Q. At the start of Lent in our parish, the statues and pictures in church are covered with a purple cloth. Other churches in our area do not do this. Is there a rule about this, or is it up to each parish? (New York)The service we attended was brief, so it was not the reading of the Passion. I remember a large, freestanding cross in front of the altar, in the sanctuary, covered with a huge dark cloth. I found it very strange. Frightening, in fact.
A. I've never heard of statues being covered during the whole of Lent. Before 1970, crosses and other images in Catholic churches were traditionally covered with purple veils during the final two weeks of Lent, during what was then called Passiontide. When the revised missal was [...] included a different regulation, which is found at the end of the Mass for Saturday of the fourth week of Lent.
"The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference decides." In that case, beginning on the second Sunday before Easter, "The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord's passion on Good Friday. Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil."
These rubrics were repeated by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1988.
As of now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not voted to continue the rule of covering images. Thus the practice has not been permitted in this country for 38 years. Individual parishes have no authority to reintroduce the practice on their own.
Somehow the gift shop was open and we browsed afterwards. Was it a converted crypt church, one of wrought iron railings around an ad orientum altar? I wish now I'd been more conscious of such things then.
The very idea of a gift shop in a church selling religious articles was so very strange to me. Naturally I bought nothing, to the astonishment of my companion. This was her church and she thought I would adore it, even if she didn't. Obviously I had given a false impression. Do I come across as being more traditional than I truly am?
Or simply compared to her, who'd duck in briefly on Sunday, pick up a bulletin from the back table and leave it around her apartment when her mother visited? That I also thought strange, very strange.