If you have attended or viewed a daily Mass since Lent began, you may have heard Fr. Poggemeyer explain a little about the commemoration of the saint of the day. What is a commemoration? Liturgically speaking, it is the inclusion of prayers of a lower ranking celebration in one of higher rank. Commemorations were commonplace throughout the year prior to Vatican II—up to three different celebrations could be joined together in one liturgy. Post-Vatican II, only one set of prayers (known as “orations”) for a saint or a season can be prayed at each liturgy throughout most of the year. However, there are times known as privileged seasons when saints can be commemorated. During these times, the readings and prayers of the day—both in Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours—are so integral to the context of the season that they cannot be changed. The privileged seasons are: the final week of Advent (December 17-24), the Octave of Christmas, and the entire season of Lent. Memorials of saints in these seasons are treated only as optional—meaning they can be omitted entirely—or celebrated as a commemoration within the weekday.
How are commemorations celebrated? At Mass, only the collect (opening prayer) of the saint is said. The remaining orations (Prayer over the Offerings and Prayer after Communion) as well as the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer come from the respective weekday. The color of the season is used rather than the color of the saint. As noted above, the readings cannot be changed to match the saint. As an example, let us look at the Saints Perpetua and Felicity celebrated on March 7. In Lent, these saints could be celebrated or entirely omitted. If this memorial occurs outside of Lent, it is obligatory to celebrate. Here are the differences you would observe based on when this celebration occurs.
Antiphons: for Perpetua and Felicity
Orations: all for Perpetua and Felicity
Readings: from the respective weekday in Ordinary Time, or, suggested readings for Perpetua and Felicity from the Common of Martyrs
Preface: for Holy Martyrs
Antiphons: for the current Lenten weekday
Collect: for Perpetua and Felicity
Readings: from the current Lenten weekday
Other Orations: from the current Lenten weekday
Preface: Lent Preface I, II, III, or IV
You can see that while the saint is at least remembered in a commemoration, the emphasis is still the weekday of the privileged season. This helps us keep focused on what is most important during that time, whether it is awaiting for Christ’s birth in Advent, celebrating his birth in the octave of Christmas, or walking the way of the cross with him in Lent.
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