Reform of the Reform: The Calendar


I increasingly find myself disheartened by the relative lack of depth to the current liturgical calendar [edited]. The following are just some thoughts I’ve had about how the calendar could be revised to bring back some of the uniquely Catholic elements that I feel were lost in the 1969 revision. I’ve divided them into three categories based on how difficult these changes would be to implement: “Easy” could be done with little effort; “Requires Some Work” would require some revision of the texts, but not a massive overhaul; “Fourth Edition of the Missal” refers to changes that would require a complete restructuring of the current Missal, as well as the Lectionary and other texts.


  1. Eliminate the practice of transferring holy days to the following Sunday (specifically, Epiphany, the Ascension, and Corpus Christi). The major feasts of the liturgical calendar should be celebrated on the same day throughout the entire Church. Allowing national conferences to move these celebrations invites a sense of disunity (e.g., why is Epiphany celebrated on January 6 in Rome, but on a different day in the U.S.?).
  2. Mandate that the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) be required on all Sundays, Solemnities, Holy Thursday, and the Easter Vigil. I would venture to say that this prayer, once unchanging and reliable, is now the least used of the four Eucharistic Prayers (with the possible exception of IV). Allow EP III on ferias during Advent, Lent, and Easter Time, unless a Solemnity or Feast falls on those days. Permit EP II only on ferias during the time after Epiphany and the time after Pentecost on which no celebrations of saints fall.

Requires Some Work
3. Restore many of the saints that were removed from the General Calendar during the 1969 revision to the calendar. There are far too many days, especially during the months of June, July, and August, that are merely ferias. “Green” Masses should be the exception, not the norm, during the week (compare the number of saints on the 1962 calendar to the current calendar to see just how radically simplified the current calendar is).
4. Restore the Ember and Rogation Days to the calendar. The current GIRM states that the national conferences may assign them to any time at their discretion. Unfortunately, many seem to think that “may” equals “optional.” Thus, these important celebrations have been MIA for decades, at least in the U.S.

Fourth Edition of the Missal
5. Restore the season of Septuagesima. There is absolutely no reason why this pre-Lenten season of preparation was removed, other than, from what I’ve researched, the fact that it wasn’t an ancient practice of the Church. This time would allow the faithful to truly prepare themselves for three weeks before Ash Wednesday. In the current calendar, Ash Wednesday comes right after a Sunday in Ordinary Time; it’s as if we are expected to suddenly realize, “well, I guess Lent starts now” without any formal preparation.
6. Eliminate the “tempus per annum” (Ordinary Time) and return to two separate seasons: Time after Epiphany and Time after Pentecost. Currently, there is no distinction between the two seasons, each of which have traditionally had unique theological focuses. Consequently, when Ordinary Time resumes after Pentecost, we are thrust right back into the middle of it without any warning. I personally find the experience quite jarring and disconcerting; the readings just pick up again without any sort of accommodation.
7. Get rid of all the separate liturgical books (with the exception of the Lectionary) and put everything into the Missal. The Missal has traditionally been a one-stop-shop containing everything needed to say Mass. Now, however, there is a Book of Blessings, a Rite of Christian Funerals, and countless other books, none of which are gathered in one source. As a result, the Missal, which has been freshly translated, uses English that is completely different from the older translation found in the other books, and it will remain that way until the new editions of those books are approved.

These are just some thoughts I have had. I don’t expect any of them to be implemented any time soon, but I would be interested in others opinions on this issue (the liturgy and the calendar have always been of interest to me).

With respect,

Lugubrious DBB

These are the ideas that have come to me. I doubt they will ever come to pass, but I can


I wonder if Pope Francis would ever reestablish Rogation Days across the board himself, seeing as how major aspects of his pontificate are conversion, penitence, etc. It makes perfect sense imho.


There doesn’t seem to be much interest in it. I posted in the TC forum about the Rogation Days. It didn’t get many views and no responses. :shrug: I wonder how many will observe the Ember days on the 11th, 13th and 14th.


On the matter of liturgical books, haven’t there always been separate books for special circumstances? Even before the Council, I don’t recall the altar Missal being used graveside for an interment, or at the font for a Baptism, or taken to a farm for the traditional blessing of crops and fields. Wasn’t the classic “Roman Ritual” used apart from the altar Missal?


I believe you are correct, but I am almost certain—unless I am remembering incorrectly—that the texts were also in the Missal. Let me make sure I am clear: I don’t think it’s a problem to make smaller books for the sake of convenience, provided that the texts are exactly the same as those in the Missal. However, when you have liturgical texts published exclusively in separate books that are nowhere to be found in the Missal (like many of the prayers in the Book of Blessings, for example), I find that problematic. The Missal, theoretically, is supposed to contain everything required to celebrate Mass and the other liturgical celebrations of the Church, save the Breviary and the Lectionary (which has become so cumbersome it could not possibly be included in the Missal, but that is a topic for a different discussion). I guess my point is that it is jarring to the ear to go from the style of English used in the current Missal—very Latin, very traditional—to the paraphrasing used in the Rite of Baptism, for example. If all the texts were collected in the Missal to begin with, they would all, out of necessity, have to be translated in the same manner simultaneously, rather than the piecemeal form we currently have.


Septuagesima is indeed an ancient season. We know that it already existed in Rome by the sixth century. I agree with your laments concerning Septuagesima, as well as the other items.


With all due respect… I would not be in favour.

First of all, having the Missal as one liturgical book would not make any sense. I think you need to remember that the liturgy also includes the Liturgy of the Hours. For those of us reciting the Office because we’re bound, or it’s part of a promise like my oblation promise, the LOTH is an extremely important consideration for any reforms of the liturgy and calendar.

The reformed liturgical calendar actually puts the Divine Office within reach not only of the laity, but the diminishing number of clergy who have to say the hours in addition to their expanding duties and fewer priests to carry them out. It has also ended such unusual practices like anticipating Lauds the previous day. Made no sense. Part of the deal that came with the new LOTH was that the verity of the hour has to be respected. Some flexibility was introduced with the Office of Readings to replace Matins, but those of us of more traditional leanings can always continue saying the OOR as Matins/Vigils.

The problem with the old calendar is that one was so often into the festive psalter that ordinary ferias (“ordinary days” if you will) seemed like the exception. The festive offices also take more time to recite (especially if chanted in community). I might be inclined to agree with Septuagesima. But I rather like the balance between ordinary ferias, optional memorials, obligatory memorials, feasts and solemnities.

Ordinary time is my favourite “season” btw. I like the regularity it brings to my prayer life and the nice contrast to the memorials, feasts and solemnities. Even though some criticize the 4-week cycle because the old office had all 150 psalms in a week, the reality is probably that there were many weeks when the use of the festive psalter ensured that not all 150 psalms were said in a week.

I’m perfectly fine with the current calendar. It’s wrong to say it is “too easy”. It is practical and realistic for today’s circumstances.


I’m for a lot of these, such as the restoration of the Ember and Rogation days. I’m less in favour of Septuagesima’s restoration but wouldn’t object to it.

I’m not, however, in favour of loading the calendar with many saints as the old one did. I’m of the mind that the “green” Masses should be the norm, and memorials the exception, therefore paying more attention to the mystery of Christ than to the saints, and only those saints with truly universal significance should be commemorated universally. One reason for the calendar’s reform was that there were indeed too many saints in the Proprium Sanctorum.

As for the Roman Canon, well, I think it should be the only approved Eucharistic Prayer for the whole Roman Rite (and the old Offertory prayers restored) but that view is a bit extreme and is not a realistic expectation.


So why have there been so many canonizations in the last few decades? Isn’t one of the reasons so that they would be remembered in the Mass? When else are they so remembered and can serve as an example to Catholics? :confused:


Part of that, I have been told, has more to do with the changes in society, and the difficulty of many (and the lackadasicalness of many more) to get to Mass during the weekday. When I was young, society seemed to be able to accommodate Good Friday - any more it is just another workday.

I think this is one which will sort itself out over time.

Not in Oregon; the prior bishop instituted them. Again, I think it will sort itself out over time.

Why do we need a preparation for a preparation? Not to be dense, but it is not like no one knows Lent is coming. We need formal preparation for preparation? Sorry, no.

Maybe that it is just that I have been around for so long, but the changes for the most part don’t bother me. Interesting questions, though.


Yes and no. They do not have to get into the liturgical calendar. When one is canonized, he goes into the Martyrology. He does not have to have universal liturgical observance. Of the many saints canonized in the past decades, only a handful made it to at least the rank of Obligatory Memorial.


That’s just it. As someone mentioned there are a lot of ferial days, even in the EF. Of course, the priest sometimes is free to say a Votive Mass during the week. A Mass for the Dead wasn’t that uncommon before Vatican II and one would think that that could have easily replaced with a saint or two.


