Introducing a New Feast Day the Right Way
|Pius XI at the throne during a Papal Chapel in St. Peter's|
Under Pius XI (of happy memory), some changes to the calendar were not entirely felicitous, in my opinion. The feast of Christ the King is certainly a beautiful and noble devotion, but its liturgical observance does--we have to admit--act as a "perpetual translation" of the last Sunday of October. (Further, there is, in the associated Office, the unwelcome innovation of using at Matins fragments of a psalm, Psalm 88: that is, one psalm divided into two sections, something otherwise unheard of in the Office of Matins from the Common or Proper. But that is a quibble for another time.)
Some have argued, not without reason, that Christ the King essentially duplicates, in order to bring into relief, the mystery celebrated on Ascension Day. And although there is a kind of precedent in the duplication of the Transfiguration on August 6th from the Second Sunday of Lent, it is not a completely apt precedent in that there is no holy event in the life of the Church associated with the "Sunday nearest All Saints" as there is for August 6th (the relief of Belgrade thanks to St. John Capistrano and his battle cry of the Holy Name).
The extension by Pius XI of the feast of the Sacred Heart with an Octave is obviously modeled on the Octave of Corpus Christi. With the advantage of hindsight, though, it does seem perhaps to attempt too much with too little. I mean, the texts (not the reality of the mystery!) simply do not possess the splendor of St. Thomas's Office and Mass. Perhaps it's impossible that they could, since devotion to the Sacred Heart, properly so called, is essentially modern (post-Tridentine). In the medieval and ancient Church, devotion to the Sacred Heart seemed to be more intertwined with devotion to the Passion and consequently enjoyed greater literary riches to draw on. I must add, though, that I am myself attached to the Sacred Heart devotion and do not consider its post-Tridentine provenance to make it any less necessary or accessible. Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced that the Octave was sufficiently warranted, especially at the expense of Simplex feasts that went without their Office if they fell during the Octave.
Be all that as it may, the feast of the Divine Maternity on October 11th seems to be almost perfectly in line with traditional additions to the calendar. It is Pius XI's "liturgical monument" or memorial of the 1,500th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus with its emphatic confirmation of the title Theotokos, Dei Genetrix. With the exception of the specially composed or selected hymns for Matins and Lauds (which are, thankfully, more of the ecclesiastical Latin variety than the ersatz-Horatian style, as found in some Enlightenment forays into hymnography), lessons for the nocturnes, and the antiphons (and none of this is without precedent), everything else comes from the Common, as is the usual Roman custom. (After all, why have Commons if they are never used?) Although someone might argue that there was no "crying need" for a special feast of the Divine Maternity (that mystery is included in January 1st, after all), still he would have to agree that the choice of the date was apt; no violence was done to an existing feast; and nothing jarring or out of place with the Roman Church's liturgical customs was introduced.
Saints Days: Can't Live without Them, Can't Live with Them?With all that as background, let us consider the unobjectionable proposal much bruited in recent years to "enrich" the Extraordinary Form with new Saints' days. One candidate, we are informed, would be Padre Pio, the great Stigmatist and Capuchin Confessor (in both senses of the word). While I doubt there is anyone who would question the outstanding holiness of St. Pio or his relevance to the contemporary Church amid all her afflictions, there is still the problem of his feast day, Sept. 23rd. Traditionally, this is the feast of St. Linus, with a commemoration of the much-revered Virgin, St. Thecla. Personally, I am skeptical, in the prevailing climate, whether much thought, if any at all, would be given to St. Linus or St. Thecla, because "who even knows who they are?" St. Pio is seen as more immediately important to the faithful. There was already a spate of this kind of reckoning in recent centuries, when ancient Martyrs' feast days were made to give way in the universal calendar to more recent celebrations: Pope St. Stephen I (St. Alphonsus), St. Lawrence's Octave Day (St. Hyacinth), Sts. Felix and Adauctus (St. Rose of Lima), and so forth.
|St. Pio of Pietralcina (as celebrant at Easter High Mass):|
Is there room in the traditional calendar for the holy Stigmatist?
In all these cases (and others could be cited), the feast particular to the Roman Church is subordinated to the celebration of a Saint pertaining to the Roman Church in the broad sense (St. Alphonsus being somewhat of an exception, of course) but in fact more universal and immediate in appeal, at least at the time of the canonization. Of course, the weight of tradition made it impossible in those days to suppress the earlier feasts entirely. Does anyone doubt that any such hesitation would come to bear nowadays, especially given the minimalist leanings of the 1962 revision?
Of course, no one is suggesting suppressing the feasts of St. Rose, St. Hyacinth, or any other great and established celebration. Rather, the question is: to what extent, if any, do the post-Vatican II Saints merit a universal observance at the expense of more ancient feast days? John Rotondi at his excellent blog Current Tridentine Ordo has suggested how the traditional calendar could be revised to give due weight once again to the particularly ancient and Roman elements of the liturgical year. Among other principles, he suggests reducing in rank or relegating to local calendars those Saints whose devotional appeal, or importance as founders of particular congregations, is no longer what it once was (for instance, St. Francis Carracciolo). His work has laid a foundation and set a precedent for approaching the suggestion grudgingly discussed nowadays of incorporating the new, post-Vatican II feasts into the traditional calendar.
Possible Principles for the Universal Roman CalendarFirst: the Roman calendar, though of universal importance, is at the same time the calendar of the local Church in Rome. As such, it should retain its distinctive feasts and observances.
Second: any new feast incorporated into the universal Roman calendar must be of an importance, both for the Church in Rome and the Church Universal, that is unmistakable. Among the precedents from past ages of the Church might be: St. Cyprian, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Sts. Francis and Dominic, St. Teresa of Ávila. All of these Saints, of course, had a connection with the Roman Church even in its aspect as a local Church. They also had a great importance for the Church Universal, including the local Church at Rome, and this importance is unmistakable.
|Is there room even for Paul VI?|
Finally: if we haven't realized by now that anything that deviates from the well-trodden path of Tradition ("Worker Priests," lay investiture, nouvelle théologie, etc. ad nauseam) is bound to end in frustration, error, or defeat, then we probably have no business meddling with something so delicate and fraught with consequence as the calendar of the venerable and sacrosanct Church of Rome.
Having said all this, I would be interested to hear which, if any, of the post-conciliar Saints our readers would consider nominating for the universal calendar of the traditional Mass and Office. Are any of sufficient weight to justify supplanting existing feasts or commemorations?