March 19, 2010

Cardinal Ritter sponsors Tenebrae service on Good Friday night

By Sean Gallagher

“Tenebrae” is a Latin word that means “darkness.”

It is also the name for a prayer service that traditionally occurs on the evening of Good Friday in which worshipers mourn the death of Christ.

Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School, 3360 W. 30th St., in the Indianapolis West Deanery, will sponsor such a service at 9 p.m. on April 2, Good Friday. It is scheduled to take place in the school gymnasium and is open to the public.

During the service, various psalms and selections from Lamentations that are prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours for Holy Week will be chanted and sung.

The singers will include Cardinal Ritter students, parents of Cardinal Ritter students, archdiocesan seminarians and a choir of professional singers.

The last group will sing Renaissance composer Gregorio Allegri’s beautiful but challenging setting of the Miserere, the Latin version of Psalm 51.

Father John Hollowell, chaplain at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School, is organizing the service that he said will be a time “to remember that time when Christ was in the tomb.”

“I think people want to do something on Good Friday night,” he said. “They want to have an experience of prayer [after the ordinary Good Friday liturgy]. This is just such a perfect thing to do. I think it resonates with people that want to be in mourning when they remember that time in a special way.”

A special way that those attending the service will mourn the death of Christ will be embodied in a candelabra filled with lit candles.

As each reading is completed, one candle will be extinguished. When only one candle is left, a server will process it out of the gymnasium. Then percussionists from Cardinal Ritter’s band will beat on their instruments in a way that will symbolize the chaos that entered the world when Christ died on the cross.

The single lit candle will be processed back into the gymnasium then everyone will leave in silence.

(For more information on the Tenebrae service, contact Father John Hollowell at

Local site Links: