Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Notification Regarding Certain Aspects of the Calendar and LiturgicalTexts, Il Concilio Vaticano II, 20 September 1997.
1. The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the principle that the celebration of the Saints, in which the marvels of Christ are continually proclaimed in his servants, although important, should nevertheless not take precedence over the celebration of the mysteries of salvation which recur weekly on Sunday, and in the course of the liturgical year. This awareness therefore entailed that the celebration of many Saints should be left to the dioceses, to countries and to religious families (SacrosanctumConcilium 111). This principle, along with others established by the Council, served in the restoration of the liturgical year and of the General Calendar of the Roman Rite.
2. The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, along with the Table of Liturgical Days, have the purpose of applying concretely this criterion, both to the General Calendar and to proper calendars. Further, the instruction Calendaria particularia of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, of June 24, 1970, explicitates some complementary considerations regarding proper calendars.
3. Since these norms were promulgated two new factors have entered upon the scene. On the one hand, the large number of beatifications and canonizations celebrated in these last years by the Holy Father has resulted at times in a notable increase in the celebrations introduced into the proper calendars. On the other hand, the addition of a certain number of celebrations to the General Calendar or the raising of the grade of the already existing Feasts, have diminished to a corresponding extent the number of unoccupied days.
4. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments does not judge it opportune, for the moment, to change the norms presently in force; at the same time, however, it considers it necessary to underline some provisions of those norms, provisions whose observance might contribute to avoiding a notable deterioration in the liturgical calendars.
Finally, some aspects connected with the choice and the composition of the related proper liturgical texts will be treated.
5. The appropriate day for adding celebrations to a proper calendar is the same day that the celebration takes place in the General Calendar (General Norms, n. 56a; Calendaria particularia, n. 23), even if the grade of the celebration has to be changed.
6. A good practice, in regard to the liturgical celebration of traditional devotional titles of the Lord Jesus Christ or of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is to tie them to one of the Feasts or Solemnities of either one that is found in the General Calendar. In the case of the Blessed Mother, it is also customary to associate the Feast with September 12th, which was the date of the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary in the Roman Calendar. At the same time, in the same spirit of integration and clarification, it would be advisable to avoid the creation of new titles or devotional Feasts for the Lord or the Blessed Mother, limiting these to the ones already in use in the liturgical books, unless they respond to a devotional feeling widely diffused among the Christian faithful and have received a prior and careful examination from a doctrinal point of view.
7. In the case of a Saint, in the absence of a celebration in the General Calendar, the most appropriate day for the proper calendar will be the dies natalis (heavenly birthday) of the Saint. Whenever, however, that date is unknown, or is impeded by a Solemnity or Feast or obligatory Memorial, already present in the General Calendar or in the proper calendar, the new celebration would normally be set on another suitable day: perhaps the day of the Saint’s baptism, his ordination, of the discovery or translation of his or her body, or simply the nearest unoccupied day (General Norms, nn. 56b, 56c). It is preferable, however, that the day of the canonization not be chosen (see below, n. 39).
8. In the case that an optional Memorial of the proper calendar is impeded on the most appropriate day by another obligatory Memorial, found in the General Calendar or, for example, in the national calendar, one of the two following solutions is advisable (cf. Calendaria particularia, n. 23); in certain circumstances it would be possible to obtain a reduction
of the grade of the obligatory Memorial to that of an optional Memorial; this would permit an appropriate pastoral freedom to chose between the two celebrations; otherwise it would also be possible to unite, though this would be done rarely, two celebrations of a similar kind.
9. The Beatified do not occur, obviously, in the General Calendar; but their addition to a proper calendar follows in general the same principles enunciated above for a Saint.
10. In the last few years the Dicasteries of the Holy See concerned with liturgy, following requests presented with sound reasons by the diocesan bishops, and on pastoral grounds, have conceded a certain number of transfers, even of celebrations which are found in the General Calendar. Now, however, it seems opportune to offer some brief reflections on this subject.
11. The integrity of the General Calendar must be maintained, as the expression, among other things, of the substantial unity of the Roman Rite (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 38). The risk, in fact, is that too broad a practice will result in the weakening of the unity and the internal coherence of the General Calendar and, at their different levels, of each of the national calendars or those covering regions that transcend a single diocese.
12. In the future, therefore, the Congregation intends to insist more strictly on maintaining the celebrations of the General Calendar on the days assigned to them, and not to allow the transferral of the impeding celebrations to a different day, except for altogether exceptional pastoral reasons involving a considerable number of the faithful. The same will hold true for the national and the regional calendars, when they come into conflict with diocesan calendars.
