THE GAP BETWEEN THE OFFICIAL AND THE PEOPLE'S CALENDAR
UNDER the title "Self-defeating," "Jotter" on page 4 recently referred to a complaint
made by a non-Catholic who is
in the habit of attending Mass in Catholic churches.He noted that the priest drew the attention of the congregation to two feasts of Our Lady (Holy Name and Seven Dolours) occurring during the subsequent week, while no mention was made of the Feast of the Lxaltation of the Cross. " Would Our Lady have
by John Hennig, Ph.D.
been pleased ?" our non-Catholic friend
asked, at the neglect of this great and ancient feast in honour of the triumph of her Son 7" There are other striking examples of what I should like to call the " second ary liturgical calendar underlying the announcements made in our churches concerning " days of special devotion."
Two years ago, for example, the Feast of the Sacred Heart fell on Friday, July 1. The announcement made for that week in my parish church was as follows: " Next Friday is the first Friday of the month; Confessions on Thursday evening Next Sunday is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day of vely special devotion." Now, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is a double of the first class with a privileged octave: the first Fridays have no liturgical status, but are (I do not say " merely "1 a priyate devotion. The subsequent Saturday was the Feast of the Precious Blood, a double of the first class, while the Feast of the Visitation—merely commemorated in that year—is a double of the second class.
Why it Happens
To answer the question of "Jottee's" non-Catholic friend, I should say Our Lady would hardly be pleased at such neglects of the great feasts of her Divine Son, which are, moreover, clearly distinguished by the Church. Why the priests draw the attention of their flocks to those minor " days of very special devotion " is that they follow the feast calendar established by popular devotions.
" Days of very special devotion " are, so far as, I can find out, all the feasts universally celebrated in honour of Our Lady, and even such local feasts as that of Our Lady of Good Counsel, of Perpetual Succour and of the Miraculous Medal.
As Dr. Frederick Holweck's gigantic list has shown us, there exist altogether 2,500 feasts of Our Lady, a much greater number than that of feasts of Our Lord. The universal calendar of the Church includes 18 feasts of Our Lord and 14 of Our Lady. The Appendix of the Roman Missal, however, lists 11 local feasts of Our Lord as compared with 18 feasts of the Blessed Virgin ; and in the Missal edited by the Society of St. John the Evangelist, for example, we find 27 feasts of Our Lord and no less than 45 of the Mother of God.
In the Raccolta, the Church's official collection of indulgenced devotions, 150 pages are occupied by devotions to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and about a hundred by dem. dons to Our Lady. The selection made of these devotions by the people (and by the compilers and publishers of popular prayer-books), however, gives much greater prominence to devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Roman Ritual contains five litanies, but, in this country at least, all year round only the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is recited in Evening Devotions. Special devotions consisting of Rosary and Litany are held during the months of May and October, dedicated to the Mother of Gad. and in preparation of the great feasts of Our Lady (and of St. Patrick). The litanies of the Sacred Heart. of the Holy Name and of St. Joseph arc hardly ever recited in public. There are no Novenas in preparation of Christmas, Easter or Pentecost.
Schizophrenia in the Church
When Protestants point to what has been called the schizophrenia existing in the Catholic Church between official and popular devotions, the first point which we should make is that in the devotional life of the Catholic Church the people play a more active part than in the Protestant sects. In fact, there is not only no influence of popular devotions in Protestant religious life, hut there are no popular devotions at all.
The second point is that it is legitim ate that the Christian people should go " through Mary to Jesus."
The third point, however, should be that the cleavage existing between thc liturgical calendar and out popular dc•
votions is to be deplored It certainly concerns only a technical detail, and its misinterpretation must not cause us too much worry. Yet it would be good if some of the energy spent by. the Liturgical Movement on the promotion of Dialogue Mass, Plain Chant and sound Chuich Art would be diverted towards the re-establishment of greater conformity between popular devotions and the liturgical calendar.
It is good and well to say that by frequently making the sign of the Cross
and saying the words " In the Name
of the Father and iii Ihc Son and ol the Holy Ghost," Catholic devotion ni
the Holy Trinity is prominently expressed. It is also true that devotion to the Saints leads to meditation on the internal life of the Holy Trinity. Still, it is obvious that Catholic dewdon to the Blessed Virgin is more detailed than the devotion to the Holy Trinity. The need for greater devotion to the Holy Ghost has been frequently emphasised (e.g., by the Holy Ghost Fathers. the Father of the Divine Word and by the Legion of Mary). Still, there is no really popular devotion to the Holy Trinity or the Holy Ghost. The Prefaces of the Holy Trinity and for Pentecost arc
hardly popular. The obvious neglect by the people of the Feast of the Holy Trinity is even more remarkable when we consider that this is the only medieval feast preserved by the Protestant Churches, where it is given even greater prominence than in the Catholic calendar, by the fact that the 3rd to the 24th Sundays after Pentecost arc called 2nd to 23rd Sundays after Trinity.
How the Saints Fare The gap between the liturgical and the rfopular calendar is even more obvious with regard to the Saints. Statues of the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph arc nowadays found in practically all Catholic churches. I have counted up to twelve different representations of the Blessed Virgin Mary in one church, Of the Saints in whose honour feasts are universally celebrated, SS. Anthony of Padua, the Little Flower, Margaret Mary and Bernadette are the most popular. Some of the Orders have succeeded in spreading popular devotion to some of " their " Saints. such as SS. Ignatius, Francis. Alphonist, Albert, Philomena, Imelda and Vin de Paul. These latter devotions a frequently attached to Sacramentals such as water or medals. or to certain organisations or periodicals for the laity.
0 the other hand, the dying out of devotion to St. John the Baptist, the Apostles (except St. Jude), the great martyrs (Stephen and Lawrence). and the holy Doctors of the Church is a remarkable feature in the history of the Christian people (which has still to be written). Modem Protestant churches mostly bear the name of one of the Apostles or Evangelists.
It has rightly been said that there are fashions in the devotion to Saints. The thanksgivings and obituary notes published in the Catholic press are ex pressive of these fashions. Devotion to St. Joseph is a fairly modern " fashion," while devotion to SS. Nicholas, Michael, Anne, Pancras and
George were medieval ' fashions." Shall we abide by these fashions of Saints (often enough brought about by external and even objectionable influences), or shall we attain to a more conscious co-ordination of popular devotions to the historical and liturgical significance of their objects ? • Devotions Cannot be Made Devotions cannot be made. They plum grow from the very hearts of the faithful. One of the points which Protestants will hardly understand in the Catholic Church is that the extensive devotion paid by us to the Mother of God is expressive of experiences, made throughout the centuries and by millions of human beings, of the supreme intercessory power of Mary. Catholic devotional life is, to a large extent, inchictive, based on a vast number or historical and private experiences rather than scholarly research and theological reasoning. Yet, else) the different ranks to which the feasts have been assigned in the liturgical calendar are
expressive of such experience. Is it not time that we should aspire to greater uniformity. in these matters, between the mind of the Church and the mind of the Christian people ?