MARIAN FEASTS IN THE GENERAL ROMAN CALENDAR
The purpose of the revision of the General Roman Calendar ("the
Calendar") was to distribute throughout the Church year the whole
mystery of Christ, from the Incarnation to the expectation of his
return in glory (Marialis Cultus #2 at 14). Marian feasts are celebrated
within this framework.
The careful revision of the Calendar was to ensure a harmony and
balance between the worship of Christ and the veneration of his
Mother. Contrary to some Protestant myths Catholics do not worship the
Blessed Virgin Mary, nor do they treat her as a God. Her rightful
place is that as the Mother of God, but more importantly she was the
first and most perfect of God's disciples in the new testament. Pope
Paul VI stated in Marialis Cultus: "This balance can be taken as a
norm for preventing any tendency (as has happened at times in certain
forms of popular piety) to separate devotion to the Blessed Virgin
from its necessary point of reference-Christ." (Marialis Cultus #4 at 15).
To appreciate the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sacred
Liturgy you need look no further than Sacrosanctum Cocilum (The
Constitution the Sacred Liturgy) the first document published as part
of Vatican II. This document brought extensive changes in the
discipline of the Mass, but not the essential doctrine underlying the
Mass. Paragraph 103 states: "In celebrating the annual cycle of the
mysteries of Christ, Holy Church honours the Blessed Mary, Mother of
God, with a special love. She is inseparably linked with her Son's
saving work. In her the Church admires and exalts the most excellent
fruit of redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless
image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be." A most
fitting tribute to the important role which Our Lord has given to his
Mother for the redemption of mankind.
Types of Feasts
Under the revised Calendar there are four types of "feasts." Ranked in
order of importance from most important to least they are: solemnity,
feast, memorial and optional memorial. The use of the term "feast" in
this Chapter has two meanings. First, in the headings for each
relevant day the use of the term means a feast proper. Secondly, it is
used in a generic sense to mean a celebration regardless of rank.
Important Marian Feasts
According to Pope Paul VI, in Marialis Cultus, the 4 most important
Marian feasts in the Calendar are: Mary's Divine Motherhood, her
Immaculate Conception, her Assumption and the Annunciation of the Lord
(#6 at 18). Of these four feasts, the feasts of Mary's Divine
Motherhood, her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption are holydays
of obligation under The Code of Canon Law: Canon 1246(1). Although the
Bishop's Conference can, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See,
suppress certain holydays of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday:
Canon 1246(2). In Australia, the only Marian feast which is a holyday
of obligation is the Assumption. When the Assumption falls on a
Saturday or a Monday, no obligation is attached to that feast that
year. While they are recommended, no obligation to attend Mass is
attached to the Marian feasts of the Divine Motherhood and the
In Australia the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians is also
important as she is the Patroness of Australia under that title.
True devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary can be summed up in the phrase:
"To Jesus through Mary." It is therefore fitting that Marian feasts are
celebrated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In this way Marian Devotion
leads directly and clearly to Christ, the second person of the Blessed
Trinity as should always be the case with true Marian devotion.
Also, several Marian feasts are joint feasts of Mary and her Son, Jesus
Christ; for example, the Annunciation. This is so because immediately after
Mary consented to become the Mother of God the Incarnation took place, that
is, God the Son the second person of the Blessed Trinity became man - a
small unborn child in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Similarly, at
Our Lady's Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth she was greeted as the Mother
of God and John the Baptist was sanctified in Elizabeth's womb by the grace
of the Divine Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
The Calender does not include all celebrations in honour of the
Blessed Virgin. It is for individual calender to include Marian Feasts
proper to the different local churches. (Marialis Cultus #9 at 20) The
Marian feasts in the Calendar of the Catholic Church approved for use in
Australia are described below.
SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD - 1 JANUARY SOLEMNITY
Mary's Divine Maternity is considered to be the greatest gift from God
and the one from which all others flow. Although not a holyday of
obligation in Australia every Catholic should try, if possible, to go
to mass on this day.
