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Patrons’ Solemnities

And More on Easter Candles

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: In the Table of Liturgical Days, it says that the principal patron of a place, city or state is considered as a solemnity. I reside in a village with a chapel, or Basic Ecclesial Community Chapel, under the patronage of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1). The local parish is dedicated to St. Lorenzo Ruiz (September 28) while the patron of the city is San Pedro (St. Peter), who is the patron of the first parish in the city centuries ago. The town including the first parish dedicated to him usually celebrates the feast day every February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. Does this mean that the above-mentioned dates should be considered as solemnities? September 28 is the titular parish patron, making it a solemnity within the parish territory. How about May 1? Will it be considered as a solemnity within the village where the chapel is located which celebrates its feast since it is the patron of the place? Lastly, does the feast of the Chair of St. Peter become a solemnity as well since it is the patron of the city, even if I do not belong to that parish? I was just curious especially since this would also imply a proper way of praying the Liturgy of the Hours depending on the liturgical ranks. — H.C., San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines

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. A notification issued in 1997 clarified some of the earlier documents. 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:

“51. Although it is reasonable for each diocese to have its own calendar and propers for the Mass and office, there is no reason why entire provinces, regions, countries, or even larger areas may not have common calendars and propers, prepared with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

“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. …

“c. in a calendar for individual churches, celebrations proper to a diocese or religious community, those celebrations that are proper to that church and are listed in the Table of Liturgical Days and also the saints who are buried in that church. 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 table of liturgical precedence says the following about particular solemnities:

“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, or of the founder, or of the principal patron of a religious order or congregation.”

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).”

This document admits that the legislation regarding interdiocesan regional calendars is less developed, although some basic indications are given in Calendaria Particularia Nos. 8, 10 and 11:

“8. As it celebrates the mystery of Christ in yearly cycle, the Church also venerates with a particular love Mary, the Mother of God, and sets before the devotion of the faithful the memory of the martyrs and other saints. [4]

“10. According to their importance, celebrations are distinguished from each other and named as follows: solemnities, feasts, memorials.

“11. Solemnities are counted as the principal days in the calendar and their observance begins with evening prayer I of the preceding day. Some also have their own vigil Mass for use when Mass is celebrated in the evening of the preceding day.

“The celebration of Easter and Christmas, the two greatest solemnities, continues for eight days, with each octave governed by its own rules.”

In the light of this, we can attempt an answer to the precise question of our reader.

Although the table of liturgical days says that the patron of a place or city is a solemnity, it is presumed that this celebration has been duly inserted into the national, diocesan or regional liturgical calendar. In many cases, this requires the prior approval of the Holy See.

In many countries, either the national calendar or the regional liturgical calendar takes into account the particular celebrations of the country, region and each diocese. Therefore our reader should be guided by whatever official calendar is published by the competent local authority.

For example, some large cities are now divided into several dioceses. If the city has a traditional patron, each diocese would separately include him or her in its calendar. Alternatively, the bishops could also be constituted as a regional conference that had been granted this patron as a particular solemnity of the region.

The proper solemnities of the patron of a particular church are tied to the building. That is, the solemnity is celebrated in the church itself not in the parish territory as such. This applies to both Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Churches and chapels within the parish territory would not celebrate the parish patron as a solemnity, although obviously the faithful would be encouraged to attend Mass at the parish itself.

In some cases, a different rule applies to cathedrals in which the patron or the anniversary of the dedication is celebrated as a solemnity in the cathedral and as either a feast or as a memorial in the other churches of the diocese.

It is also presumed that the church has been duly dedicated and assigned an official title by the bishop. A simple chapel or oratory which has not been dedicated would not have a solemnity attached even if it was generally held by the people as being dedicated to St. X.

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Follow-up: Placement of the Paschal Candle

In the wake of our October 1 piece on the location of the Easter candle, a Dallas, Texas, a reader asked: “In recent years a second Paschal candle was prepared. The primary was used at the Easter vigil and throughout Eastertide. The second one was used during simultaneous Easter-day Masses, one in the church and one in a gymnasium. Given your recent article stating that there is to be only one Paschal candle, is our practice licit? Thank you very much.”

I would refer our reader to an earlier article on the use of a second Paschal candle published on May 2, 2017.

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 Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. 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.

About Fr. Edward McNamara

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