13. Whenever, in fact, it is a question of a celebration to take place at a more local level being impeded, the principle should normally be followed that the impeded celebration rather than the one which is impeding it be transferred.
14. A case is sometimes made for the transfer of impeding celebrations by the existence of processions or other festive observances of a popular tradition among the Catholic faithful. These cases require special consideration.
14. Nevertheless, when such manifestations are of a nature more popular or folkloristic than liturgical, they may take place independently of liturgical functions, and therefore create no need for the transference of the celebration. Still, there remain local Solemnities and Feasts where a deeply rooted and immemorial popular tradition will constitute sufficient grounds for the transferral of the impeding celebration (cf. Calendaria particularia, n. 23b).
15. More rarely the motive advanced for the transferral of a celebration is the idea of ensuring coordination with a similar celebration present in the liturgical or popular calendar of a nonCatholic Christian community. Except for truly exceptional reasons, such a motive should not be deemed sufficient. That holds true, in a special way, in respect of the General Calendar, which is an expression of the communion existing between the local Churches of the same rite. However laudable these may be in themselves, considerations prompted by ecclesial communities with which there does not exist full communion should not be given precedence.
16. The legislation has foreseen the possibility of changing the date of certain Solemnities, namely those of the Epiphany, the Ascension, and of Corpus Christi. These, when they are no longer Holy Days of obligation, are transferred to the nearest Sunday (General Norms, n. 7). The Solemnity of Saint Joseph, when it is not a Holy Day of obligation, may also be transferred outside of Lent, if the bishops consider this to be opportune (General Norms, n. 56). In the case of the Solemnity of All Saints, for example, there might be a valid reason for a transfer, so that it coincides with a day more in keeping with the local culture (cf. Calendaria particularia, n. 36). Aside from these cases, the dates of the General Calendar should be kept, and in general it is important to safeguard with great attention the liturgical year, and especially the altogether particular nature of Sunday as the “Lord’s Day,” when the Church makes memory of the passion, resurrection and glorification of the Lord Jesus (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 106).
17. In obedience to the desire of the Council, the norms insist that the period that usually falls within Lent, and the days of the Octave
17. of Easter, as well as the days running from the 17th to the 24th of December, should be left free of celebrations of the Saints. These norms, however, may admit of exceptions to the general rule. Above all, on this point a certain liberty obtains regarding proper Feasts and proper optional Memorials.
18. It is important to note that the celebrations to be included in proper calendars are regulated in precise terms by the norms currently in force.
19. In the diocesan calendar should be included: the Feast of the (principal) patron of the diocese, the Feast of the dedication of the cathedral church, as well as the obligatory Memorial of any secondary patron. There should also be included the celebrations of those Saints and Beatified who have a special connection with that diocese: for example, if they were born there, engaged in a long service to the Church there, or if they died there, especially if their bodies or the major relics are kept there; or again if they are the subject of an immemorial and still living cult in that place (cf. General Norms, n. 52a; Table of Liturgical Days, nn. 8a, 8b, 11a; Calendaria particularia, n. 9). The request that is not rarely made for the (principal) Patron of the diocese to be celebrated with the grade of Solemnity is not in full harmony with the norms (cf. Table of Liturgical Days, n. 8a), and is not advisable.
20. In the calendar of religious, the celebration either of the titular or of the founder or of the (principal) Patron of the religious family should be entered with the grade of Solemnity. That is to say, only one celebration with the grade of Solemnity, and the other two with the grade of Feast (cf. Table of Liturgical Days, n. 4d, 8d). Sometimes, however, the founder is not a Saint but only beatified, in which case the celebration has the grade of Feast (cf. Calendaria particularia, n. 12a).
There exist in addition the obligatory Memorial of any secondary patron and the celebrations of those Saints and beatified who had a particular link with that religious family, above all of those who belonged to the order or the congregation (cf. General Norms, n. 52b; Table of Liturgical Days, nn. 8f, 11a, 11b;Calendaria particularia, n. 12).
21. In order to explain more exactly the mention made of the celebration of a secondary patron, it is necessary to recall the Normae de Patronis constituendis of 1973, which prescribe that there should be a single patron (n. 6), excluding, therefore, from that date on, the possibility of choosing secondary patrons (nn. 5, 14). Some exceptions have been made to this norm, which it would be important not to overlook in the future.
22. From all this it follows that, in the absence of a truly exceptional pastoral motive, it is not appropriate to introduce other celebrations into the proper calendars. Such exceptional cases require an indult from the Holy See.
