A new ritual book available this spring will, according to experts, simplify the work of clergy and liturgy organizers, encourage devotion to saints and help maintain the dignity of the celebration of Mass.
The Lectionary for Mass Supplement provides the selected readings for many feast days and votive Masses approved by Rome since the publication of the current Lectionary. Prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, it will be published this month.
“The liturgical calendar continues to evolve, and the Church’s official liturgical books keep up with the changes,” Rita Thiron, executive director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, told Our Sunday Visitor.
New feasts and occasions
The current Lectionary for Mass was published in four volumes between 1998 and 2002. Since then, many new saints’ feasts have been added to the calendar, including some that are prominent or particularly important to U.S. Catholics.
These additions include the American saints Junipero Serra and Marianne Cope; Juan Diego, from Mexico, whose encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe is important to Catholics throughout the continent; and the popes who were canonized together in 2014, John XXIII and John Paul II. Several votive Masses also have been added, such as those on the themes of the Mercy of God, Our Lady Queen of Apostles and the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.
Reflecting another important recent development in liturgical life, readings are included for the optional vigil Mass for Pentecost, introduced with the release of the new Roman Missal in 2011. It includes an extended series of readings, along the lines of what Catholics experience at the Easter Vigil, but with fewer readings.
Technically, the Lectionary for Mass Supplement simply gathers in one place what has been previously approved and available. The selections of readings were determined by the Holy See at the time each of these feasts and votive Masses were approved. Since they have never been collected in a single book, most clergy have either been unaware of their existence or were unable to locate them without difficulty.
“The publication of this book certainly makes things easier for pastors and lectors,” Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship, told Our Sunday Visitor.
Thiron agreed. “Those who prepare parish liturgies will want to have the full range of readings which have been assigned or suggested for the day by the Holy See. With the addition of many new saints, they will want to have the proper readings for these obligatory and optional memorials. The supplement will make preparation more seamless,” she said.
Father Menke noted that since those wishing to use the readings assigned for these occasions have had to either flip around in the Lectionary or use photocopied sheets of paper, the supplement “adds some dignity and solemnity to the liturgy.”
He said the new supplement also encourages devotion to saints by making it easy for communities to hear readings specifically selected by the Vatican for their feast days. Still, Father Menke cautions that such opportunities can be overused.
“There’s a continuity to the regular readings of weekday Masses. They flow sequentially through the year. This is a rich part of our liturgy, and to interrupt that flow too often takes away from our understanding of them,” he said.
The new Lectionary for Mass Supplement will be available in April from the three publishers that publish the current four volumes of the Lectionary: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., Liturgical Press and Liturgy Training Publications.
Barry Hudock writes from Minnesota.