According to St. Bonaventure, in Our Lady's motherhood of Jesus
Christ, Almighty God conferred the greatest dignity on the Blessed
Virgin. St. Thomas of Aquinas adds that in her motherhood the Blessed
Virgin possessed a dignity that might almost be termed infinite, in a
Inspired by God, Elizabeth was quick to recognise and acknowledge Our
Lady as the mother of Christ with the words "Blessed is the fruit of
thy womb Jesus. Why should I be honoured by a visit from the mother of
my Lord?" Despite her exalted position the Blessed Virgin acknowledged
that her gifts were from God, and setting an example for all, praised
God with the Magnificat.
OUR LADY OF LOURDES - 11 FEBRUARY - OPTIONAL MEMORIAL
This optional memorial is in memory of the appearance of Our Lady to
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes in 1858.
Between 11th February and 16th May 1858 Our Lady appeared 18 times to
a fourteen year old named Bernadette Soubirous in a cave of
Massavielle near Lourdes in Southern France. Lourdes has now become
one of the most famous Marian centres of pilgrimages in the world. Our
Lady requested that a church be built at the place of her apparitions.
A small church was constructed but when this proved to be too small
the Rosary Church was constructed in 1901.
Pope Pius X, in 1907, extended to the Universal Church the observance
of this feast with its special office and Mass, which had been authorised
by Pope Leo XIII.
Lourdes is best known as a place where the sick and disabled go to be
cured of their affliction by bathing in the miraculous waters. A feature of
Lourdes is the almost continuous recitation of the Rosary by pilgrims of
all nationalities. But, most of the cures have occurred during the daily
procession of the Blessed Sacrament into the Rosary Square at the front of
the Basilica. Lourdes in an example of the true value of devotion to Mary
and how that devotion leads to Christ.
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD - 25 MARCH - SOLEMNITY
The First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Today the Church celebrates
that day when the Archangel Gabriel requested Our Lady to be the
Mother of God. Mary accepts and declares herself to be the handmaid of
The Annunciation is one of the three most ancient feasts of Our Lady.
The feast probably dates from the Council of Ephesus in 431, when Our
Lady was proclaimed the Mother of God. This proclamation was because
of a heresy which denied Mary's Divine Motherhood. It was also the
Council of Ephesus which added the following words to the Hail Mary:
"Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of
our death, Amen."
This feast has been known by many names over the years including: "the
Feast of the Incarnation," "the beginning of the Redemption," "the
Conception of Christ" and "the Announcing of the Christ."
THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY - APRIL - MEMORIAL - MOVABLE
This feast was started by St. John Eudes in 1644 as the paternal feast
of his congregation of Priests. The feast was extended to the
Universal Church in 1944 by Pope Pius XII. Its extension to the
Universal Church was strongly influenced by the Apparitions of Our
Lady at Fatima in Portugal in 1917.
At Fatima, on 13 July 1917, Our Lady said " . . . Our Lord wishes to
establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart . . ." A
principle means of honouring the Immaculate Heart is the practice of
the "First Saturdays."
Our Lady, on 10 December 1925, appeared to Sister Lucy (the remaining
seer of Fatima) and said: " . . . I promise to help at the hour of
death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the
first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy
Communion and recite five decades of the Rosary, while meditating on
the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making
reparation to me." (Fatima in Lucia's own words, pg 195).
Again we see the importance of the Rosary, but more importantly we see
how it is to lead to Sacramental Confession, the Mass and Communion.
That is, the sacraments instituted by Christ at the establishment of
the Catholic Church.
This feast is celebrated of the first Saturday after the feast of the
Sacred Heart which is celebrated on the first friday after the feast of
Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi is celebrated on the eleventh week of
ordinary time in the Church's year.
OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS - 24 MAY - SOLEMNITY
Our Lady Help of Christians is the Patroness of Australia.
Pope Pius VII was imprisoned by Napoleon in 1808, but after the battle
of Leipzig the 74 year old Pontiff was set free, and in 1814 returned
to Rome in triumph. After Napoleon's "Hundred Days" had been brought
to an end in 1815 by the allied victory at Waterloo, Pope Pius VII
established today's feast for the Papal States in thanksgiving to God
and the Blessed Virgin, and to commemorate the anniversary of his
return from Napoleonic captivity(Saints Companion at 145).
Still, it was not until 1878 that a country celebrated the feast on a
national basis. That country was Australia.
It is also under the title of Our Lady Help of Christians that St.
John Bosco had his famous vision about Christ's Church and the Blessed
Virgin in the 20th Century.
THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - 31 MAY - FEAST
The Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Today the Church celebrates
Our Lady's visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
After the Archangel Gabriel leaves, Mary hastens to visit and help
Elizabeth. Inspired by God, Elizabeth greets Mary for the first time
as the mother of God with the words "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb
Jesus." John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb of his mother,
sanctified by the grace of the Divine Redeemer. Mary responds with the
Magnificat. Tradition holds that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three
months, until the birth of her son or even until his circumcision.
This feast was first heard of in 1263, when it was adopted by the
Franciscan Order at the suggestion of St. Bonaventure. The feast was
extended to the Universal Church by Pope Urban VI in 1389 in thanks
for the end of the Great Schism.
Again see the person of central importance in this feast is not Our
Lady, but Jesus. Elizabeth worships the fruit of Mary's womb, Jesus.
John the Baptist is sanctified by the promised redeemer and Our Lady
gives praise to her son for his gifts to her and the world.
OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL - 16 JULY - OPTIONAL MEMORIAL
On this day, in 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock (the then
General of the Carmelite Order) in Cambridge England and presented to
him the Brown Scapular. Mary assured him that all who were invested
and wore it with love would be saved from final damnation. This does
not mean that a person can go about sinning with impunity simply
because they wear the Scapular. The Scapular, it is said, should be
wore around the heart. The Brown Scapular is the most indulgenced and
widely used. Sadly, since Vatican II the Brown Scapular has fallen
into to disuse. Our Lady once revealed to St. Dominic that she would
convert the world through the Rosary and the Scapular, let us us use
this powerful gift from Our Lady to renew the Church.
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - 15 AUGUST - SOLEMNITY
The Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. This celebration originated
in the 5th or 6th Century. St. Juvenal of Jerusalem stated as early as
the Council of Chalcedon in 451 that Our Lady, after her death, was
assumed body and soul into heaven.
Pope Pius XII, on 1 November 1950, in Munificentissimus Deus
officially defined the doctrine of the Assumption as an article of the
Catholic Faith. He stated:
". . . By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed
Apostles Peter and Paul, and by Our Own authority, We pronounce,
declare, and define as divinely revealed dogma: The Immaculate Mother
of God, Mary ever Virgin, after her life on earth, was assumed, body
and soul to the glory of heaven." [III, 44]
St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in Glories of Mary, wrote:
"Since death is the punishment for sin, it might have seemed proper
that the Divine Mother should have been exempt from it. But it pleased
God to have Mary resemble Jesus in all things, and so He willed that
even she should die, but a sweet and happy death. Three things tend to
render death bitter: attachment to the world, remorse for one's sin,
and the uncertainty of one's salvation. But Marys' death was entirely
free from these causes of bitterness; for what soul was ever more
detached from earthly goods and more united to God? Nor was it
thinkable that any remorse of conscience could trouble her. who had
been free from the least taint of actual or original sin; and she also
had the fullest certainty of possessing divine grace. Death to her was
very sweet, for it would unite her more closely to God by an eternal
bond. The Doctors and Holy Fathers of the Church generally assert that
she died from no infirmity, but form pure love" at 407.
