Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Father Edward McNamara

10/9/2008 (5 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 (5 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

HORRIFIC ABUSE: 18-year-old girl coerced into group sex while being recorded on cell phone Watch

Image of The incident is being called an example of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An 18-year-old girl performed explicit sex acts on 24 men on a dance floor with the promise of a holiday - which never arrived. Presented with a mixed drink for her acts of indecency, the sordid episode was recorded on a cell phone camera - for the world to ... continue reading


Female genital mutilation threatens young females in England, Wales Watch

Image of The Department of Health has ordered hospitals to report signs of genital mutilation. The first statistics aren't due until September.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Far away from Africa and parts of Asia, girls and young women are still at risk for female genital mutilation, or FGM within the United Kingdom. The barbaric practice, FGM, is still carried out among various immigrant females in both Great Britain and Wales. ... continue reading


Putin vs. the World: One plane crash may spell the end for Russian president's ambitious plan of conquest Watch

Image of Russian backed separatists stand around wreckage from the downed Malaysian Airlines plane.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

World opinion continues to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine being the most notable and recent example of Russian interference in Ukraine. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Time and evidence ... continue reading


Prophetic Pope Does It Again: Words to an Economic Conference Make Waves Watch

Image of Pope Francis is absolutely correct. It is not

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On July 12, 2014, this prophetic Pope made waves again. He addressed participants in an international conference entitled - The Global Common Good: Towards A More Inclusive Economy. The conference was convened in Rome and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for ... continue reading


Sting nabs 600 pedos across UK, Scotland, Northen Ireland Watch

Image of Heightened awareness of child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom came in the wake of shocking revelations of predatory sexual behavior by late TV host Jimmy Savile.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Internet sting operation targeting pedophiles has led to the arrest of 660 individuals in the United Kingdom. Among those arrested were teachers, doctors, scout leaders, social care workers and former police officers. The six-month investigation was ... continue reading


MYSTERIOUS BISHOP: Father of British science to be honored Watch

Image of Bishop Robert Grosseteste was one of England's foremost scientific scholars, back in the 13th century.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A theologian from Bishop Grosseteste University in the city of Lincoln has called for the erection of a statue of Bishop Robert Grosseteste, the medieval thinker, in his home city of Lincoln. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dr. Jack Cunningham said that a ... continue reading


Faithful at Istanbul church rattled after Muslim attack Watch

Image of The attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. Members of the Christian minority here fear that things will only get worse.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The faithful at Saint Stephanos Church in Istanbul, Turkey are feeling rattled after an attack was carried out there by Muslims. Attackers verbally assaulted and threatened them during a baptismal service. Muslims have also destroyed church property in the last ... continue reading


Where does the Vatican store its gold? Mostly in the U.S. it turns out Watch

Image of A new report from the Vatican bank details just where the wealth of the Catholic Church is actually stored.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican Bank-formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion-has released a 107-page, detailed financial report for 2013. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This release comes just one week after the group published highlights of its 2013 financial ... continue reading


Church of England rejects Christian tradition and votes to allow women bishops Watch

Image of Church leaders have billed the new proposals as part of a

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While the Archbishop of York asked for the result to be met "with restraint and sensitivity," there were cheers among many Anglicans and Episcopalians when the Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops for first time in its history.The vote ... continue reading


Former euthanasia supporter warns against 'slippery slope' in legalization Watch

Image of Dr. Theo Boer says that in his native Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, deaths have doubled in just six years. This year's total may reach a record 6,000.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases is sternly warning the United Kingdom to not legalize euthanasia. He says that legalizing assisted suicide is a "slippery slope" towards the widespread killing of the sick. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-9
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Bridget of Sweden
July 23: Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Uppland’s Lagman, Birger ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter