My Saint Paul Daily Missal states that “the Gospel for today’s memorial is proper.” Please explain in simple terms what that means, especially the word “proper”.
A memorial is the third and lowest ranking of the celebrations of saints, with the other two being Feasts and Solemnities. Proper means that the Gospel to be read that day is the one appointed for the memorial, as opposed to being the regular weekday reading. The Propers are the liturgical texts appointed for each individual celebration.
Common parts are called ordinary. A proper works well for the day and in this case the The Holy Guardian Angels are mentioned in the Gospel. Mt 18:1-5, 10. For example:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
On many weekdays, the priest actually has several options with regard to choosing the Gospel.
He might use the Gospel of the season. Example: Wednesday of the 26th week of Ordinal Time.
Or if it happens to be a saint’s day, he might choose from among one of several available Gospels for that saint. The number of choices here can be quite a lot.
If a saint is a martyr, there are several Gospels available to be used on the day of a martyr.
If a saint is a doctor (ie teacher), there are several Gospels available to be used on the day of a doctor.
One saint might fall into several categories at the same time. For example, a saint might be a bishop, and a martyr, and a doctor, and a pastor, and a missionary. The priest can choose from any of those available Gospels.
When the Gospel is said to be “proper” that means that there is a particular Gospel reading that applies to that particular saint’s day. In other words, there are no options. That particular (proper) Gospel must be used.
(Side note: the word “must” in my last sentence isn’t to be taken too literally, there actually can be exceptions. My point isn’t to so much to say “what must be done” as it is to explain the definition of the word “proper.”)
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