Days of Special Intention and the Liturgical Calendar


The “2002 Archdiocesan and Secular Calendar” has recently been published by the Catholic Communications Office. This useful resource lists public holidays, feast days and important archdiocesan events for the coming year. In addition to these, about 30 “special” days or weeks are named, for example, International Women’s Day, World Mental Health Day, Domestic Violence Prevention Week.
Unfortunately, people sometimes forget that these “special” days, even worthy ones like Mother’s Day or Mission Sunday, are not on the same level as feasts such as Pentecost or Christ the King when it comes to their place in the public worship of the church.The first paragraph of the official document on the Church’s calendar says this:

“Christ’s saving work is celebrated in sacred memory by the church on fixed days throughout the year. Each week on the day called the Lord’s Day the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. Through the yearly cycle the Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ and keeps the anniversaries of the saints”. (GNLYC 1)
Feasts such as the Baptism of the Lord, which we celebrate today, Easter, Christmas, St Patrick’s Day and so on are set down in the “General Roman Calendar”, the universal calendar of the Church. Various regions have their own proper calendars which incorporate commemorations of local patrons and anniversaries. The Australian calendar includes Mary Help of Christians, Mary MacKillop, Australia Day and Anzac Day.

Each diocese forms its own particular calendar by adding celebrations of the dedication of the cathedral and of the diocesan patron and other saints with a special connection to the diocese to the general and national calendars.

Father’s Day, World AIDS Day, Refugee Week and so on are not set down in any of these calendars. They have been designated by Church agencies, by national or international secular bodies such as the United Nations, or by traditional practice. While these special days or causes should certainly find a place in our prayers, they do not determine the character of the celebration as official feasts and seasons do.

So how do people responsible for planning liturgy in the parishes know which are official Church celebrations and which are not? The simplest method is to refer to the Ordo which sets out for each day of the year the feast or season which is celebrated on that day, lists the readings for the day and indicates any special texts or prayers that must be used in Masses on that day.

Other special needs, intentions or appeals can be referred to briefly in the Introductory Rites or in the homily and prayed for in some (but not all!) of the general intercessions. Information about special causes can be included in bulletin notices, handouts, displays, etc.

There are no “pre-packaged” liturgies for days set aside to remember older persons, married couples, human rights, etc (I had many calls last year, which was designated “International Year of Volunteers”, from people wanting a Mass for volunteers!). However, appropriate prayers, readings and blessings can be found in the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions section of the Sacramentary and Lectionary and in the Book of Blessings.

Elizabeth Harrington