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A Mass for an Anniversary of a Foundation

Date: May 9, 2021
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.

Q: Our community is going to celebrate the centennial anniversary of our foundation. My questions are: 1) Is there any specific divine office to celebrate this occasion? 2) What would be the appropriate ritual Mass for this celebration? I have trouble deciding which ritual Mass and which readings. For example, the Collect from the Common of Dedication of a Church is not quite right, but the prayer over the offerings and communion antiphon are fitting with occasion. On the other hand, the Mass for Religious seems directed toward one person instead of one community, while Mass for the Church is sort of fitting but does not mention our anniversary. 3) Can this Mass be considered a solemnity?

A: Although the Roman Missal offers abundant possibilities, they are not infinite; and therefore, no Mass formula exists for the foundation of a religious community.

Of the possibilities suggested by our reader, the common of the Dedication of a Church would not be suitable as this refers to the building and not to community. Indeed, a parish might be juridically established on one date and decades might pass before a permanent church is built and dedicated.

The same can be said about a religious community, which may even transfer its residence several times before establishing a definitive location. Similarly, the Mass for religious is mostly orientated toward anniversaries of religious profession. We are left with the Mass for the Church which is more generic but could be suitable to the occasion.

There are, however, other possibilities even if no Mass is perfectly attuned to this particular anniversary. For example, I think that a suitable formula could be found in the section of Masses for Various Needs and Occasions. Among these, the Mass of “Giving Thanks to God” (Mass No. 49 and especially formula B) would probably be especially apt to such an anniversary. To wit:

Entrance Antiphon [Eph 5:19-20]

Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts,

always thanking God the Father for all things

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Collect

O God, the Father of every gift,

we confess that all we have and are comes down from you;

teach us to recognize the effects of your boundless care

and to love you with a sincere heart and with all our strength.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God, for ever and ever.

Prayer over the Offerings

For the gifts you have bestowed, O Lord,

we offer you the sacrifice of praise,

humbly begging

that what you have conferred upon us in our unworthiness

we may give back, to the glory of your name.

Through Christ our Lord.

Common Preface IV.

Communion Antiphon [Ps 138 (137):1]

I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart,

for you have heard the words of my mouth.

Or: Ps 116 (115):12-13

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?

The chalice of salvation I will raise,

and I will call on the name of the Lord.

Prayer after Communion

O God, who have given to us as spiritual food

the saving Sacrament of your Son,

which we have offered you in thanksgiving,

grant that, being strengthened by gifts of courage and joy,

we may serve you more devotedly

and be worthy of still further blessings.

Through Christ our Lord.

Even though it would not be possible to mention the anniversary in the Mass formulas themselves, this could be done in several ways.

Outside of the celebration, the Mass could be made public with an announcement such as: “Mass in Thanksgiving on the occasion of the centennial of X community.” In the liturgy itself, apart from the homily and other commentaries, the anniversary could be evoked during the Prayer of the Faithful.

For this Mass, if desired, the Eucharistic Prayer for Use in Masses of Various Needs II may be used along with its obligatory proper preface instead of Common Preface IV.

An alternative could be to celebrate a votive Mass either of the founder of the congregation or of the titular patron of the community if one exists.

Such anniversary Masses would not usually be classed as a solemnity. Given that it is a significant anniversary the general laws would allow for the use of most external elements of a solemnity.

Some of these are always possible, such as the use of incense, while others may be inserted by the community, such as the singing of the Gloria. The bishop could authorize for the occasion other elements such as three readings and the recitation of the creed without converting the Mass as such into a solemnity.

With respect to the Divine Office, there is far less flexibility than for the Mass, and the possibilities are somewhat reduced. Unless it was impeded by another feast, a religious community could celebrate a votive office of the founder or of the titular patron with the psalmody proper to the first Sunday of the four-week cycle as is habitually the case for solemnities and feasts.

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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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