THE QUEENSHIP OF MARY - 22 AUGUST - MEMORIAL
Pope Pius XII in the Papal Encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam proposed the
traditional doctrine on the Queenship of Mary and established this
feast for the Universal Church. Originally this feast was celebrated
on 31 May each year, but was changed after Vatican II to the present
date. As Pope Paul VI stated in Marialis Cultus the Calendar "was
revised in such a way as to give fitting prominence to the celebration
on appropriate days of the work of salvation" (#2 at 14). Fittingly the
Solemnity of the Assumption is now prolonged in the celebration of the
Queenship of Mary, which occurs seven days after the Assumption (Marialis
Cultus #6 at 18).
Pope Pius IX said of Mary: "Turning her maternal Heart toward us and
dealing with the affair of our salvation, she is concerned with the
whole human race. Constituted by the Lord Queen of Heaven and earth,
and exalted above all choirs of Angels and the ranks of Saints in
Heaven, standing at the right hand of Her only-begotten Son, Our Lord
Jesus Christ, she petitions most powerfully with Her maternal prayers,
and she obtains what she seeks."
Pope XII added: "We commend that on the festival there be renewed the
consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. Upon this there is founded a great hope that there will
rejoice in the triumph of religion and in Christian peace.
Therefore, let all approach with greater confidence now than before,
to the throne of mercy and grace of our Queen and Mother to beg help
in difficultly, light in darkness and solace in trouble and sorrow . .
. . Whoever, therefore, honours the lady ruler of the Angels and of
men - and let no one think themselves exempt from the payment of that
tribute of a grateful and loving soul - let them call upon her as most
truly Queen and as the Queen who brings the blessings of peace, that
She may show us all, after this exile, Jesus, who will be our enduring
peace and joy."
THE BIRTHDAY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - 8 SEPTEMBER - FEAST
The feast of Our Lady's birth originated in Syria or Palestine at the
beginning of the 6th Century. The feast was introduced in Rome some
100 years later.
Our Lady's birthday has been described as "the hope of the entire
world and the dawn of salvation" (Marialis Cultus #7 at 7 quoting the Roman
Missal, 8 September, Prayer after communion). St. Alphonsus de Liguori in
the Glories of Mary wrote:
"Having been destined to become the Mother of the Eternal Word, this
child was enriched with so great a grace that, even at the moment of
Her Immaculate Conception, she exceeded all the Saints and Angels in
sanctity, for she was given a higher order of grace, which
corresponded to her dignity as Mother of God.
She was born a great saint! Mary's soul was the most beautiful soul
that God ever created.
How delightful a sight to heaven and earth must have been the
beautiful soul of this happy child! Let us rejoice with our beloved
infant who was born so holy, so dear to God, and so full of grace" at
OUR LADY OF SORROWS - 15 SEPTEMBER - MEMORIAL
This is the feast in honour of Mary's seven sorrows. The seven sorrows
(or seven dolors) are: Simeon's Prophecy, the flight into Egypt, the
loss of Jesus in the Temple, Mary's meeting with Jesus on his way to
Calvary, Jesus's crucifixion, Mary receiving the dead body of Jesus
and Jesus's burial.
Our Lady of Sorrows is the patron of the Order of Servants of Mary
("the Servites"). Today's feast was granted to the Servites in 1668.
Pope Pius VII extended the feast to the Universal Church in 1814 in
gratitude for his return from exile in 1814.
OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY - 7 OCTOBER - MEMORIAL
In the 16th Century Eastern Europe had been overrun by the Moslems.
The Moslems intended to continue their push and conquer the rest of
Europe and destroy the christian religion. Pope Pius V in order to
save Christendom called for a crusade. In 1571, Spain and Italy
responded by sending a fleet of 255 ships and 65,000 men under Don
John of Austria to meet the Turkish fleet.
Pope Pius V and the faithful spent the whole of the night of 6-7
October 1571 in public recitation of the Rosary praying for victory.
