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Alternate Masses in Easter Season

Date: May 8, 2022
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Question: Are optional memorials and memorials celebrated during Easter week? For example, in the fourth week of Easter can we celebrate the optional memorials given there for saints and Our Lady of Fatima? – A.O., Savannah, Georgia

Answer: A distinction is warranted between the octave of Easter and the rest of the season.

During the Easter octave all other celebrations are excluded. Even a solemnity, such as the Annunciation or St. Joseph, which happens to coincide with the Easter octave is transferred to the Monday following the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. It can even happen that both the above solemnities fall within Holy Week and the Easter octave and are hence transferred to the following Monday and Tuesday.

The same rule would apply to any local solemnities. For example, this year any church dedicated to St. George which fell on the Saturday of Easter week would have transferred the celebration to the following Monday.

However, while the Sundays of the rest of the Easter season exclude any other solemnity, the weekdays follow the same rules as ordinary time with respect to obligatory and optional memorials. That is, all obligatory memorials are celebrated and optional ones at the discretion of the celebrant.

During the Easter season, it would generally be advisable to avoid interrupting the daily readings which are proper to the season, although for a good pastoral reason the use of the readings proper to a particular saint is permitted.

Unlike during ordinary time, there are restrictions with respect to the use of votive Masses and Masses for various needs on Easter weekdays. These may not be used just for devotional purposes of the celebrant or a concrete assembly. They may be used, however, if the celebrant determines that there is an objective pastoral reason for celebrating such a Mass for the faithful.

This distinction usually becomes important during the month of May in which, during most years, Marian devotions coincide with the Easter season. The Roman Missal usually considers that the weekly celebration of Mary is proper to ordinary time. Thus, the norms for the calendar says, “15. On Saturdays in Ordinary Time when no Obligatory Memorial occurs, an Optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary may be celebrated.”

In consequence, no matter how devoted a priest may be to the Blessed Mother, the daily Easter liturgy has priority in Masses celebrated with one minister or alone, and the votive Marian formulas are not used.

On the other hand, in Masses for the faithful, Marian formulas may only be used if there is an objective pastoral reason for doing so -- for example, if more faithful than usual attend Mass on Saturdays of May so as to honor the Mother of God. In such cases the priest can choose an appropriate Mass of Mary.

The Roman Missal helpfully provides a specific Mass formula for the Easter season in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary while also offering the option that “During Easter Time, the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, may also be used.”

In Marian shrines, where daily Masses of the Blessed Virgin may be allowed, the special missal for Marian Masses has several appropriate formulas adapted to the liturgical seasons. The Easter formulas of this missal can also be used in other places, provided the overall objective pastoral conditions mentioned above for celebrating Marian Masses are fully met.

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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city, and your state, province, or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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