Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Father Edward McNamara

10/9/2008 (7 years ago)

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

Father Edward McNamara,Professor of Liturgy,explains the differences between Solemnities, Feasts and Memorials in the Liturgical Year.

Highlights

By Father Edward McNamara

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

10/9/2008 (7 years ago)

Published in Europe


ROME (Zenit) - Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: We as Catholics commonly use the word "feast" to cover everything from church feasts of various saints and the Blessed Mother, to Corpus Christi, etc. We also understand that there are three kinds of feasts/celebrations: memorial, feast, solemnity. Could you kindly elaborate on these three categories? Also, why is Corpus Christi not a holy day of obligation? -- R.D., Enderamulla, Sri Lanka

A: Effectively we use the word "feast" to cover all levels of celebration, even though the word also has a precise technical meaning in the hierarchy of celebrations. There is no great difficulty in this, as the context usually clarifies whether we are speaking technically or in general.

The three basic classes are those mentioned by our reader, although memorials are often divided up into obligatory and optional. There are some other means of classifying the celebrations which give different numbers and categories. For example, if one classifies on the basis of which Masses may be celebrated on a given day, one comes up with seven groupings of celebrations.

The difference between the three basic categories resides in their importance, which in turn is reflected in the presence or absence of different liturgical elements.
Solemnities are the highest degree and are usually reserved for the most important mysteries of faith. These include Easter, Pentecost and the Immaculate Conception; the principal titles of Our Lord, such as King and Sacred Heart; and celebrations that honor some saints of particular importance in salvation history, such as Sts. Peter and Paul, and St. John the Baptist on his day of birth.

Solemnities have the same basic elements as a Sunday: three readings, prayer of the faithful, the Creed and the Gloria which is recited even when the solemnity occurs during Advent or Lent. It also has proper prayer formulas exclusive to the day: entrance antiphon, opening prayer, prayer over the gifts, Communion antiphon, and prayer after Communion. In most cases it also has a particular preface.

Some solemnities are also holy days of obligation, but these vary from country to country.A solemnity is celebrated if it falls on a Sunday of ordinary time or Christmastide. But it is usually transferred to the following Monday if it falls on a Sunday of Advent, Lent or Easter, or during Holy Week or the Easter octave.
A feast honors a mystery or title of the Lord, of Our Lady, or of saints of particular importance (such as the apostles and Evangelists) and some of historical importance such as the deacon St. Lawrence.
The feast usually has some proper prayers but has only two readings plus the Gloria. Feasts of the Lord, such as the Transfiguration and Exaltation of the Holy Cross, unlike other feasts, are celebrated when they fall on a Sunday. On such occasions they have three readings, the Gloria and the Creed.

A memorial is usually of saints but may also celebrate some aspect of the Lord or of Mary. Examples include the optional memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus or the obligatory memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
From the point of view of the liturgical elements there is no difference between the optional and obligatory memorial. The memorial has at least a proper opening prayer and may have proper readings suitable for the saint being celebrated. The readings of the day may be used, and the lectionary recommends against an excessive use of specific readings for the saints so as not to interrupt too much the continuous cycle of daily readings.
On the other hand, the specific readings should always be used for certain saints, above all those specifically mentioned in the readings themselves, such as Martha, Mary Magdalene and Barnabas.

During Lent and Advent from Dec. 17 to 24 memorials may be celebrated only as commemorations. That is, only the opening prayer of the saint is used and all the rest comes from the day.Nov. 2, All Souls' Day, is something of a special class that, without being a solemnity, still has precedence over a Sunday.It is also important to note that the same celebration may have a different classification in various geographical areas, as some celebrations and saints are venerated more in one place than in another. For example, St. Benedict, an obligatory memorial in the universal calendar, is a feast in Europe since he is one of its patrons. But he rates a solemnity in the diocese and abbey of Montecassino where he is buried.

Finally, the decision on whether a solemnity such as the Body and Blood of the Lord is a holy day of obligation falls primarily upon the bishops' conference, which decides based on the pastoral reality of each country. Some have maintained the traditional Thursday celebration and kept it as a holy day; others might have maintained the day but without the obligation. Many have preferred to transfer the celebration to the following Sunday so as to ensure its celebration with the greatest number of faithful.