23. The legal norms are much less developed regarding other calendars. This would include, on the one hand, interdiocesan (regional, national) calendars, or intradiocesan ones (of a city or of other places, of specific churches) and, on the other hand, those of the congregations or provinces that make up religious families, or the calendars common to the various branches of a single religious family. Basic indications can be found in the Table of Liturgical Days, and also in Calendaria particularia (nn. 8, 10, 11).
24. One of the things most commonly overlooked is the existence of calendars proper to individual churches, which comprise the celebrations recognized by the Table of Liturgical Days. Besides the Solemnity of the anniversary of the dedication of that church, and of the titular Solemnity, there can also be proper celebrations with the grade of Feast.
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).
26. When it is intended to group together a number of Saints in a single common celebration, it is necessary to ensure a certain homogeneity, taking into account the historical period, the kind of church activity they engaged in, their style of life, the different spiritual traditions and of the history of the cult they have each received, all this in such a way as to avoid the introduction of a new cult artificially conceived, and foreign to the Tradition.
27. Whenever such gathering into group celebrations happens, it is important to recall that any given Saint should have a single celebration in the course of the liturgical year (General Norms, n. 50b). Any duplications should therefore be avoided, such as would take place, for example, if a Saint was celebrated, a first time, in a collective celebration, and then again, in an individual celebration on his or her own.
28. In particular it is important to be cautious about adding the newly Blessed or newly canonized Saints to the calendar of a diocese, of a country or to the general calendar of a religious family. Often it will be better to create a celebration limited to whichever locality is more closely tied to the Blessed or Saint.
29. The distinction between the celebration of a Blessed and of a Saint generally requires, in fact, that the celebration of a Blessed be limited to a given geographical area.
30. Still more caution is required when adding new Blessed to the calendar of a larger, interdiocesan territory, such as that of a country and also to the general calendar of a religious family. It is appropriate to proceed gradually, over a more extended period of time.
31. In some cases it will be justifiable, especially in the case of younger Churches, to add a Blessed even to the calendar of the diocese in which he or she was born, died or pursued activity for the Church. It is advisable, nevertheless, that the grade be that of optional Memorial and that an extension to a large number of dioceses or to an entire country take place only after an appropriate period of time, in which the spontaneous devotion of the people will develop at a natural pace.
32. In certain dioceses long ago evangelized which would obviously have a more richly developed local calendar it would also be better to begin with even more limited measures, adding the celebration of a Blessed merely to the calendar of a restricted area: for example, the church where the body or the major relics are preserved (cf. Calendaria particularia, n. 11), or of the city of origin.
33. It is good to remember, in addition, the possibilities offered by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (nn. 316b, 316c) 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.
34. Recently this Congregation has been asked for the recognitio of diocesan calendars containing Saints and Blesseds who have no intrinsic link with the dioceses in question. One of the reasons given to support this request is that of a strong desire to honor a particular religious family for the contribution it has made to the life of the diocese. It is not difficult to see, however, that, following this criterion, the diocesan calendar would lose its specific character and become in large part a sort of collection of the celebrations proper to the religious families present on diocesan territory.
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
35. 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.
36. Other possibilities have already been pointed out (above, n. 33) for celebrations in honor of Saints not found in the diocesan calendar. These possibilities likewise apply whenever it is desired to celebrate a religious Saint in one or other local community of the diocese.
37. As far as the desire to honor a religious family through an addition to the diocesan calendar is concerned, even a brief theological reflection on the meaning of the liturgical celebration of a Saint will show how much such a desire has departed from the Tradition on this matter. Let it also be remembered that such an interpretation does not take into sufficient account the pastoral good of the faithful, who have a right to authenticity and to a noble simplicity in worship (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 34).
38. It seems opportune, finally, to insist here on some points regarding the texts of the liturgical propers for the celebration of the Saints and Blesseds found in the proper calendar, and in particular of the choice of the second reading at the Office of Readings. This calls for due attention in following the principles set out especially in the Instruction already mentioned (n. 43) and in the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (nn. 160, 162, 166167).
39. The introduction of a biographical note (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 168) at the beginning of every formulary in the Proper of the Saints renders inadvisable the composition of a new hagiographic text to use as the second reading [of the Office of Readings] whenever there are available other suitable texts from the writings of the Fathers of the Church or of the Saint or Blessed himself, or, for example, an account contemporary with that period.
