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Saint's Day Mass as an Ordination Liturgy

Also, a Question of Precedence and Sundays

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

 Q1: I am being ordained to the priesthood in 2019. Since the ordination will be my patronal saint day, may the Mass of the saint be used, or must the Ritual Mass for the Ordination of a Priest be used? — J.W., Ohio

 Q2: I write you from a Poor Clare monastery. The solemnity of Mother St. Clare fell on Saturday — so we did not take Vespers II of the solemnity but took Sunday. Then some sisters wondered because it is the only day we pray the office of our foundress as well as the patron of the monastery here named after her. Now next year it will be on Sunday — what do we do? Were we right to drop Vespers II of the solemnity? Next year, how shall we observe the solemnity? Also, some priests keep telling us that the rubrics for altar linen have changed — some say we should not put the corporal anymore but put the liturgical color of the season and another white cloth to cover the whole altar. Your help will be greatly appreciated. — S.J., Kokstad, South Africa

 A: Since the questions are somehow related I will attempt to answer them together. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:  “372. Ritual Masses are connected to the celebration of certain Sacraments or Sacramentals. They are prohibited on Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, on Solemnities, on the days within the Octave of Easter, on the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day), on Ash Wednesday, and during Holy Week, and furthermore due regard is to be had for the norms set out in the ritual books or in the Masses themselves.” When a Ritual Mass is celebrated the collect, the Prayer over the Gifts, the Prayer after Communion and occasionally the preface all refer to the sacrament or sacramental that is conferred. Since the missal only indicates on which days these Masses are forbidden, it is safe to say that on other days, included saints’ days, they are permitted. Given that a permission does not translate into an obligation it is technically possible to celebrate the saint’s Mass rather than the ritual Mass on the day of ordination. I would suggest, however, that it makes more liturgical sense to use the full ritual Mass of ordination. One is ordained priest only once; the saint’s feast day will come around the following year, and he will also be remembered during the Liturgy of the Hours on the day of ordination. If one desires to remember the saint, then he may be included in the litany of saints. Regarding the question on the feast of St. Clare (August 11): In the monastery, this celebration has the category of solemnity and as such its celebration is governed by the norms of the liturgical calendar and the table of precedence of liturgical feasts. The general norms regarding the order of precedence in the liturgical calendar are the following:

“5. Because of its special importance, the celebration of Sunday gives way only to Solemnities or Feasts of the Lord; indeed the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter have precedence over all Solemnities. In fact, Solemnities occurring on these Sundays are transferred to the following Monday unless they occur on Palm Sunday or on Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection.

 “60. If several celebrations fall on the same day, the one that holds the highest rank according to the Table of Liturgical Days is observed. However, a solemnity impeded by a liturgical day that takes precedence over it should be transferred to the closest day not listed in nos. 1-8 in the Table of Precedence, provided that what is laid down in rule no. 5 is observed. […] Other celebrations are omitted in that year.

 “61. Should, on the other hand, Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the current day’s Office and First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the following day be assigned for celebration on the same day, then Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the celebration with the higher rank in the Table of Liturgical Days takes precedence; in cases of equal rank, Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the current day takes precedence.”

 With this in mind we observe that the solemnity of a patron is No. 4 on the Table of Precedence: “4. Proper solemnities, namely: a.) Solemnity of the principal patron of the place, that is, the city or state. b.) Solemnity of the dedication of a particular church and the anniversary. c.) Solemnity of the title of a particular church. d.) Solemnity of the title or of the founder or of the principal patron of a religious order or congregation.” This August feast will usually only coincide with Sundays of ordinary time which are No. 6 on the Table of Precedence, and hence the solemnity of the patron has precedence over Sundays of ordinary time. It could happen that there is a national or regional solemnity of higher category, but this would be an exception. Therefore, for the Poor Clare monastery, the solemnity of St. Clare takes take precedence over the Sunday. This would apply to both the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Finally, the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal regarding the covering of the altar are the following:   “304. Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered, there should be, on an altar where this is celebrated, at least one cloth, white in color, whose shape, size, and decoration are in keeping with the altar’s structure. When, in the Dioceses of the United States of America, other cloths are used in addition to the altar cloth, then those cloths may be of other colors possessing Christian honorific or festive significance according to longstanding local usage, provided that the uppermost cloth covering the mensa (i.e., the altar cloth itself) is always white in color.” With respect to the corporal, the norms indicate for the preparation of the gifts: “73. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the gifts which will become Christ’s Body and Blood are brought to the altar. First of all, the altar or Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, is made ready when on it are placed the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless this last is prepared at the credence table) .…” If the priest’s indication is that the corporal is not placed upon the altar before Mass, then his observation is quite correct. The corporal is not extended until the preparation of gifts. If, on the other hand, he is saying that the corporal is no longer required, then he is incorrect as is clear from the above norms.

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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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