The christian forces also spent three hours on that faithful morning
praying the Rosary for victory. That morning the opposing forces meet
in the Bay of Lepanto-today known as the Bay of Pathos (this is near
the shores of Gappolli now called ANZAC Cove). The Turkish fleet
consisted of 290 ships and 88,00 men. That evening the Christian fleet
had sunk 240 Turkish ships and killed over 33,000 men. The forces of
Don John of Austria crushed the Turkish fleet and put its remnants to
The Feast of the Most Holy Rosary (also known as the Feast of Our Lady
of Victories) is celebrated on 7 October and started by Pope Pius V in
gratitude for Mary's aid in the great naval victory over the Turks.
The feast was extended to the Universal Church in 1716, when Prince
Eugene won another important victory over the same enemy in Hungary.
THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - 21 NOVEMBER
This feast commemorates the presentation of the child Mary, in the
temple in Jerusalem, when she was three.
Ancient writings say Joachim and Anne brought their daughter Mary to the
Temple in Jerusalem so that she might be educated by the holy woman.
This feast originated in Syria in the 8th Century and was extended to
the West while the popes were at Avignon in France. This feast
symbolises the Blessed Virgin's Mary consecration to the Lord.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION - 8 DECEMBER - SOLEMNITY
The Immaculate Conception is the dogma of faith stating that the
Blessed Virgin was from the first instant of her conception, by a
singular privilege and grace of God, preserved from all stain of
original sin. Not only is Our Lady free from original sin see is also
free from actual sin. That is, she never committed any sin during her
life, even the smallest venial sin.
From the time of the Fathers of the Church up to the Middle Ages we
find explicit reference to the freedom of Mary from sin from the first
moment of her conception. The Eastern Church as early as the second
half of the 7th Century celebrated the feast of the Immaculate
Conception under the title "Conception of Saint Anne."
In the Western Church the feast was first celebrated in Ireland. By
840 the feast was also celebrated in Italy and Spain. Pope Pius V in
1567 condemned Baius for holding that "no one but Christ was without
original sin, and therefore the Blessed Virgin Mary died in
consequence of the sin contracted through Adam, and endured affliction
in this life, like the rest of the just, as punishment for actual and
original sin." (The Catholic Catechism, JA Hardon at 154). In the following
year the great Dominican Pope extended the Feast of the Immaculate
Conception to the Universal Church and made it a holy day of obligation.
Although still considered one the most important feasts of Our Lady it is
not a holy day of obligation in Australia.
Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 issued the Apostolic Letter
Ineffabilis Deus in which he defined as an article of Catholic Faith
infallibly the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Pius IX
condensed the definition into the following single paragraph:
"To the honour of the holy and undivided Trinity, to the glory and
adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, to the exaltation of the
Catholic faith, and the increase of the Catholic religion, We, by the
authority of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles, Peter
and Paul and by Our Own, declare, pronounce, and define that the
doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the instant of
her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the omnipotent
God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of
mankind was preserved free from all stain of original sin, has been
revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and constantly believed by
all the faithful."
Shortly after this dogma was defined Our Lady appeared to Bernadette
Soubirous at Lourdes in 1858 and described herself as the Immaculate
This pious practice developed because of Our Lady's apparitions at
Fatima. Besides the practice of the First Saturdays, Masses on each
Saturday are frequently offered in honour of the Virgin Mary in
reparation for sins.
On August 13, 1990, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Newspaper,
printed a picture of Pope John Paul II kneeling in prayer above the
courtyard of his villa in Castel Gandolfo. The caption read " . . . As
is his custom, the pope led the recitation of the First Saturday
Rosary with crowds gathered in the courtyard below . . ."
UPLOADED BY MICHAEL G HAINS
SYSOP CATHOLICS' RESOURCE NETWORK
COMPUSERVE ID 76711,1340
WORLDWIDE COPYRIGHT 1993