it is a richer experience if there is seasonal variety. Covering the crosses or images actually calls attention to them, and then removing the covering calls attention to them yet again. I think the practice deepens our sense of the unfolding drama of liturgical time.


  3. I’ve spent most of today in a couple of meetings reviewing the logistics of our Holy Week observances at my two parishes, and got into a discussion of the “residue” of Passiontide that remains in the liturgy. (Although I wish Karl Liam Saur’s excellent choice of word had occurred to me.)
    The veiling of images from the Fifth Sunday along with the use of the Preface of the Passion very much feel like leftovers that come from not fully thinking through the current structure of Lent. Especially when you factor in the implementation of the RCIA. I’ve been a priest more than thirty years now and almost every Lent I’ve been through in that time has been a time of final preparation for those being baptized at the Vigil. Overlaying the old Passiontide practices on that structure is a bit jarring. Why would images be veiled for the third Scrutiny Sunday and not the first two, for instance?
    I personally think that the fasting from images is a particularly effective practice in a time so saturated with images. But it should follow the structure of Lent as it is practiced. Meaning that to me it makes sense either to veil from the beginning of Lent OR from the First Scrutiny Sunday (the Third Sunday) OR from Passion Sunday. The wearing of rose for the Fourth Sunday (formerly the last Sunday before Passiontide) and the veiling of images on the Fifth along with switching to the Passion Preface originated to mark a structure of Lent that no longer exists.
    I think they are all perfectly worthy practices, if the timing were simply changed to mark Lent’s current structure.

    1. One could have the Third Scrutiny at the Saturday evening Mass (if there is one), and veil thereafter. I find parish practices about the timing of scrutinies (if there are any) vary where there’s more than one Mass for observance of the Sunday precept: in some places, the scrutinies occur at the same Mass time, while in other places the scrutinies may rotate across the schedule, as it were (presumably to make them more truly “parochial” – given that, in practice, Catholic parishes may said to be co-existing sub-parishes organized around slots in the Sunday Mass schedule, unified in embodied form by ministers and apostolates and, if one exists, a school).

      I see the complaint about the residue as a logical matter, but I take it more as a typically *Roman* Catholic feature than a bug.

      One of the things about veiling that has not returned is a consequence of the (not necessarily finished) recasting of the Easter Vigil. Formerly, it was a particular form of Office vigil pivoting to the Mass properly speaking. One of the most sensorily indelible aspects of that pivoting – at least as described to me by older family members who at the Vigil (most people didn’t necessarily back in the day, but parochial school boys could be serving as acolytes and choristers, and parochial school girls also as choristers if the choir was in an organ loft) – was the rush of acolytes to remove the veils from the images. Now, because the only *residue* of that former pivot moment in the recast Vigil liturgy is the odd placement (as compared to a “regular” Mass) of the Gloria and the associated lighting of altar candles and ringing of bells, we don’t have that part of it, with veils supposed to be removed without ceremony just before the liturgy begins.

      1. Is it an official rule that the veils be removed prior to the Vigil? I only ask because the usual church I attend for the Easter Vigil (a more traditional OF Mass, as the EF Triduum is inconvenient for me to get to) always has the images veiled until the Gloria – and I know I’ve seen it elsewhere. The servers really do run about pulling the veils down and lighting candles while others crazily jangle the sanctus bells and pull the sacristy bell ropes before all the lights are flung on. It’s actually one of my favorite liturgical moments of the whole year.

        I love the Passiontide veiling of images. I didn’t really grow up with it, but remember how striking it was when I first encountered it. I feel like those who are critical of the practice are trying too hard to make everything fit together too logically/perfectly – a tendency I consider to be one of my least favorite aspects of the liturgical reform.

      2. The red rubric at the head of the Fifth Sunday of Lent in the USA edition of the current Missal:

        “In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from this Sunday may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”

    2. Thank you, Lou.

      The whole Triduum was reconsidered and unified in the reform, and sadly this leftover of the old liturgy breaks up that unity once again.

      With the addition of covers we have competing liturgical colors. Purple covers on statues bespeak Lent, which is fine for Lent 5 but then contrasts with the liturgical colors of the Triduum. Red vestments on Good Friday. White vestments for Holy Thursday. But hey, the church is wearing purple — what does that say? It says we’re still in Lent, no matter what the guys up front are wearing.

      Lent ends as the Triduum begins. It’s a contradiction to keep Lenten colors up during the Triduum. (I have never known a church that has more than one color of covers. Maybe some places have three sets?)

