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LITURGY Q & A: Options for Votive Masses

Fr. Edward McNamara Says: ‘They Are Ample But Not Unlimited’

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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: In the sacramentary, after the votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it reads, «As a votive Mass, the Mass of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus may also be used ….» As a priest I’m wondering, is it an option for us to use, as a votive Mass, the Mass for the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, on a first Saturday of the month? (I’m aware that there’s a Mass to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Collection of the Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but I think that the prayers are different from the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so am wanting to know my legitimate options.) Also, besides the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, what are our other options for Masses of the Blessed Mother for Saturdays? That is, I’ve heard of a priest who uses the prayers from the Immaculate Conception for Saturdays, but I was not aware of that as an option. — F.F., Hopedale, Ohio
A: I would say that, since the Roman Missal itself indicates when alternative formulas may be used for specific votive Masses, then the option should not be presumed unless specifically given as a detailed choice has been made.
It must also be recalled that votive Masses are, by definition, “votive,” that is, an option is offered under certain conditions to celebrate a Mass that does not correspond to the office of the day. The norms outlining the conditions of these celebrations are found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. To wit:
“374. In cases of serious need or pastoral advantage, at the direction of the diocesan Bishop or with his permission, an appropriate Mass may be celebrated on any day except Solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, days within the Octave of Easter, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day), Ash Wednesday, and Holy Week.
“375. Votive Masses of the mysteries of the Lord or in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary or of the Angels or of any given Saint or of all the Saints may be said for the sake of the faithful’s devotion on weekdays in Ordinary Time, even if an optional memorial occurs. It is not, however, allowed to celebrate as Votive Masses, those that refer to mysteries related to events in the life of the Lord or of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the exception of the Mass of the Immaculate Conception, since their celebration is an integral part of the unfolding of the liturgical year.
“376. On obligatory Memorials, on the weekdays of Advent up to and including December 16, of the Christmas Season from January 2, and of the Easter Season after the Octave of Easter, Masses for Various Needs, Masses for Various Circumstances, and Votive Masses are as such forbidden. If, however, required by some real need or pastoral advantage, according to the judgment of the rector of the church or the priest celebrant himself, a Mass corresponding to such a need or advantage may be used in a celebration with a congregation.
“377. On weekdays in Ordinary Time when there is an optional Memorial or the Office is of the weekday, it is permissible to use any Mass or oration for various circumstances, though not from the Ritual Masses.
“378. It is especially recommended to celebrate the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, because it is to the Mother of the Redeemer in the Liturgy of the Church that in the first place and before all the Saints veneration is given.”
No. 374 above gives the general criteria as to why certain formulas are not allowed as votive Masses. Thus, for example, it allows the formula for the Immaculate Conception to be used as a votive Mass but not the Assumption.
As our reader mentioned, there are some votive Masses that specifically allow for other formulas to be used. These are:
The Most Holy Eucharist. For this votive Mass the formula for “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest” and that of the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ may also be used.
As mentioned above, the formula for the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart may be used as an alternative votive Mass.
For the Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the four Masses offered in this part of the missal, the rubrics state that “any Mass from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary is used, in accordance with the various times of the year.” The common offers eight Mass formulas for ordinary time and one each for the four major liturgical seasons.
To this may be added many of the Masses found in the collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not all may be used generally, since some, especially those proposed for the major liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, are primarily for use in Marian shrines which have the privilege of being able to celebrate such Masses throughout the year.
For the votive Mass of the Holy Angels, the formula of the Guardian Angels on October 2 may also be used.
For St. Joseph, the rubric indicates that “If appropriate the Mass of the Solemnity … or of Saint Joseph the Worker may also be used.”
For the other votive Masses there is no indication even when a feast exists. Thus there is a votive Mass for Saints Peter and Paul, and a separate Mass for Peter and one for Paul, but no indication that the formulas of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter or that of the Conversion of St. Paul may be used.
Likewise there is a formula for the votive Mass of the Most Holy Name of Jesus but no indication that the formulas for the memorial of the Holy Name on January 3 may be used.
I do not think this can be attributed to an oversight and would therefore conclude that if the option is not specified, then it does not exist.
Priests are hardly deprived of riches in the prayers of the missal. The possibilities are ample; indeed, a priest could use a different Marian Mass almost every liturgically free Saturday for almost an entire year.
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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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