More About the Liturgical Calendar


The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy explains why the Church includes days devoted to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints in its calendar:

By celebrating the passage of these saints from earth to heaven the Church proclaims the paschal mystery achieved in the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ; she proposes them to the faithful as examples drawing all to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she pleads for God's favours. (#104)
The saints have been traditionally honoured in the Church and their authentic relics and images held in veneration. For the feasts of the saints proclaim the wonderful works of Christ in His servants, and display to the faithful fitting examples for their imitation. (#111)

The current calendar ranks celebrations of Mary and the saints as solemnities, feasts and memorials. Memorials are classed as either obligatory or optional. Solemnities celebrate saints, events or beliefs of universal significance in salvation history. Feasts are of lesser importance and memorials of least significance. Optional memorials are for those saints that are significant only to a local country, church or religious community.

Certain saints and events have greater significance in some places than in others. For example, St Patrick’s Day is a popular feast in Australia because of its strong Irish heritage and is ranked as a Solemnity in the Australian but as an optional memorial in the General Roman Calendar.

The different levels of calendar are:
Universal – celebrated by the whole Church
National – celebrates saints of national importance such as Mary MacKillop
Diocesan – commemorates the diocesan patron and cathedral and saints of significance to the life of the diocese
Religious – each religious order has its own calendar commemorating its founder and saints of the order; order parishes would follow this calendar
Local – each parish celebrates as a solemnity its patronal feast and the anniversary of its dedication

Solemnities in the General Calendar are:
Immaculate Conception - 8 December
Christmas - 25 December
Mary, Mother of God - 1 January
Epiphany - Sunday between 2 and 8 January
St Joseph – 19 March
Annunciation – 25 March
Easter Sunday
Trinity – Sunday after Pentecost
Body and Blood of Christ – Sunday after Trinity
Sacred Heart – Friday after Body & Blood of Christ
Birth of John the Baptist – 24 June
Ss Peter & Paul – 29 June
Assumption – 15 August
All Saints – 1 November
Christ the King – last Sunday of Ordinary Time

Additional Solemnities in the Australian Calendar are St Patrick on 17 March and Mary Help of Christians on 24 May. Individual dioceses add the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral in the cathedral itself and the diocesan patron as solemnities. Individual churches add the anniversary of the dedication of the church and the patronal feast as solemnities.


Elizabeth Harrington