Padre Pio, Monsignor Escrivá and the Roman Missal

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Padre Pio, Monsignor Escrivá and the Roman Missal


Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Regarding the special Mass formulas, I was wondering why two of the greatest saints of the 20th century, Padre Pio and Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, aren't included in the Roman Missal. There are lots of other saints which we have Masses for, and a lot of people don't know anything about them. But here we have two very close people and no special Mass for them. That is a shame. — M.G., Limhamn, Sweden

A: Actually, St. Pio of Pietrelcina is included in the universal calendar on Sept. 23 as an optional memorial. However, because his canonization occurred after the publication of the third edition of the Latin Missal, he did not make it into that book. His was practically the last celebration added to the calendar by Pope John Paul II.

His feast day, along with the specific Mass formulas, will certainly be included in the translations of the missal under way and due for publication in English within the next couple of years. Some episcopal conferences have meanwhile published supplements with all the proper texts of new saints while awaiting the definitive translation of a new missal.

St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei, is certainly a major figure of 20th-century sainthood as witnessed by the multitude that attended his canonization and by the fact that his statue already graces one of the outer niches of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

I believe that the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei has proper Mass formulas, approved by the Holy See, for the celebration of his feast day on June 26. Even though these texts are not found in the Roman Missal they may be used by any priest who opts to celebrate the memorial of St. Josemaría on this day.

Because he is included in the Roman Martyrology his celebration is not impeded since the celebration of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, which falls on the same day, is an optional memorial.

St. Josemaría will probably eventually find a place in the universal calendar as the importance of his spiritual heritage continues to grow.

However, the general criteria applied in the last few years, and recently codified in specific norms, has been to limit the number of saints added to the universal calendar. The preference is that they first be added to the calendars of specific dioceses, countries, or other ecclesial organizations such as religious congregations where devotion to them is most present.

Those who have been admitted recently have reflected an explicit desire to give a more universal face to the array of saints celebrated by the whole Church. This includes saints from continents and countries of more recent evangelization or otherwise underrepresented sectors of the Church such as the Eastern Churches.

Another criterion, not so easy to calculate, is the devotion of the faithful to this saint on a fairly extended basis. Long before his beatification, popular devotion to the figure of Padre Pio was already widespread in many countries. Above all, he was deeply venerated by John Paul II who took the personal initiative of enrolling his name in the general calendar.

While St. Josemaría is equally esteemed throughout the world, devotion to him is practiced above all by those faithful who are in some way associated with the life and work of Opus Dei, and is less present in the general faithful. Since for the moment these faithful can easily fulfill this devotion with the aid of the priests of the prelature, there seems to be no urgency in including him among the saints of the calendar.

This inclusion will likely come about in time along with some other great saintly figures of our epoch such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and, perhaps, the recently departed Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement.

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Follow-up: Padre Pio, Monsignor Escrivá and the Roman Missal [4-29-2008]

After our mention of the feasts of Cosmas and Damian coinciding with that of St. Josemaría Escrivá (see April 15 column), a pediatrician from Louisiana wrote: "You said their feast is June 26; I believe you meant Sept. 26. Usually I take our group of pediatricians and their spouses out to dinner that evening to celebrate their feast and God's blessings to our practice."

Our reader, who is also a deacon, is quite correct. I mixed up my saintly pairs and should have said Sts. John and Paul, Roman martyrs in 362 under Julian the Apostate.

These two saints, who are specifically mentioned in the first list of saints in the Roman Canon, are actually not present in the universal calendar but only in that of the Diocese of Rome. The ancient Roman basilica that houses their tomb and site of martyrdom also contains a chapel with the relics of St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists.

Some readers pointed out that St. Padre Pio was an obligatory and not an optional memorial. This is true in Italy, the United States and many other countries. However, the Latin decree promulgating the feast did not specify it as an obligatory memorial, perhaps leaving some leeway for countries where devotion to this saint is less prevalent.

Some other readers asked for the general criteria to be observed in celebrating those who had been declared blessed but not yet canonized. We dealt with this topic in our columns of Dec. 21, 2004, and Jan. 18, 2005.

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