Sunday, June 28, 2009

Australian Calendars Old and New

Compare and contrast the particular calendars for the dioceses of Australia - what a topic for an introductory course in liturgical studies!

Here is my take on what a traditionalist would say...

First, it must be observed that three feasts have stayed the same: St Patrick (out of piety toward the Irish origins of our churches here, despite not being a Patron of Australia) and Our Lady Help of Christians (designated Patroness by an early synod, despite there being little devotion to her under this title) are 1st class feasts in the old calendar, and solemnities in the new; and St Peter Chanel (Protomartyr of Oceania, and canonized only shortly before the Council) has the identical feast (3rd class in old, which is a memorial in the new) in both calendars.

Second, several new saints have been inserted into the new calendar: as optional memorials (to be celebrated if desired), St Bernadette and St Peter To Rot (a native Papuan who was martyred by the Japanese - recall that Papua New Guinea only gained independence from Australia in 1975); and as a feast, Bl Mary MacKillop, "Australia's First Saint" as the media and dear religious sisters like to call her proleptically (a cynic might well ask, why only one blessed after more than 200 years? - whatever has happened in the Antipodes to the universal call to holiness but yesterday reaffirmed by Vatican II?).  To make room for Bl Mary MacK., St Dominic has been transferred to another day in the new calendar - prompting angry ineffectual noises from the Friars Preachers, one of whom rightly noted that "It would never have happened to St Francis!".

Thirdly, several saints have been removed or downgraded, in accordance with postconciliar measures to encourage noble simplicity (such as smashing statues), presumably connected somehow with promoting the universal call to holiness.  Since Australia is no longer a missionary country (!) - in other words, since 1976 its bishops have not been under the jurisdiction of Propaganda Fide - the universal patrons of the missions, St Francis Xavier and St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, no longer have 1st class feasts (solemnities) here, but only 3rd class (memorials).  This does not stop some Traditionalists arguing that the old calendar still applies in their cases, meaning that they are both secondary patrons of Australia, and not, at the same time.  Three saints - all Irish - have been altogether deleted from the new calendar for Australia: St Brigid, St Columba, and St Oliver Plunket.  Presumably it was felt that to fete St Patrick and everything Irish sufficed; surviving Brigidines and Columbans may feel differently.  (If only the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales had been inserted in their place, as an ecumenical gesture.)

Finally, two rather unfortunate new proper Masses have been composed and inserted into the Missal: a Mass for Australia Day, the 26th of January (necessitating transferring SS Timothy and Titus to another day), and a Mass for ANZAC Day, the 25th of April (and therefore moving the feast of St Mark the Evangelist!).  The Australia Day Mass I find downright embarrassing: it seems to be a Mass of thanksgiving for God's benefits received, but is somehow clunky.  As for "the one day of the year", Australia's real national day, ANZAC Day, prior to the Council, a rescript of the Sacred Congregation for Rites had allowed a Requiem Mass for ANZAC Day, when Australia recalls its war dead; now we are subjected to a Mass that doesn't know what its for, as the formulary is a confused mixture of petition for the faithful departed, and sixties-style longings for peace and justice ad nauseam.  Even the entrance and communion antiphons, plus the readings for the Mass can be either suitable for a funeral, or wholly focussed on hopes for peace, and the Preface can be either "of Christian Death" or "of Easter".  What the veterans must make of it I don't know: I find it very unsatisfying, and the civic ANZAC Day services at the cenotaph in every city and town frankly hit the mark better (leaving aside for the sake of argument the Holy Sacrifice truly reënacted at Mass).

What Reform of the Reform is called for?  For a start, an improvement in the texts of the Australia Day and ANZAC Day Masses.  Probably it is not necessary to restore the feasts of St Brigid et al., since with the dilution of the Irish strain in the Australian milieu they are no longer as popular saints as of old.  Arguably, given her great prominence in (remaining) Catholic statuary - and piety - St Thérese could have her feast day upped in importance as formerly.  Similar considerations would apply in having Our Lady of Perpetual Help given a nationwide feast day - dare I suggest Our Lady Help of Christians make way?


Terra said...

You had me up until your last line! Given the particular challenges Australia faces, Our Lady of Lepanto seems to me an invocation we would do well to cultivate rather than suppress!

Joshua said...

I think you're getting confused between different titles of Our Lady: initially, the feast instituted after Lepanto was won, to give thanks to God, and to Our Lady for her prayers, was that of Our Lady of Victories; which was later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. Our Lady Help of Christians was established as a feast to celebrate the Pope's safe return to Rome after the Napoleonic Wars. I don't believe there is the title "of Lepanto" officially.