Listed below are the most recent liturgical directives and updates issued by the Vatican or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Please check this page periodically for more liturgical updates.
Liturgical Guidance for Christmas 2021
The following liturgical guidance for the Christmas season was sent to pastors and parish life coordinators and is reprinted here for your information.
- Any of the current diocesan guidance regarding public Masses during the COVID-19 pandemic will also apply to parish observances during the Christmas season. For reference, the current COVID-19 guidelines can be located here. If there are any updates prior to Christmas, they will be communicated to you.
- Celebrating an earlier Christmas Vigil Mass, which was permitted last year, is not foreseen for this year unless something quite unexpected surfaces relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now, the earliest time that the Christmas Vigil Mass may be celebrated is 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 24, 2021.
- Parishes can hold Christmas Masses in larger spaces such as a nearby gymnasium or auditorium and/or are encouraged to utilize any available overflow areas (church basements and halls, etc.) available to them to livestream Mass broadcasts to avoid overcrowding in churches. Parishes should continue to be sensitive to the overall time that people are gathered in church for Christmas Masses.
- Since Christmas falls on a Saturday this year, it is not recommended that parishes celebrate a Vigil Mass for Sunday (Feast of the Holy Family) on Christmas evening.
- Because the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (January 1) falls on a Saturday this year, the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated, however, a reduced Holy Day schedule could be considered on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If a parish chooses to celebrate a Vigil Mass for Sunday (the Solemnity of Epiphany of the Lord) in the evening on New Year’s Day, the proper orations for the Vigil of Epiphany and readings for Epiphany would be used at that Mass since it is a higher-ranking feast than the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
- Parishes may plan holiday events, fundraisers and other activities, but should continue to be cautious, keeping health and safety as a top priority – especially if the event is indoors. Planning should remain flexible and parishes should make sure COVID-19 safety protocols are in place. Risk factors that parishes should consider include: the number of COVID-19 cases in the community, the setting and length of the event and the number of people expected. Any event that might take place in a Diocesan Catholic School is subject to guidelines established by Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Catholic Schools Office.
Changes to the Translation of the Collect Prayers
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has directed a change to the closing words of the Collect prayers at Mass. The prayers found in the Roman Missal currently conclude “…in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” The change involves the omission of the word “one” so that the prayer will conclude “…in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.” This change to the concluding doxology of orations is to be implemented on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. For more information on this change, please click here.
Liturgical Texts for Saints Mary Magdelene, John XXIII and John Paul II
A TIMELINE OF APPROVALS
|2011||Latin proper texts released upon the beatification of Pope John Paul II|
|May 2014||Pope Francis inscribes the Optional Memorials of Saints John XXII and John Paul II in the General Roman Calendar|
|June 3, 2016||Pope Francis elevates the Obligatory Memorial of St. Mary Magdelene to a Feast; a new Preface is released in Latin|
|September 27, 2018||USCCB President Cardinal DiNardo sends approved English translations to the Holy See|
|September 21, 2019||Confirmation received from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments|
|November 21, 2019||Archbishop Gomez issues a Decree of Publication|
|November 21, 2019||Approved texts may be used in the liturgy in the dioceses of the United States|
FULL TEXTS AVAILABLE ONLINE AT USCCB
Preface for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22)
Collect, Readings, Biography, Office of Readings for the Optional Memorial of St. John XXIII (October 11)
Collect and Readings, Biography, Office of Readings for the Optional Memorial of Saint John Paul II (October 22)
Feast of Our Lady of Loreto
A decree was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments dated October 7, 2019, by which Pope Francis has inscribed the celebration of Our Lady of Loreto in the General Calendar of the Roman Rite. Having the rank of Optional Memorial, the Blessed Virgin will be honored under this title on December 10.
The Collect for the Mass is identical to one already found in the Roman Missal, in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent (the second option). While the usual Mass readings of the day may be used, the most appropriate readings indicated for this celebration are found in the Lectionary’s Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A new reading for the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours has been assigned, but there is no English-language translation approved at this time.
More information can be found on the webpage prepared by the Secretariat for Divine Worship: www.USCCB.org/about/divine-worship/liturgical-calendar/our-lady-of-loreto.cfm.
The Order of Baptism of Children
A revised translation of The Order of Baptism of Children was recently approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and confirmed by Rome for use in the dioceses of the United States America beginning on February 2, 2020 (Presentation of the Lord) with mandatory use on April 12, 2020 (Easter Sunday). The following publishers have been authorized to produce the new ritual book and will be available on January 6, 2020. Preorders are being taken now, with some publishers offering discounts for ordering early.
- Catholic Book Publishing (catholicbookpublishing.com)
- English only edition— $27.95
- Bilingual edition—$32.95
- Liturgy Training Publications (ltp.org)
- English only edition—$39.95
- Bilingual edition—$54.95
- Liturgical Press (litpress.org)
- English only edition— $39.95
- Bilingual edition—$49.95
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org) $44.95
- Magnificat (magnificat.net) $29.95
Pope Francis Announces “Sunday of the Word of God”
FROM THE VATICAN NEWS— Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio “Aperuit illis” published on 30 September 2019, establishes that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God”.
The timing of the document is significant: 30 September is the Feast of Saint Jerome, the man who translated most of the Bible into Latin, and who famously said: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. This year also marks 1600 years since his death.
The title of the document, “Aperuit illis”, is equally important. They are its opening words, taken from St Luke’s Gospel, where the Evangelist describes how the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples, and how “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”.
A response to requests–Recalling the importance given by the Second Vatican Council to rediscovering Sacred Scripture for the life of the Church, Pope Francis says he wrote this Apostolic Letter in response to requests from the faithful around the world to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God.
