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Anniversary Mass in Lieu of Obligatory Memorial

Date: June 14, 2021
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Anniversary Mass in Lieu of Obligatory Memorial

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.

Q: If the anniversary of the ordination of a priest falls on a day that is an obligatory memorial or a feast, which Mass can he celebrate? Is it permissible to use the prayers of the anniversary instead of the prayers of the memorial or feast? -- G.O., Orlu, Nigeria

A: In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal we find the following:

“374. If any case of a graver need or of pastoral advantage should arise, at the direction of the Diocesan Bishop or with his permission, an appropriate Mass may be celebrated on any day except Solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, days within the Octave of Easter, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day), Ash Wednesday, and the days of Holy Week.

“376. On days when there occurs an Obligatory Memorial or on a weekday of Advent up to and including December 16, of Christmas Time from January 2, and of Easter Time after the Octave of Easter, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses are in principle forbidden. If, however, some real necessity or pastoral advantage calls for it, in the estimation of the rector of the church or the Priest Celebrant himself, a Mass appropriate to the same may be used in a celebration with the people.”

In accordance with the above norms, if a priest considers that a real pastoral advantage is to be obtained by celebrating the Mass for Various Needs relating to his anniversary, then he can decide to do so even though it coincides with an obligatory memorial or one of the other dates mentioned in No. 376 above.

On the other hand, if his anniversary coincides with a liturgical feast, or on other days when the celebration of a Mass for Various Needs is forbidden, such as during Lent or Advent from December 17 to 24, then he would require permission from the diocesan bishop to celebrate the anniversary Mass. This would probably be easily granted if it was a significant jubilee anniversary such as 25 years.

However, not even the bishop can grant a dispensation for the days mentioned in No. 374. On such occasions, the anniversary may be remembered in some other way such as during the prayers of the faithful.

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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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