Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

There Is Flexibility on Its Use 

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

Q: June 27 is the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), whose miraculous icon is enshrined in Rome. Copies of the icon are found in almost every Catholic parish throughout the world, and many parishes practice the weekly OLPH devotions. The Redemptorists, who are the custodians of the icon, have a proper Mass of OLPH, which is used on June 27 in their parishes and communities. This Mass is found in their liturgical supplement and is not included in the «Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.» There are other parishes, either diocesan or staffed by other religious orders, which are under the patronage of OLPH or practice the weekly OLPH devotions. Would it permissible for these parishes to use the proper Mass of OLPH on June 27 as well? — G.L., Madera, California 
A: This is quite a thorny question from the legal point of view. Indeed, while the question of the celebration of the blesseds and saints has been clarified, that of Masses for universally popular Marian invocations is not so clear.
It must also be pointed out that this celebration coincides with the optional memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria in the universal calendar and is not even included in the calendar of the Diocese of Rome.
However, if there is a particular devotion to this title in a particular community, it could always be celebrated as a votive Mass using one of the most appropriate Masses of the Blessed Virgin found in the missal. For example, the collect of formula No. 6 in the Common of the BVM says, «May the venerable intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin come to our aid, we pray O Lord, and free us from every danger, so that we may rejoice in your peace ….»
It is a different question as to whether the proper formulas approved for the Redemptorists may be adopted universally. 
The Introduction to the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary says the following:
«19. The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, approved by Pope John Paul II and promulgated by the Congregation for Divine Worship, has a specific purpose with regard to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Collection seeks to promote celebrations that are marked by sound doctrine, the rich variety of their themes, and their rightful commemoration of the saving deeds that the Lord God has accomplished in the Blessed Virgin in view of the mystery of Christ and the Church.
«20. The Collection of Masses is made up principally of the texts for Marian Masses that are found in the propers of the particular Churches or of religious institutes or in The Roman Missal.
«21. The Collection of Masses is intended for: Marian shrines where Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary are celebrated frequently, in accord with the provisions to be indicated in nos. 29-33; ecclesial communities that on the Saturdays in Ordinary Time desire to celebrate a Mass of the Blessed Virgin, in accord with the provision to be indicated in no. 34. As will be pointed out in no. 37, use of the Collection of Masses is permitted on days on which, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Priest is free to choose which Mass he will celebrate.
«22. Promulgation of the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary introduces no change in the General Roman Calendar, issued 21 March 1969, in The Roman Missal, second editio typica, issued 27 March 1975, in the Lectionary for Mass, second editio typica, issued 21 January 1981, or in the system of rubrics currently in force.»
These norms indicate that they do not contain all possible Masses of particular Churches or of religious institutes. A selection has been made and every selection means a renunciation. Thus there is no formula for Our Lady of Perpetual Help yet there is one for Our Lady Help of Christians. Perhaps this invocation was preferred because of its connection to the papacy and because it is invoked as patron of Australia, New Zealand and New York. 
The proviso of No. 22 would indicate that the general norms would be observed. In general these norms require the approval by the bishops’ conference of any translation that is to be used in its territory. Exceptions to this rule are precisely those texts, and their translations, that have been approved directly by the Holy See for the use of religious institutes within their houses and churches. Although it is not to be presumed that they can be used outside of these contexts, they do not require the explicit approval of the bishops’ conference.
In most cases the texts refer to blesseds and saints of the institute, and hence they have a limited use. Occasionally they refer to the titular feast or patron of the institute, but then the Mass formulas are often quite specific to its particular spirituality and so are not suitable for universal use. 
Nevertheless, any saint in the Roman Martyrology may be celebrated on his or her feast day, provided there is no other feast or obligatory memorial on the same day. I believe it is fairly safe to say that if the saint has a duly approved proper collect for Mass, even though it is obviously not in the Roman Missal, then that saint’s collect can be used.
Following this logic, I think that it should be possible to use an approved text for a Marian title not present in the Roman Missal but with a recognized feast day. In this case one must always be sure that the text used in the liturgy is approved by the Holy See. For example, the texts of some Marian titles are approved only in the language of the country where Mary is venerated under that title, and there is no original Latin version. It is not possible to use a private translation of the original but one must necessarily use the common of the Blessed Virgin.
In the present case I have only been able to track down the specific texts of this feast used before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. I am unaware if they correspond to the actual formulas used today by the Redemptorists. However, given that the current texts have received the approval of the Holy See they surely fit the bill with regards to the doctrinal and spiritual qualities mentioned in No. 19 above. 
An unofficial translation of the texts from before Vatican II is: 
Opening prayer: “Let us pray. Almighty and merciful God, Who hast given us a picture of Thy most blessed Mother to venerate under the special title of Perpetual Succor, mercifully grant us to be so fortified, among all the vicissitudes of this wayfaring life, by the protection of the same immaculate, ever virgin Mary, that we may deserve to attain the rewards of Thine everlasting redemption.»
Offertory: “By Thy clemency, O Lord, and the intercession of blessed Mary, ever a virgin, may this oblation profit us unto eternal and also present well-being and peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son ….»
Prayer after communion: “Let us pray. May the august intercession of Mary, Thy glorious Mother, ever a virgin, help us, O Lord, that those whom it hath heaped with benefits it may deliver from all peril and by her tender kindness, make to be of one mind. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, For ever and ever.”
I would say that the collect, at least, would seem to be somewhat tied to membership of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer who are custodians of the original image in Rome. These prayers, probably of relatively recent composition, do not follow the general custom of addressing liturgical prayers to the Father and not to Christ.
If these correspond to the current prayers, albeit in a more modern translation, they do not seem so easily transportable to parish situations beyond the confines of the institute.
However, if the current texts are suitable, a church dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in which case the feast day is a solemnity in the Church itself, could probably use these texts. 
It would probably be the same situation for a church were the image is venerated but dedicated under some other title if the Mass is celebrated as a votive Mass.
After all, if the formulas of an approved Marian Mass are not intimately tied to the spirituality of a particular institute, it would not seem logical that it could be prayed in a church of the institute and be forbidden in a church a few miles down the road especially considering that an obscure saint of the same institute could be legitimately honored.
I believe this is the correct response but must admit that the rules are somewhat obscure in this and similar cases.
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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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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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