More Solemnities - 22nd June 2014

Sacred Heart 27th June

In the liturgical calendar the Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday and the Sunday after Trinity is the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). The solemnity of the Sacred Heart is celebrated on the Friday following Corpus Christi.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart began with mystics in the 13th century and became widespread as a result of a series of visions of the Sacred Heart by Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French Visitation nun, in the 1670s. It was made a universal observance in 1836, and in 1899 Pope Leo XIII ordered that the world be consecrated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The physical heart of Jesus is a sign and symbol of God’s immense love for the world whose redemption was accomplished through Christ’s sacrifice.

This sentence from the opening prayer for the feast in the previous Missal was one of my favourite liturgical texts: “Teach us to see Christ in the lives we touch and offer him living worship by love-filled service to our brothers and sisters”.

Unfortunately, the revised Collect doesn’t convey this outward-looking aspect of devotion to the Sacred Heart, but the Prayer after Communion come close:

May this sacrament of charity, O Lord,
make us fervent with the fire of holy love,
so that, drawn always to your Son,
we may learn to see him in our neighbour.
Sts Peter and Paul 29th June

This year the 29th June, when the Church celebrates the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, falls on a Sunday. As a solemnity, it “outranks” a Sunday of Ordinary Time and so replaces the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time that would normally be celebrated on this day. Because Peter and Paul are martyrs, the liturgical colour for their feast is red.

History shows that the feast was probably first celebrated in Rome in 258 and spread rapidly throughout the west, including Africa. Many churches were built in honour of Peter and Paul in Italy, Spain, and Gaul, and later in Canterbury, England. Because it has such a long history, it is one of the few feasts that are celebrated on the same date in the Eastern and Western calendars.

Both Peter and Paul have their own feasts: the Conversion of St Paul on January 25th and the Chair of Peter on February 22nd. The focus of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is not on the individuals Peter and Paul but on the mission of Christ to the world.

The solemnity of Peter and Paul is really the feast of the founding Fathers of the Church. Peter and Paul are the two “pillars” of the Church - Peter the great shepherd of Christ’s flock, and Paul the zealous missionary who spread the good news and founded ecclesial communities in all parts of the world. Both endured all things, even martyrdom, to proclaim Christ’s kingdom to all peoples.

All this is expressed succinctly in the Preface of the feast:

Peter, foremost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you call.
And so, each in a different way
gathered together the one family of Christ;
and revered together throughout the world,
they share one Martyr’s crown.


Elizabeth Harrington