The Vatican, for example, continues the traditional Thursday celebration and thus the Holy Father's procession with the Blessed Sacrament is held on that day. The Diocese of Rome, however, along with the rest of Italy, celebrates it on the following Sunday.



Comments


More Europe

'Our meeting is the message': Pope Francis' historical meeting with top Sunni imam Watch

Image of

By Ann Schneible (CNA/EWTN News)

Pope Francis on Monday embraced the grand imam Sheik Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tayyib during a meeting at the Vatican, a move which is being seen as a step toward reopening dialogue between Christians and Sunni Muslims. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "Our meeting is the ... continue reading


'It will be a first': Pope Francis to meet Sunni Islamic leader Watch

Image of Pope Francis will meet Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb this week (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis has decided to meet with Sunni Islam's Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb on Monday. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP, "This audience is being prepared and has been scheduled for Monday. It will be a first."The pontiff's ... continue reading


Bizzare! Europe to release documentary on 'Human Pups' Watch

Image of 'Spot' is a 'human pup' to be featured in the new documentary (ZentaiSpot/Twitter).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In what most claim is a non-sexual "dog play," human pups have become the latest rage to spread across the UK - so much so that a new documentary will reveal the inner workings of the human pups' lives. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Channel 4, the ... continue reading


You won't believe what this Christian artwork reveals about Da Vinci! Watch

Image of Leonardo da Vinci's art may help researchers unveil his DNA (Pinterest).

By (CNA/EWTN News)

Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, Adoration of the Magi, will soon be undergoing testing that could help digitally reconstruct the artist's face and offer clues about his life and health. Florence, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - According to the U.K. outlet Sky News, ... continue reading


London boasts first Muslim Mayor despite racial and religious tensions Watch

Image of Sadiq Khan has become London's first Muslim Mayor (Wikipedia).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Islamophobia spreads as ISIS continues its terror attacks - but one city has taken a step toward accepting the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - London has elected its first Muslim Mayor. Sadiq Khan won with 56.8 percent of ... continue reading


'The Evil': Exorcism classes forced on Spanish students Watch

Image of Spanish students were forced to take an exorcism class (Brendan Hoffman).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Anyone who has ever been in college knows there is a list of required classes to take before you are eligible for graduation. Some classes seem unnecessary, such as a Chemistry major forced to take art classes, but what if universities and colleges required exorcism ... continue reading


28 killed in refugee camp targeted by Assad's missiles Watch

Image of Innocent civilians targeted by Assad despite temporary cease-fire (AP).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Humanitarian group reported airstrikes targeting a refugee camp full of innocent men, women and children during a cease-fire. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Syrian refugee camp erected near the Turkish ... continue reading


Vatican under investigation - 5,000 bank accounts closed Watch

Image of Vatican auditors make move after three-year investigation (Pinterest).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Vatican auditors closed nearly 5,000 suspected Vatican bank accounts on suspicion of tax evasion. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The scandal includes a three-year investigation of 544 suspected transactions mainly involving tax evasion.To meet international ... continue reading


MASONS HACKED! Secrets of the Masons spilled - French media to expose highest-ranking Masons Watch

Image of The Masons have been hacked. A secret dump of documents will reveal their secrets to the world.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Hackers have just released thousands of documents in a new document dump to the media, this time, they contain the secrets of the Masons. The data dump is known as "Masonleaks" and journalists say it will take several months to complete their review of the documents. ... continue reading


Belgian minister warns against offending Muslims, wait until you see the scary reason why! Watch

Image of Muslims take over a Parisian street for prayers.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Belgian minister has a telling warning for his country as hearings begin into the Brussels attack that killed 32 people at an airport in March.  The reason for the warning is quite compelling. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A Belgian minister is warning ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • New study reveals Catholics hold highest retention rate - but no one ...
  • A Prayer Before Surgery HD Video
  • St. Philip Neri: Saint of the Day for Thursday, May 26, 2016
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, May 26, 2016
  • Miracle for baby born without half his skull
  • Prayer to Saint Valentine HD Video
  • Like Bartimaeus, We Are Blind: Cry out to Jesus, Lord Help Me to See!

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 14:18-20
18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 [Of David Psalm] Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take your seat at my ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:11-17
11 But the crowds got to know and they went after him. He made them ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For the tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 26th, 2016 Image

St. Philip Neri
May 26: If one had to choose one saint who showed the ... Read More