With the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19. last week and the Solemnity of The Annunciation, March 25, this week happening during Lent I've had a few questions come my way. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy my musing on these not Holy Day of obligations, but still to be honored days.
You see back in my day, the 80s, these two solemnities were like Holy Days because back in my dad's day, the 50s, they were Holy Days at the Catholic boys school he was at. I type "like" because outside of my dad taking the day off of work we honored the day. We went to Mass at St. Joseph's parish (not our home parish), we feasted, and we prayed a little extra. To this day I always forget that these two closely related Solemnities are not Holy Days. In fact, in some countries they still are.
By now you are probably asking yourself, "What's a Solemnity?"
The Old Mission website, missionsantaines.org, has a good definition, "Solemnities are the celebrations of greatest importance. Each Solemnity begins on the prior evening with first vespers (evening prayer) and several of the solemnities have their own Vigil Mass. On these days, both the Gloria and the Creed are recited." Back when I taught grade school aged kids I would explain that it's like a birthday being so important that the night before we start celebrating. (Something adults tend to do. Wink.) Just like Christmas and Easter! God wants us to celebrate Him, He wants us to give Him Glory!
Next up are the Feasts.
They may be secondary in importance, but are still meant to bring us closer to Jesus. We don't recite the Creed, however, the Gloria is still Sung! They are often times the Feast of an Apostle or related to Jesus like the Transfiguration or Presentation. Just fun little days the Lord has us sprinkle throughout the calendar year for little celebrations and reminders of His love. These days can be a nice surprise, like a spouse a parent showing up with flowers or a snack during a hard week. (Mother Church is trying to show us we need more of this in the world.)
Finally, are the memorials.
Some are optional and others are obligatory. The local Bishops, regions, and religious communities get to decide what's an option. For example, I haven't meet a Franciscan community that didn't celebrate the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi. These days may be less important than Feasts and Solemnities, yet, it give one the opportunity to celebrate a Saint or devotion they are particularly close too. With memorials we see Mother Church saying, "Hey I know you kids aren't all going to be besties or drawn to every spice in the cabinet, so here are some day to honor the one's you are besties with and the spices you like!" So, if you really enjoy the life of St. Rita or Our Lady of Lourdes, then you can still remember her and that devotion on those days.
This is not a total explanation of all days to do with the liturgical calendar. Goethe forth and do some homework.
As always, have a luminous Lent, -dave h.
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