An Occasion to Celebrate: The Liturgical Calendar’s Role in Masses for Various Needs and Votive Masses
Jun 20, 2022

An Occasion to Celebrate: The Liturgical Calendar’s Role in Masses for Various Needs and Votive Masses

Editor’s note: In the May 2022 Adoremus Bulletin, Msgr. Caron introduced a new series, “An Occasion to Celebrate: Discovering the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses of the Roman Missal.” As its name rightly suggests, this series will examine the variety of Mass formularies in the current Roman Missal. In his first entry from May, Msgr. Caron reviewed briefly the history of such Masses, and offered encouragement in using them today to tie the celebration of the Mass more clearly to the daily lives of the faithful. Before looking at particular collections of texts, he continues in the following article to lay some necessary groundwork, addressing the liturgical calendar in the present entry, and in the next entry will look at the Lectionary for such Masses.

The sections of the Roman Missal entitled Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses have remained largely unknown to celebrants perhaps because it is not clear when these prayers are meant to be used. Celebrants are conscious that there are some times of the year when their use is prohibited. That awareness alone may be just enough to keep a priest from making the effort to learn when these prayers can be used.

Celebrants can freely use the texts from either collection on weekdays of Ordinary time when no obligatory memorial, feast, or solemnity is assigned (General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), 373, 375). That is perhaps the simplest answer to the question, “When are we supposed to use these?” But a more complete answer to the question is not so simple. For example, even on an obligatory memorials during Ordinary time, it is still possible for a celebrant to make use of these orations “in cases of serious need or pastoral advantage” (GIRM, 376). The same is true during weekdays and obligatory memorials during Advent (prior to December 17), Christmas (except for the Octave of Christmas itself), and Easter (except for the Octave of Easter). In either case, however, it is the pastoral and spiritual advantage this choice offers to the faithful, not to the personal devotion or interest of the celebrant, which is determinative. On a simple weekday in Ordinary Time, the requisite pastoral advantage to the faithful need not be so compelling as on an obligatory memorial or on certain weekdays of Advent, Christmas, and Easter. In this second case, the spiritual need of the faithful or the pastoral advantage to them must be judged to be serious enough and compelling enough to disregard the prayers from the temporal cycle or the sanctoral cycle which are normally intended to be offered on that day to the universal Church. It must be stressed: a pastor who would presume to disregard the requisite prayers during these important moments on the liturgical calendar should not do so lightly, but only after careful circumspection.

Next, the opportunity to make use of these two sections of the missal is very limited indeed on all the Sundays of Ordinary Time, all the weekdays of Lent (apart from Holy Week), on the days of Advent after December 17, and during the octave of Christmas. For obvious reasons, the prayers appointed for those days, the most significant ones of the liturgical year, are nearly always intended to take precedence. Votive Masses and Masses for Various Needs and Occasions on those days are permitted only with the consent of the diocesan bishop for some grave need (GIRM, 374). Such a use could only be considered a truly exceptional occurrence. Finally, the bishop does not have the authority give permission to use any of these Mass texts on solemnities, on the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, on All Souls Day, on Ash Wednesday, or during Holy Week and the Octave of Easter. Any use of Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses is always ruled out entirely on those days. But even with these limitations within the liturgical calendar, celebrants still retain a great deal of discretion in deciding whether to make use of the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions or Votive Masses during more than half of the calendar year.

For the most part, each of the Masses in these two sections of the missal represents a complete set of texts, namely: entrance antiphon, collect, prayer over the offerings, communion antiphon, and prayer after communion. Some even include a proper preface (e.g., For the Unity of Christians (#17)), or direct the celebrant to a specific preface already found in the ordinary of the Mass (e.g., For the Church (#1)). In addition, each of the four versions of the Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions identifies the specific Mass formularies from the collection for Various Needs and Occasions which correspond thematically to it. Using one or the other of these Mass formularies could be the opportunity to introduce the Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions to the faithful on some weekday in Ordinary Time.

In a few cases, only the collect is provided (e.g., For the Nation or State (#21)). In that event, this collect is meant to be used with the remaining elements of a Mass formulary otherwise indicated for the particular day in Ordinary Time. Even where the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions presents a complete set of Mass prayers, it is always permitted to use only the collect from that set at a given Mass. Finally, some of the Mass formularies found in Part III, For Various Occasions, might be more suitable at celebrations without the participation of the faithful (e.g., For Chastity (#39)).

Three of the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions are celebrated in violet vestments because of their penitential character (i.e., In Time of War or Civil Disturbance (#31), In Time of Famine (#33), and For the Forgiveness of Sins (#38)). Otherwise, the vestments worn at any of the other Masses for Various Needs and Occasions follow the color proper to the day or season. Each Votive Mass in the missal indicates the color of the vestments to be worn.

In the next post, I will discuss the principles to follow in choosing readings from the Lectionary to accompany Masses for Various Needs and Occasions or Votive Masses.

Msgr. Marc B. Caron, S.T.D., is the vicar general and the moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Portland, ME. He has served as a pastor, as the director of the diocesan Office for Worship, and as a chancellor of the diocese. Most recently, he was a member of the faculty of St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA, where he was also director of liturgy. In 2021, he received the doctoral degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, writing on the sacramental nature of the diaconate. He is the author of a number of articles which have appeared in The Jurist, Worship, Catechumenate, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Image Source: AB/Grufnik on Flickr.