What Day Is It?


The Catholic Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Brisbane has recently published the “2008 Archdiocesan and Secular Calendar” listing feast days and important archdiocesan events for the coming year. Other dioceses have no doubt done the same.
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 theChurch 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, 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.
There are a couple of interesting features in the liturgical calendar for 2008. Most notable is the very early date for Easter (23rd March) and hence for Lent, with Ash Wednesday falling on 6th February.
Because the feasts of St Patrick and St Joseph fall in Holy Week next year, they have been moved forward to 14th March and 15th March respectively. The Annunciation of the Lord on 25th March falls in the Octave of Easter, so it will be celebrated on the first ‘free’ day in the calendar after that day, which is Monday 31st March.
In addition to feasts and other liturgical celebrations, the Archdiocesan calendar lists about 30 “special” days or weeks, for example, International Women’s Day, World Environment Day and Multicultural Week.
We need to keep in mind 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.
Commemorations such as Father’s Day, World AIDS Day and Refugee Week are not found in any liturgical 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.
While there are no “pre-packaged” liturgies for days set aside to remember older persons, married couples, human rights, etc, 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