      So I agree with Lou. If we were covering statues throughout 5 Sundays of Lent that would be one thing. But the permission to keep them covered until the Vigil just does not respect the intentions of the reform of the Triduum.

      1. I totally agree with Rita.

        I’ve never actually seen it done in person. But if I were to consider it, I’d use the Cross the we unveil/show on Good Friday as my starting point. After all, it makes little sense to unveil a cross on Good Friday that wasn’t veiled before. (At a previous parish a large cross was set up with a gigantic former-parachute over the top before the Good Friday liturgy. It was dramatic, but no one every asked “why?”)

        At almost all Good Friday liturgies I’ve attended, the cross that’s unveiled/brought in/venerated is yet a *different* cross besides on that’s in the church 365 days of the year. Most parishes do so for 101 different reasons: weight, size, historical artifact, etc.

        I can imagine a very real hypothetical parish where a large cross is set up for Lent, covered on the 5th Sunday of Lent, uncovered on Good Friday, adored on Good Friday, and then left up for the Easter Season (with the required-by-the-bible white swooping fabric). Or maybe variation of this with a parish that has large processional cross that’s also venerated on Good Friday. The Triduum, specifically Good Friday, should be the starting point, and not some arbitrary date set by some optional rubric.

        But besides this hypothetical, I just wouldn’t “go there.” And as Todd rightly points out, I wouldn’t start it.

        PS. Insert here a similar rant about the procession to and the location of the Holy Thursday Altar of Repose, vis-à-vis Communion on Good Friday. If you’re not looking at the big picture of the-single-Triduum-liturgy, then walking once around the inside of the church and returning hosts to the singular tabernacle used 364 other days of the year seems very odd.

      2. Rita Ferrone, I agree with you. While the uncovering of the primary crucifix is dramatic, a big gesture overshadows more subtle ones. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes an unintended one. I will never forget the Vigil where the covering was yanked off with a little too much vigor, tilting the Corpus underneath. Jesus watched the rest of the liturgy from a 60 degree angle……probably not the first time our Lord has looked askance at our attempts to worship….

  4. The assumption is that statues and crosses will be veiled in purple. That seems like more residue to me. I can’t recall if purple is specified in the Paschal Letter, but if a community were to veil until the middle of the Easter Vigil, I would consider doing it in brown. I would consider veiling during the weekdays of Lent, and uncover on Sunday.

    That said, I think the practice is akin to emptying holy water fonts. We don’t fast from baptismal reminders during Lent. We intensify our renewal and preparation. Likewise we don’t fast from saints, and certainly not from the cross. I’ve never heard of a church that shutters its stained glass, so why the prejudice against 3-D art? And churches that have niches or chapels for saints, are these places retired during the last days of Lent? Despite my awareness of this practice and respect for those who honor it, there are just too many questions hovering around it. If my parish didn’t do it, I wouldn’t start it. And if they did, I’d pay careful attention to the community’s understanding of the season(s) and why statues were veiled.

    1., Russell Becker..I think that I was pleasantly surorised when I was at the episcopal seminary and they had things covered in a kind of decorate the church down during the lentan season not during the Lent to Easter Vigil.. decorating down the church would be a good way to let the church observe Lent

  5. It just isn’t possible in our church. We have a larger than life size Calvary high on the wall above the altar. There would be serious health and safety and insurance issues if someone tried to drape it. My wholly anecdotal impression is that you would be more likely to find veiled statues in Anglican churches tan catholic ones in the UK.
    I seem to remember hearing a probably apocryphal story of a wealthy Victorian lady in one of the fashionable London churches who used to wear a purple dress over a white one. At the appropriate time during the Vigil she would slip off the outer purple dress and be revealed resplendent in white for the rest of the liturgy. This is a story I heard from many people when I was a young man, though I have found no corroboration. Of course it is entirely possible that my leg was being pulled.

  6. The symbolism of veiling crosses and statues during the final weeks of Lent is probably lost on most Catholics today. As other contributors have suggested, it is a relic of another time, now fading from living memory.

    There are other ways of using decoration to mark the changes in liturgical time. In our cathedral we use seasonal banners hung from the pillars for this purpose: purple for Lent, red for Palm Sunday, purple again for Monday to Thursday of Holy Week, white and gold for the evening Mass of Holy Thursday, red again for Good Friday, white and gold for the Easter Vigil and throughout the Easter season until Pentecost when they are exchanged for red. So the banners always match the colour of the day or season. There is never a clash of colours.

  7. I go to a beautiful church. The contrast between Good Friday, when all the statues are veiled, and Easter, when all the statues are again visible and the sanctuary is awash with flowers, is stark, meaningful, and moving.

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