Calendars of Religious

And More on Sacred Oils

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ROME, JUNE 5, 2012 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am a member of a Roman Catholic parish that is staffed by Franciscan friars. Do parishes staffed by religious-order clergy have the option of following the liturgical calendar for that diocese (along with the sacramentary, etc.) or can they request permission to follow the liturgical calendar and use the particular sacramentary (in our case, the Roman-Franciscan), etc., of the religious order? — M.P., Indianapolis, Indiana

A: The answer to this question depends on several circumstances. One relates to the religious themselves, another to the church building.

The Church has legislated several times regarding the use of particular calendars, especially with the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar in 1969 and “Calendaria Particularia” in 1970. Broadly, these laws give priority to the general calendar but also make allowances for the use of diocesan, regional, national and religious calendars.

According to the General Norms:

“52. A particular calendar is prepared by inserting in the General Calendar special solemnities, feasts, and memorials proper to that calendar:

“a) in a diocesan calendar, in addition to celebrations of its patrons and the dedication of the cathedral, the saints and the blessed who bear some special connection with that diocese, for example, as their birthplace, residence over a long period, or place of death.

“b) in the calendar of religious, besides celebrations of their title, founder, or patron, those saints and blesseds who were members of that religious family or had some special relationship with it.”

After the reform of the universal calendar most religious orders revised their particular calendars so as to harmonize their traditions as much as possible with the universal calendar. The overarching principle in preparing this reform was to avoid an excessive number of celebrations.

A 1997 Notification on Particular Calendars issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship recommended:

“25. It should be borne in mind that introducing an excessive number of celebrations into the various calendars runs a possible risk (General Norms, n. 53; Calendaria particularia, n. 17). It would overload the calendar of a diocese or of a religious family, as well as that of a country, of an interdiocesan region or of a religious province or still others. Possible remedies would be the grouping of Saints and Blesseds into a single common celebration (General Norms, n. 53a; Calendaria particularia, n. 17a); the application of the principle of subsidiarity of the celebrations, leaving them to a local level, insisting on leaving to restricted local areas the celebration of those Saints and Blesseds to whom there is no widespread devotion (General Norms, nn. 53b, 53c; Calendaria particularia, n. 17b).”

With respect to religious the General Norms say:

“55. Celebrations entered in a particular calendar must be observed by all who are bound to follow that calendar. Only with the approval of the Apostolic See may celebrations be removed from a calendar or changed in rank.”

The degree to which a religious is bound to celebrate a particular calendar would depend on the community’s internal legislation as approved by the Holy See. Therefore, if already bound by their approved rule, they would not normally require any further permission to use their calendar.

If the Franciscans in a parish are bound by their calendar, then they can follow it. If a bishop wishes to entrust an established parish to a religious order with immemorial customs and traditions as well as many papal privileges, then the order would normally come to an agreement with the diocese before accepting to serve the parish.

Such an agreement would balance the demands of religious traditions with the pastoral needs of the faithful. With respect to the calendar it would probably allow for the celebration of the order’s proper feasts except when the general or diocesan calendar takes precedence. As the norms say:

“Members of religious communities should join with the community of the local Church in celebrating the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral and the principal patrons of the place and of the larger region where they live.”

The particular calendars of less-ancient religious congregations usually have relatively few special feasts and would normally follow the universal calendar most of the time.

A church belonging to a male or female religious community that is generally open to the public can always follow the proper calendar of the religious community. If the faithful wish to participate in the celebrations of a saint found in this calendar, they can go to this church as suggested by the abovementioned 1997 Notification, to wit:

“35. It should also be noted, furthermore, that every religious family celebrates its own Saints and Blesseds according to the calendar approved by its superior general and confirmed by the Holy See. From this it follows that the faithful who wish to do so are usually free to ordinarily take part in such celebrations in the churches of the religious family. Thus the faithful can associate themselves spiritually with the religious community, participating in its liturgical celebrations, which take place also using its own proper texts and in the context, for example, of a pilgrimage. For this purpose it is in no way necessary that such celebrations, specific to the religious, be also added to the diocesan calendars.”

Even when a religious congregation does not have a particular calendar, properly speaking, they can still celebrate their own saints with special solemnity. As the General Norms indicate:

“54. Proper celebrations should be entered in the calendar as obligatory or optional memorials, unless other provisions have been made for them in the Table of Liturgical Days or there are special historical or pastoral reasons. But there is no reason why some celebrations may not be observed with greater solemnity in some places than in the rest of the diocese or religious community.”

This would mean, for example, that an optional memorial of a saint dear to a religious family can be celebrated in a solemn way without changing its category in the table of liturgical days. This can be done through the use of incense, song and other elements that add solemnity to a celebration.

Finally, the Notification recalls the general possibility of celebrating any saint found in the Roman Martyrology when the liturgical day is free of other celebrations.

“33. It is good to remember, in addition, the possibilities offered by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to the priest celebrating on the weekdays of Ordinary Time, or those of Advent before December 17th, or of the Christmas season from January 2nd onwards, or on those of the Easter season. In such periods, even when there is an optional Memorial, the priest can celebrate either the Mass of the weekday or that of any Saint inscribed that day in the Roman Martyrology. The same holds, analogously, for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 244). It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, in such circumstances, to celebrate in honor of a Saint found in neither the General Calendar nor in a proper calendar. Obviously, such cases call for the exercise of pastoral good sense on the part of the celebrant.”

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Follow-up: Oils in an Emergency

In the wake of our comments on blessing of holy oils by a priest (see May 22), an attentive reader called my attention to an oversight on my part regarding the blessing of the oil of catechumens. To wit:

“Regarding the Oil of Catechumens, the general ‘Rite of Blessing of Oils, Rite of Consecrating the Chrism,’ found in an
appendix in the previous English Sacramentary, in No. 7 of the introduction does mention the possibility of a priest blessing the Oil of Catechumens for ‘pastoral reasons.’ This permission is also found in the RCIA, at No. 101 in the U.S. English edition (or No. 129 of the Latin original).”

The text of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults says, “The oil used for this rite is to be the oil blessed by the bishop at the chrism Mass, but for pastoral reasons a priest celebrant may bless oil for the rite immediately before the anointing.”

Another reader asked about the mixing of blessed and unblessed oil for the sacraments. We addressed this question in an earlier response and follow-up on Jan. 30 and Feb. 13, 2007.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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