An Occasion to Celebrate: The Lectionary Readings in Masses for Various Needs and Votive Masses
Jul 26, 2022

An Occasion to Celebrate: The Lectionary Readings 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,” followed in the June AB Insight by a look at the role the liturgical calendar plays in celebrating these Masses. In this final introductory post, Msgr. Caron looks at the use of the Lectionary for such Masses.

The two sections of the Roman Missal entitled “Masses for Various Needs and Occasions” and “Votive Masses” remain largely unknown to most celebrants. A previous post described the seasons and days of the liturgical year when these may be freely used and the times when they may be used with permission. It also identified how these texts are used in combination with other Mass formularies for ordinary time, with specific prefaces, and with the four Eucharistic prayers for various needs and occasions. This post will describe the options available from the Lectionary for these various Mass formularies.

The Lectionary selections for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and for Votive Masses are found in volume IV of the Lectionary for Mass. That same volume also includes the Lectionary options for the common of saints, ritual Masses, and Masses for the dead. The section of the Lectionary pertaining to Masses for Various Needs and Occasions is organized according to four categories: 1) for the holy Church, 2) for public needs, 3) in various public circumstances, 4) for various needs. These corresponded to the four categories of Masses for Various Needs and Occasions in the second edition (1975) of the Roman Missal. The third edition of the Roman Missal (2002) has reduced these four categories to three: 1) for holy Church, 2) for civil needs, 3) for various occasions. Thus, at times, one or other set of readings might be found in a different category of the Lectionary compared to the corresponding set of Mass texts in the Missal. At other times, the Lectionary combines into one series the potential readings for multiple kinds of Mass formularies: for example, section 2 for a pope or a bishop, or section 28 for the promotion of charity or to foster harmony or for family and friends.

Regarding the Masses for holy Church, 19 of the 20 Mass formularies have a corresponding set of optional readings in the Lectionary. The only category missing pertains to Masses on the anniversaries of marriage. Those readings can be taken from the ritual Masses for Marriage also in volume IV of the Lectionary. All 17 Mass formularies for civil needs have a corresponding set of suggested readings in the Lectionary. All but four of the 13 Mass formularies for various occasions have a corresponding selection of readings. Readings for Masses for those in prison can no doubt be taken from the Lectionary suggestions for those held in captivity. Masses for the dying could refer to readings for the sick. Masses offered in any need, could rely on any of the Lectionary options for all Masses for Various Needs and Occasions. Finally, the readings for the special Mass for giving thanks to God for the gift of human life (January 22) which is proper to the United States is be found in the Supplement to the Lectionary for Mass (2017).

Nearly all the Votive Masses have a corresponding set of suggested readings in the Lectionary. There are a few exceptions. The Votive Mass for the mercy of God could use readings from the second Sunday of Easter of any year. The Mass for Our Lady, Queen of Apostles, needs to take its readings from the common of the Blessed Virgin Mary since no specific readings are provided in the Lectionary. Similarly, a Votive Mass of St. John the Baptist could make use of any of the readings assigned for the nativity of John the Baptist (June 24) or the martyrdom of John the Baptist (August 29).

Since a Mass for Various Needs and Occasions or a Votive Mass is most likely offered on a day which is not a solemnity, feast, or obligatory memorial, the celebrant can make use of the corresponding readings from volume IV of the Lectionary in order to offer “texts more particularly suited to the celebration” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), 358). However, the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass appears to discourage this practice when it reminds the celebrants “not to omit too often or without sufficient cause the readings assigned for each in the weekday Lectionary” (Introduction, no. 83). Nevertheless, both the GIRM (358) and the Introduction (82) permit the celebrant to omit less important readings proposed during a given week, or combine the readings for successive weekdays on a single day, or move the readings assigned to a given day to another day when necessary. The freedom given to celebrants to adjust the weekday Lectionary provides the opportunity to use the Lectionary suggestions for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and for Votive Masses without sacrificing the flow of the continuous readings from the weekday Lectionary.

In addition, it must be noted that historically, the Mass readings have always had a close relationship to the Mass prayers. The current system whereby the Lectionary readings at daily Masses can be unrelated to the Mass prayers being offered, as in the case of a memorial for example, is a very recent innovation in the history of the liturgy. In observing the sanctoral cycle, as well as when allowing for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and even Votive Masses, it may serve the spiritual needs of the faithful better for all the texts of Mass, both readings and orations, to refer to the same reality being celebrated.

The next post will identify the occasions when some of the Mass formularies in the section of the Roman Missal entitled “For Holy Church” can be used.

For previous instalments of Msgr. Caron’s An Occasion to Celebrate series, see:

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/Wikipedia. Portrait of Rembrandt’s mother reading a lectionary (c.1630).