40. As far as concerns in general possible sources of the second reading, it is right to insist that the authors chosen be Catholics outstanding for their
doctrine and holiness of life, in the first place the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, of both West and East (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 160). It is a matter, in fact, of choosing “authors, whose life and doctrine can be proposed unreservedly to the faithful” (cf. Notitiae 8  249). On the one hand, this makes it evidently inadvisable to adopt texts of living authors, and, on the other, argues strongly for not choosing the writings of authors who, although fulfilling these conditions, have no special interest by the fact of being Saints or Blesseds, or of being writers of extraordinary literary, doctrinal or spiritual merit. These considerations would tend to exclude a good number of authors of pious books, as well as of theologians and exegetical commentators who, though having enjoyed a certain popularity in the distant past or among recent generations, cannot in any way be compared to the masterpieces of two thousand years of Christian literature. It is inappropriate to select texts of certain authors, written before they entered into full communion with the Church. Finally, the works of nonChristians are to be altogether excluded.
41. Sometimes the proposal is made to take a passage from the homily given by the Supreme Pontiff on the occasion of the beatification or canonization: in some cases that can indeed be a fitting solution. Nevertheless, the technical and pastoral requirements of a homily intended for one occasion do not always coincide with the needs of a celebration of the Office of Readings. Recourse should therefore be had only on rare occasions to this solution, also because the purpose of the annual celebration of the Saint or Blessed is not to commemorate the historical event of the canonization or beatification, but to proclaim and renew the paschal mystery of Christ made manifest in the person being honored (Motu Proprio, Mysterii Paschalis, II).
42. A particular case, which brings out these general considerations in an especially clear way, is that of the supplementary lectionary for the second reading [of the Office of Readings] which is spoken of by the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (n. 162). Such a project must be characterized, on the one hand, by scrupulous respect of the norms and, on the other hand, by the high quality of the writings chosen. The larger part of the readings should normally be limited to patristic literature.
43. For the remaining texts, it is desirable that they be truly representative of the universality of the Church, drawing from the treasury of the different
43. Christian nations, without favoring in a systematic way any particular schools. Seeing that it is a question of a lectionary of ecclesiastical writings intended above all to help meditation on the Word of God (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, nn. 163165), it is appropriate that the texts it contains be of a meditative character, impregnated with Sacred Scripture, and with a true sense of the liturgy.
44. That does not prevent dioceses situated in countries evangelized long ago favoring to a fitting degree a selection of the treasures of their own particular tradition. The same is also true for religious families, especially for an ancient monastic or mendicant order.
45. As far as the collect prayer is concerned, it is necessary to respect its true nature, which should not be confused with that of an hagiographical note. The collect, in fact, concentrates on the charism of the Saint or Blessed, on a single essential point of his life or activity, without in any way trying to give an historical account. It should, on the contrary, limit itself to a very brief mention, and avoid stereotypes (cf. Calendaria particularia, n. 40b). It is advisable to examine the models found in the Proper of the Saints, and in the Commons of the Roman Missal, where both the technical structure and the expressive conciseness of the literary genre of the collect of the Roman rite are evident.
46. It is important in all these cases that faithful attention be paid to the procedures prescribed in the Instruction already mentioned: above all the role of a commission of experts (cf. Calendaria particularia, nn. 4, 4b), a due consultation with the clergy and with the faithful or religious (cf. ibid, nn. 4, 4c), a detailed report on the project presented to the Holy See (cf. ibid., n. 6).
47. In the revision of calendars dating from before the Council the task of the experts will be that, among other things, of applying rigorously whatever is prescribed in the Instruction Calendaria particularia (nn. 1820) covering the requisite historical investigation.
48. In certain countries a praiseworthy common effort has been undertaken in a historical, liturgical and pastoral study so as to coordinate
the national calendar with those of the individual dioceses, an approach that is recommended especially for those countries evangelized many centuries ago, where the historical situation is more complex. Something similar has taken place in certain religious families, with good results. Once such an effort is mounted, it is important that the necessary additions and consequent adjustments be likewise carried out in a coordinated way.
49. Regarding a national calendar with its corresponding liturgical texts, the prescriptions of the Instruction Inter Oecumenici (n. 29) remain still in force, requiring the proposal sent by the Conference of Bishops to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to be accompanied by a report signed by the President and the Secretary of the Conference. In such a report the names of the bishops who participated in the vote should be specified, along with an account of the decisions and the result of the vote for each individual decree. The vote of the Plenary Assembly of the Conference should be secret and requires a majority vote of two-thirds (cf. Inter Oecumenici, nn. 2728).
The Memorial of Saints Andrea Tim Taegon and companions, martyrs
September 20, 1997
Jorge Medina Estévez
Notitiae 33 (1997): 284-297; RRAO (1999): 22-32; Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Thirty-Five Years of the BCL Newsletter: 1965-2000 (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004): 1593-1598.