Masses in Honor of the Blessed

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Masses in Honor of the Blessed

ROME, 21 DEC. 2004 (ZENIT)

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: Please kindly give the norms which govern celebrating Masses in honor of "beati," e.g. Blessed Juniper Serra, Blessed Mr. and Mrs. Quattrocchi, or Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. — T.C., Buffalo, New York

A: The most recent norms relating to this theme are contained in a Notification published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, on Sept. 20, 1997.

These update and complement the norms given in the general calendar and the more-detailed norms given in the instruction "Calendaria Particularia" issued June 24, 1970.

This document touches on the subject of inserting the blessed in local calendars in several places, but above all in Nos. 25-37.

In general, the document warns against the excessive multiplication of celebrations in order to keep the General Roman Calendar's basic unity intact.

Especially in the first years after beatification or canonization it is probably better to limit the celebration to the locales more intimately united to the saint's life before seeking permission to include a new saint or blessed in a diocesan, regional or national calendar or in a religious order's general calendar (Nos. 28, 30).

The celebration of a blessed differs from that of a saint above all with respect to the universality of the veneration that may be offered to them.

The blessed are usually venerated with celebrations on a local level in places where they were born, where they died, where their relics are preserved. They are also venerated in places that had a long-term association with their activities, in a church dedicated to them, or within the confines of the churches and oratories of a particular religious order which has its own liturgical calendar.

However, even in these cases, it is better to begin by inserting this celebration as an optional memorial and later expand, both territorially and in liturgical ranking as devotion spreads (No. 31).

In some cases, especially in ancient dioceses, it might even be better to restrict this initial veneration to the church where his relics are kept or to his native town.

A priest may celebrate a saint's feast day anywhere in the universal Church as an optional memorial even if this feast is not included in the general calendar.

However, he must respect the general liturgical norms regarding the precedence of different celebrations which means that such a celebration may only take place on days where there is no other feast or obligatory memorial during ordinary time, in the weekdays of Advent before Dec. 17, those of Christmas after Jan. 2 and during Eastertide after the Easter octave (No. 33).

In order to include the celebration of a blessed in the national or diocesan calendar, or to dedicate a church to a blessed, either the bishops' conference or the local bishop, as the case may be, requests permission from the Holy See.

The inclusion of a new saint or blessed into a national calendar requires a two-thirds majority of the country's bishops in a secret ballot and the recognition of the Holy See.

Once the Holy See has granted permission, the blessed may be included in the national, regional, diocesan or religious order calendar according to the liturgical ranking permitted.

A blessed is usually accorded the ranking of optional memorial, occasionally an obligatory memorial, rarely a feast (and even then usually restricted to a church containing relics), but never a solemnity.

Thus, in the examples you pointed out: A priest in the United States can celebrate Blessed Junipero Serra who has been included in the calendar of the United States. But a priest in Rome may not celebrate except, I think, within the North American College, which, like all of Rome's national colleges, is permitted to follow the home calendar.

A priest may not celebrate Blessed Mother Teresa in ordinary churches unless the Holy See has granted permission to include the celebration in the diocesan regional or national calendar. But her feast may be celebrated anywhere in the world within the chapels and oratories of the Missionaries of Charity. ZE04122122

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Follow-up: Masses in Honor of the Blessed [01-18-2005]

Several readers asked for clarifications regarding the celebration of Masses of blessed and saints (see Dec. 21) not included in the universal calendar.

One asked if a Mass in honor of a blessed who had been a member of a Third Order could be celebrated for members of the order even outside of a church pertaining to the group's First or Second orders.

The principal distinction between the liturgical celebration of saints and blessed is the restriction of the celebration of the blessed either locally to the places connected with their lives or relics, or within the churches of religious orders to which they pertained.

In the latter case the celebration of a blessed would usually be restricted to churches and chapels of the order but not necessarily, as in the case of orders of brothers or women religious, to priests who belong to the order in question.

No. 35 of the 1997 notification regarding particular calendars would not appear to allow for the celebration of blessed outside of these churches for particular groups such as members of Third Orders. Indeed, the document suggests that these celebrations should be occasions for pilgrimages to the churches where the Mass may be celebrated.

However, I think that in the not-too-distant future some modification of these norms will be necessary in order to accommodate, not just the blessed of Third Orders, but also the needs of the members of, say, Catholic Action and the Legion of Mary as well as some of the more recent lay ecclesial movements. These do not, strictly speaking, have churches or oratories of their own, but their members meet in parishes and other centers.

The celebration of the future blessed of these groups, many of which are international in character, will require a less geographically limited permission.

With regard to the texts to be used, if there is no official Mass texts or at least no approved translations for the recently blessed, then the most appropriate common should be used (virgins, pastors, men or woman saints etc.)

This throws some light on another aspect mentioned in my earlier reply which some found a bit confusing.

When speaking about the liturgical calendar, there are several levels. For the whole world there is the Church's General Liturgical Calendar which contains those celebrations of saints considered to be of universal or historical importance.

Also on the level of the whole world is the Roman Martyrology, which contains the entire list of saints and blessed celebrated in the Church although the vast majority of these are venerated only in certain areas.

On this level, any priest may celebrate the feast of a saint found in the martyrology of the day, provided the day is free of other general or local celebrations which would impede its celebration.

He may not, however, celebrate a blessed outside of the areas where this celebration has been specifically permitted by the bishop, or the bishops' conference and ratified by the Holy See.

On the local or particular level there are National, Regional, Diocesan, and Religious Order Calendars.

These may include saints and blessed from the Roman Martyrology, not included in the general calendar, as either obligatory or optional memorials within the confines of the territory for which they have been approved.

They sometimes attribute a higher degree of liturgical solemnity than that of the general calendar, especially in the case of national, diocesan or church patrons and occasionally a different date from that of the rest of the Church.

A traveling priest is usually obliged to follow the calendar of the country he is visiting. If celebrating without a congregation, however, he may follow the general calendar or that of his own nation or religious order.

As mentioned, there may be some exceptions: In Rome the many national colleges (North American, Brazilian, Filipino, English, Irish, etc.) have traditionally followed the calendars of their home countries with respect to major feasts and particular saints and blessed. This privilege may usually be exercised only within the colleges themselves.

Another exception could be when the prayer texts for a local celebration exist only in the language of the place. In such cases a traveling priest, either alone or accompanying a group, would not necessarily have to follow the particular celebration unless it had the category of a feast or solemnity in which case he could take the most appropriate common. ZE05011822

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