When parishes start using the third edition of the Roman Missal, the texts of the prayers won’t be the only changes Catholics in the pews see. The new Missal will include 17 additions to the Proper of Saints, the part of the Missal that includes prayers for the observances of saints’ days. The Proper of Saints follows a calendar established by the Vatican and modified by the bishops of each country to include saints of local importance. Any changes to a national or diocesan calendar require the consent of the Vatican.
The saints new to the third edition of the Roman Missal include saints, like St. Augustine Zhao Rong, who were canonized after the second edition of the Roman Missal was published in 1985. Some of these saints, including St. Lawrence Ruiz and St. Andrew Dung-Lac, have been on the U.S. calendar for years. However, the new missal will be the first time their prayer texts have been available in the printed book.
Other added saints appeared on the liturgical calendar until 1969, when the calendar was simplified and many saints’ observances were removed.
Also restored to the calendar are observances for the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Most Holy Name of Mary. Still other saints and observances added to the missal highlight important teachings of the church such as the teaching on Mary (Our Lady of Fatima) and on the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s love (as promoted by St. Peter Julian Eymard).
By canonizing these holy men and women, the church presents them as models of Christian living. The added saints come from all eras and areas of the church’s life — from the fourth century (St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Apollinaris) to the 20th century (St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Christopher Magallenes and St. Pio of Pietrelcina) — and from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. They include priests, women religious, martyrs, a married woman and missionaries.
Whether or not Catholics hear about these saints at their local parishes will depend on the priest. With the exception of the memorials of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (better known as Edith Stein) and St. Pio of Pietrelcina (better known as Padre Pio), all of the new observances are optional memorials. That means the decision about whether or not to celebrate them at a particular Mass rests with the celebrating priest.
While a priest may not add the observance of a saint or blessed not on the approved calendar, he is free to decide which, if any, optional memorials he will celebrate. In choosing among the possible observances, priests might highlight saints who offer a particular example to their people.
These new additions are not the final word about saints on the calendar. The church will continue to canonize new saints as models for the faithful.
Some of these saints will be celebrated in those parts of the world where they served. Others will be placed on the general calendar, celebrated by the universal church to unite the liturgy of heaven with that of earth.
Sperry holds a master’s degree in liturgical studies from the Catholic University of America and is a frequent speaker on Scripture and the liturgy.