I used to say the same thing. But then I read about the history of Septuagesima. I realized that it had been around for 1500 years, which is most of the Church’s history, and, as such, should not be discarded, especially overnight, as it was in 1970. Ditto for the subdiaconate, which while not instituted by Our Lord Himself, was already part of the Church by the third century. The iconoclastic impulses of the late 1960s and early 1970s were not unlike those of the 16th century, it would seem. We seem to say, “It doesn’t make sense to me here and now, so let’s just get rid of it. It’s too old,” rather than seek the wisdom of the early Church Fathers.


I am not sure what you mean by “overnight”. I seriously doubt that this was a spur of the moment decision.

And not to make too fine a point of it, one either has it or one doesn’t; it is not possible to “gradually” do away with it.

Liturgical changes have been made, and some find them abrupt (perhaps because oftwo issues; 1) that a lot of change occurred all at once, and 2) most laity were raised with the idea that the liturgy was pretty much “unchangeable”, rightly or wrongly.

Since I ahve no idea why the “preparation for the preparation” was done away with, it would be pure speculation. I suspect that somewhere, in probably extremely limited copies, there is information as to why the change was made, but short of that, I think it is hazardous to presume that it was not fairly well thought out.

Which of course does not mean that it was the wisest decision; but I hold my own personal opinion, that preparing to prepare is a bit over the top.

One of the things that seems fairly clear is that decades of liturgical work, done prior to the changes, wanted to simplify some of the liturgy which was seen as overly complex for not particularly clear reasons. Changes were made for time and place appropriate reasons; and it should not be presumed that because something became appropriate at a certain time, that it thereby was or is appropriate for all time. On the other hand, things do not need to be changed simply because there were added at some point. Those decisions are left to some who are seriously higher on the “pay grade” than I am. If people having a PhD in Liturgy can disagree, then ultimately it is up to the Church to make the decision, and not us to pick and choose which expert we prefer to substantiate our own opinions.

Which is not to say that opinions to the contrary are wrong; but they are no operative. Sometimes it is better to set aside opinions if they begin to interfere with our relationship with God (which is not directed at you, the OP, or any posters on this thread; just a comment concerning how worked up some people can get).


The way I see it, Septuagesima as well as Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, and Quadragisima (Latin for Lent) for that matter, have always been around as they signal the time (in days) before the main event. I don’t really see where removal of these time labels really changes things. There will always continue to be 70 days before, etc.

Now the propers associated with them are a different story.


Most bishops were surprised by the kalendar reforms promulgated in 1969. The focus of the preceding years of reform had been on the Order of Mass and the Roman Missal, and very little discussion on the kalendar, outside of the themes of the 1955 and 1960 kalendar reforms. Neither of those kalendar reforms mentioned Septuagesima; in terms of the Proper of Seasons, emphasis had been placed on reducing the number of octaves. The reforms of the Proper of the Saints focused on not having multiple feast days for saints other than Our Lady, St. John Baptist and St. Joseph. Septuagesima had lived through the various interim changes, and then suddenly disappeared, along with Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost, in the 1969 promulgation. Several American bishops expressed shock at these kalendar jolts. Obviously a few liturgical commission members must have known about it, but basically the same liturgical elitists who snuck in a lot of other changes in the last round of reforms snuck this one in, as well.


And on the Benedictine calendar, St. Benedict as well.


So either I am to consider the pope at the time an ignoramus, or an elitist?

Sorry, I don’t buy conspiracy theories, whether it is about the liturgical calendar or other matters.


What’s this got to do with the Pope? I can assure you that it’s a mathematical certainty that there is a day which is 70 days before Easter.


I said nothing about a conspiracy theory. I don’t like them, either. All I said was that some members of the liturgical concilium used the advent of the liturgical reform to slide in some other pet projects, as well. This is not a secret; some of them admitted this in later years, including Fr. Frederick McManus, one of the key figures of the liturgical establishment of the time. The English translation of the Roman Missal that was promulgated in 1969 was quite different from the previous renderings, before and just after the start of ICEL. Changes were happening too quickly for bishops’ conferences, let alone the Holy See, or the Pontiff himself, who had delegated the reform functions to the concilium, to really follow their work that closely. (Paul VI was famously surprised when he went to say his daily Mass the day after Pentecost, and found green vestments laid out for him. He had to be reminded that he had signed off on the reformed kalendar, which suppressed the Octave of Pentecost.)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit