Page 1, 16th May 1969

16th May 1969
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Page 1, 16th May 1969 — Bishop explains Rome decree on saints

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Bishop explains Rome decree on saints


REMOVAL of saints' names from the liturgical calendar of the Church does not necessarily mean that the Church is passing judgment on their existence or sanctity, says Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham in a statement issued this week by the National Liturgical Commission of England and Wales.

But there are saints "of whom we know nothing for certain" and others of whom "we know something but very little." and "it is important that the Church's public worship should be inspired by the strictest canons of historical scholarship," says the Archbishop.

Archbishop Dwyer's statement is a commentary on Pope

Paul's decree Paschalis Mysterii, issued last Friday. which establishes a new Liturgical Calendar for the Church.

According to Rome correspondents. more than 40 saints have been dropped from the Calendar altogether (e.g. St. Christopher). Catholics will not be encouraged to give the names of such saints to their children, but there is still nothing against regarding St. Christopher as patron saint of travellers.

Churches hearing the names of excluded saints will retain them, but new ones will not be given such names.


Many other saints have been downgraded either in the sense that observance of their feasts is no longer compulsory but merely optional: or that their feasts no longer appear in the Calendar for the whole Church, but only in certain diocesan Calendars.

Many feasts in diocesan Calendars are compulsory. Some will be op tional.

Finally, some saints have been introduced into the uni versal Calendar for the first time (e.g., St. Thomas More).

The number of saints offered for universal veneration has been reduced from more than 250 to 153 plus the Twelve Apostles, three Archangels, the Guardian Angels, and St. Joseph.

In the new calendar, add the Rome correspondents, 126 of the saints come from Europe, eight from Africa, 14 from Asia, four from America and one from Australia. Sixty-four of the saints come from the first 10 centuries of the Christian era, 79 from the period since. The fourth century leads with 25 saints, but 17 now come from the 17th century.

Archbishop Dwyer's statement asserts that the purpose of the new Calendar is twofold: To ensure that the liturgy 1 is mainly concerned with the mystery of salvation and the great events in the life of Our Lord.

To make a balanced selec tion of saints whose feasts will be celebrated universally in the Church.

Hence the choice of saints with a universal, rather than a local, significance. But the list is not meant to he exclusive. The days of the year would not be enough to contain all the saints with a universal significance.

The Archbishop adds: "The fact that a saint's name no longer appears in the Calendar does not mean that the Church

Ruling on Saints

is passing judgment on the person's existence or sanctity.

"It has become necessary to prune the Calendar so that every part and every age of the Church is represented. Local Churches may, of course, decide to celebrate a feast of their local saints after consultation with the Holy See."


Three classes of celebration are envisaged: (a) a solemnity; (b) a feast; (c) a rnemoria, which may roughly be translated as "commemoration."

Celebration of solemnities and feasts will be obligatory both for Mass and the Office. There arc two kinds of memorin, obligatory and optional. The obligatory ones must be commemorated at least in the Office. But Mass may he said of either kind of cornmemoration except in the closed liturgical times of Lent and Advent. when the Mass must he of the feria.

Archbishop Dwyer gives an example of this:

"St. Patrick's Day in the Universal Calendar is a memoria, but since his day invariably comes in Lent, it would not be permissible to say his Mass. However, a local hierarchy may decide that his day should he raised in status. This would ensure that his Mass could be said and take precedence over the feria.

"Actually, some of these changes have been in force for a few years. Our own hierarchy raised the status of St. Patrick, St. George and St. Thomas a Beckett so that their Mass must be said and their feasts are observed fully."

LOCAL CELEBRATION Saints who do not appear in the Roman Calendar but are venerated in various places may he inserted into the Calendar for local celebration. e.g. a number of the English Martyrs. This will have to be decided by the hierarchy in consultation with the National Liturgical Commission.

As to saints whose names have been removed, Archbishop Dwyer comments that this does not necessarily mean that the Church is denying their existence.

He adds: "There are saints of whom we know nothing for certain but as they have long heal venerated they may indeed have existed, though we cannot be sure because absolute proof is lacking -some of the early Roman Martyrs, for example.

"Of other saints we know something but very little. For example, it is certain that St. George existed and was a martyr. Historians do not doubt this, but all the details of his life that we have are legendary. The same is true of St. Agatha, SS. Cosmas and Damian, St. Lucy and others."

ST. PHILOMENA The Archbishop refers to St. Philomena, whose name was removed from the Calendar some years ago because no certain historical facts could be found about her. He tells the faithful: "Console yourself by the thought that, in the years the Church has existed, there is bound to be somebody called Philomena in heaven. Even if there is not, then make sure that, when you die. there will be."

The new Calendar comes into force on January I next year. But not all the new Mass texts are yet prepared. Therefore, a transitional Calendar for 1970 is provided.

The litanies of the Saints have been brought into line with the new Calendar, and thus for the first time they include St. Thomas a Beckett, SS. John Fisher and Thomas More, St. Patrick, St. Pius X and St. John Mary Vianney.

'SCHOLARLY WORK' Archbishop Dwyer concludes: "Much scholarly work has gone into this new Calendar. Modern historical methods and research have enabled much surer judgments to he made. • "In our own country the fine work of Donald Attwater and the late Fr. Thurston, S.J., is outstanding. It is most important that the Church's public worship should be inspired by the strictest Canons of historical scholarship."

Saints' names removed altogether from the Calendar include those of St. Margaret of Antioch (not Scotland), St. Christopher. St. Susanna, St. Ursula, St. Barbara and St. Catherine of Alexandria (not Siena). St. Catherine of Alexandria is the martyr who is said to have been crushed by wheels, and whose name accounts for the Catherine wheel firework.

Much more important is the inclusion in the universal Calendar of St. Thomas More, Chancellor of England, who died for his refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the Church in England; the Martyrs of Nagasaki, in Japan; the Martyrs of Uganda; St, Pierre Chanel, Australia; the North American Martyrs (three French Jesuits killed by Iroquois Indians in the 17th century); and St. Martin de Porres, of Peru.

The position as regards St. George appears to he that his will be a feast of the local Calendars in England, and that its Observance will be optional.

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