|ROME, 21 DEC. 2004 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: Please kindly give the norms which govern celebrating Masses in honor
of "beati," e.g. Blessed Juniper Serra, Blessed Mr. and Mrs. Quattrocchi,
or Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
T.C., Buffalo, New York
A: The most recent norms relating to this theme are contained in a
Notification published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the
Sacraments, on Sept. 20, 1997.
These update and complement the norms given in the general calendar and
the more-detailed norms given in the instruction "Calendaria
Particularia" issued June 24, 1970.
This document touches on the subject of inserting the blessed in local
calendars in several places, but above all in Nos. 25-37.
In general, the document warns against the excessive multiplication of
celebrations in order to keep the General Roman Calendar's basic unity
Especially in the first years after beatification or canonization it is
probably better to limit the celebration to the locales more intimately
united to the saint's life before seeking permission to include a new
saint or blessed in a diocesan, regional or national calendar or in a
religious order's general calendar (Nos. 28, 30).
The celebration of a blessed differs from that of a saint above all with
respect to the universality of the veneration that may be offered to
The blessed are usually venerated with celebrations on a local level in
places where they were born, where they died, where their relics are
preserved. They are also venerated in places that had a long-term
association with their activities, in a church dedicated to them, or
within the confines of the churches and oratories of a particular
religious order which has its own liturgical calendar.
However, even in these cases, it is better to begin by inserting this
celebration as an optional memorial and later expand, both territorially
and in liturgical ranking as devotion spreads (No. 31).
In some cases, especially in ancient dioceses, it might even be better
to restrict this initial veneration to the church where his relics are
kept or to his native town.
A priest may celebrate a saint's feast day anywhere in the universal
Church as an optional memorial even if this feast is not included in the
However, he must respect the general liturgical norms regarding the
precedence of different celebrations which means that such a celebration
may only take place on days where there is no other feast or obligatory
memorial during ordinary time, in the weekdays of Advent before Dec. 17,
those of Christmas after Jan. 2 and during Eastertide after the Easter
octave (No. 33).
In order to include the celebration of a blessed in the national or
diocesan calendar, or to dedicate a church to a blessed, either the
bishops' conference or the local bishop, as the case may be, requests
permission from the Holy See.
The inclusion of a new saint or blessed into a national calendar
requires a two-thirds majority of the country's bishops in a secret
ballot and the recognition of the Holy See.
Once the Holy See has granted permission, the blessed may be included in
the national, regional, diocesan or religious order calendar according
to the liturgical ranking permitted.
A blessed is usually accorded the ranking of optional memorial,
occasionally an obligatory memorial, rarely a feast (and even then
usually restricted to a church containing relics), but never a
Thus, in the examples you pointed out: A priest in the United States can
celebrate Blessed Junipero Serra who has been included in the calendar
of the United States. But a priest in Rome may not celebrate except, I
think, within the North American College, which, like all of Rome's
national colleges, is permitted to follow the home calendar.
A priest may not celebrate Blessed Mother Teresa in ordinary churches
unless the Holy See has granted permission to include the celebration in
the diocesan regional or national calendar. But her feast may be
celebrated anywhere in the world within the chapels and oratories of the
Missionaries of Charity. ZE04122122
* * *
Follow-up: Masses in Honor of the Blessed [01-18-2005]
Several readers asked for clarifications regarding the celebration of
Masses of blessed and saints (see Dec. 21) not included in the universal
One asked if a Mass in honor of a blessed who had been a member of a
Third Order could be celebrated for members of the order even outside of
a church pertaining to the group's First or Second orders.
The principal distinction between the liturgical celebration of saints
and blessed is the restriction of the celebration of the blessed either
locally to the places connected with their lives or relics, or within
the churches of religious orders to which they pertained.
In the latter case the celebration of a blessed would usually be
restricted to churches and chapels of the order but not necessarily, as
in the case of orders of brothers or women religious, to priests who
belong to the order in question.
No. 35 of the 1997 notification regarding particular calendars would not
appear to allow for the celebration of blessed outside of these churches
for particular groups such as members of Third Orders. Indeed, the
document suggests that these celebrations should be occasions for
pilgrimages to the churches where the Mass may be celebrated.
However, I think that in the not-too-distant future some modification of
these norms will be necessary in order to accommodate, not just the
blessed of Third Orders, but also the needs of the members of, say,
Catholic Action and the Legion of Mary as well as some of the more
recent lay ecclesial movements. These do not, strictly speaking, have
churches or oratories of their own, but their members meet in parishes
and other centers.
The celebration of the future blessed of these groups, many of which are
international in character, will require a less geographically limited
With regard to the texts to be used, if there is no official Mass texts
or at least no approved translations for the recently blessed, then the
most appropriate common should be used (virgins, pastors, men or woman
This throws some light on another aspect mentioned in my earlier reply
which some found a bit confusing.
When speaking about the liturgical calendar, there are several levels.
For the whole world there is the Church's General Liturgical Calendar
which contains those celebrations of saints considered to be of
universal or historical importance.
Also on the level of the whole world is the Roman Martyrology, which
contains the entire list of saints and blessed celebrated in the Church
although the vast majority of these are venerated only in certain areas.
On this level, any priest may celebrate the feast of a saint found in
the martyrology of the day, provided the day is free of other general or
local celebrations which would impede its celebration.
He may not, however, celebrate a blessed outside of the areas where this
celebration has been specifically permitted by the bishop, or the
bishops' conference and ratified by the Holy See.
On the local or particular level there are National, Regional, Diocesan,
and Religious Order Calendars.
These may include saints and blessed from the Roman Martyrology, not
included in the general calendar, as either obligatory or optional
memorials within the confines of the territory for which they have been
They sometimes attribute a higher degree of liturgical solemnity than
that of the general calendar, especially in the case of national,
diocesan or church patrons and occasionally a different date from that
of the rest of the Church.
A traveling priest is usually obliged to follow the calendar of the
country he is visiting. If celebrating without a congregation, however,
he may follow the general calendar or that of his own nation or
As mentioned, there may be some exceptions: In Rome the many national
colleges (North American, Brazilian, Filipino, English, Irish, etc.)
have traditionally followed the calendars of their home countries with
respect to major feasts and particular saints and blessed. This
privilege may usually be exercised only within the colleges themselves.
Another exception could be when the prayer texts for a local celebration
exist only in the language of the place. In such cases a traveling
priest, either alone or accompanying a group, would not necessarily have
to follow the particular celebration unless it had the category of a
feast or solemnity in which case he could take the most appropriate