An ecumenical value–In the Motu proprio (literally, “of his own initiative”), Pope Francis declares that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God”. This is more than a temporal coincidence, he explains: the celebration has “ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity”.
A certain solemnity–Pope Francis invites local communities to find ways to “mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity”. He suggest that the sacred text be enthroned “in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s Word”. In highlighting the proclamation of the Word of the Lord, it would be appropriate “to emphasize in the homily the honor that it is due”, writes the Pope. “Pastors can also find ways of giving a Bible, or one of its books, to the entire assembly as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with Sacred Scripture”.
The Bible is for all–The Bible is not meant for a privileged few, continues Pope Francis. It belongs “to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words”. The Bible cannot be monopolized or restricted to select groups either, he writes, because it is “the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity”.
The importance of the homily–“Pastors are primarily responsible for explaining Sacred Scripture and helping everyone to understand it”, writes Pope Francis. Which is why the homily possesses “a quasi-sacramental character”. The Pope warns against improvising or giving “long, pedantic homilies or wandering off into unrelated topics”.
Rather, he suggests using simple and suitable language. For many of the faithful, he writes, “this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s Word and to see it applied to their daily lives”.
Sacred Scripture and the Sacraments–The Pope uses the scene of the Risen Lord appearing to the disciples at Emmaus to demonstrate what he calls “the unbreakable bond between Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist”. Since the Scriptures everywhere speak of Christ, he writes, “they enable us to believe that His death and resurrection are not myth but history, and are central to the faith of His disciples”.
When the sacraments are introduced and illumined by God’s Word, explains the Pope, “they become ever more clearly the goal of a process whereby Christ opens our minds and hearts to acknowledge His saving work”.
The role of the Holy Spirit–“The role of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is primordial”, writes Pope Francis. “Without the work of the Spirit, there would always be a risk of remaining limited to the written text alone”. The Pope continues: “This would open the way to a fundamentalist reading, which needs to be avoided, lest we betray the inspired, dynamic and spiritual character of the sacred text”. It is the Holy Spirit who “makes Sacred Scripture the living word of God, experienced and handed down in the faith of His holy people”.
Pope Francis invites us never to take God’s Word for granted, “but instead to let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters”.
Practicing mercy–The Pope concludes his Apostolic Letter by defining what he describes as “the great challenge before us in life: to listen to Sacred Scripture and then to practice mercy.” God’s Word, writes Pope Francis, “has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce a stifling and barren individualism and instead to embark on a new path of sharing and solidarity”.
The Letter closes with a reference to Our Lady, who accompanies us “on the journey of welcoming the Word of God”, teaching us the joy of those who listen to that Word – and keep it.
Optional Memorial of Pope Saint Paul VI
On January 25, 2019, a decree was issued through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by which Pope Francis established that the Optional Memorial of Pope Saint Paul VI be inserted into the General Roman Calendar, to be observed on May 29.
At present, there are no approved English or Spanish texts for the celebration. Appropriate texts from the Common of Pastors: For a Pope may be used at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours. More information can be found on the USCCB website at: http://www.usccb.org/paulvi.
Memorial of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
Pope Francis recently added a Memorial for “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” to the General Roman Calendar. It will be celebrated each year on the Monday after Pentecost, and in 2019, it will be celebrated on Monday, June 10.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Divine Worship has now posted information on the USCCB website about the readings and orations for Mass. It also provides information about the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours on this new Memorial.
The new Memorial supersedes the rubric at the end of the Pentecost Mass that suggests that a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost.
Please note that the readings will be proper to the day, not optional. They are slightly different than what is in the Lectionary for Mass (Lectionary Number 1002- I). The Secretariat has produced a PDF of the readings which may be found at the above link.
Misal Romano, Tercera Edición
Mandatory use of the U.S. Misal Romano, Tercera Edición began this past First Sunday of Advent (December 2, 2018). Publication information, as of mid-February 2018 is as follows:
• Catholic Book Publishing Co. (CatholicBookPublishing.com 877-228-2665)—Altar and Chapel editions
• Liturgical Press (LitPress.org, 800-858-5450)—Altar and Chapel editions
• Magnificat (Magnificat.net, 970-416-6670)—Altar edition
Please visit the USCCB website (USCCB.org/cultodivino) for articles and other resources on the new Misal.
Roman Missal “Book of the Chair”
Upon the request of pastors to provide a lighter book for altar servers to hold, the Holy See has authorized a “Book of the Chair” edition of the Roman Missal, Third Edition entitled, Excerpts from the Roman Missal, and is now available from the following publishers:
Catholic Book Publishing Co. (CatholicBookPublishing.com 877-228-2665)
Liturgical Press (LitPress.org, 800-858-5450)
World Library Publications (wlp.jspaluch.com, 800-566-6150)
Magnificat (Magnificat.net, 970-416-6670)
Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has elevated the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22 (which falls on a Monday in 2019) to the rank of Feast. The Church has always regarded St. Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the Lord’s resurrection and the first evangelist bringing this good news to the Apostles.
The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene involves the following additions to the Roman Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours:
• The Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest) is sung or said at Mass
• The proper readings for St. Mary Magdalene in the Lectionary for Mass (no. 603) are proclaimed instead of the readings of the Ordinary Time weekday; previously, only the Gospel was proper that day, whereas now all the readings are proper
• In the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, the psalmody, verse, and First Reading with its Responsory are taken from the Common of Holy Women instead of the usual day; the Te Deum is also sung of said after the Second Reading with its Responsory.
Please note that the Holy See has promulgated a new Preface in honor of St. Mary Magdalene to be inserted in the Roman Missal for this feast, however, at this time, the Preface is only available in Latin. In the meantime, Preface I or II of Saints is to be used as usual.