Ecclesiastical Year for Catholic Schools - Andreas Petz

Third Festal Cycle

Season of Pentacost

1. The third Festal Cycle is the season of Pentecost, which embraces the time from Ascension to the first Sunday of Advent. Pentecost forms the central point of this festal cycle. The octave of Ascension, as well as the feast itself, belongs, it is true, to the Easter season, but with it begins also the preparation for Pentecost, for it reminds us of the time when the Apostles were at Jerusalem preparing for the coming of the Holy Ghost. This octave with the Friday preceding Pentecost forms the remote preparation, the vigil is the proximate preparation. The octave of Pentecost is the proximate subsequent commemoration; with the Feast of Trinity Sunday begins the remote subsequent commemoration, which lasts until Advent.

2. The Pentecost Cycle represents Christ to us as King. The work of redemption is accomplished, the kingdom of God is established upon earth. Triumphantly the Son of God enters into heaven, leading the just, whom He has released from Limbo. In heaven He is enthroned at the right hand of His Father; thence He sent the Holy Ghost to extend His kingdom on earth, which was to continue until the end of time.

3. The Holy Ghost not only maintains and propagates the Church, but also pours His gifts individually into the hearts of those who have begun to live a supernatural life and are free from sin. It should be the duty of every Christian in this festal cycle to implore the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and in return to correspond faithfully with these graces, so that he may gather abundant merits for eternity and always be ready to meet his eternal Judge.


1. After His resurrection, Christ frequently made known to His Apostles that He was about to leave them and that He would then send them the Paraclete, and thus sought to prepare them for Pentecost. The Apostles were to rejoice not only at the resurrection of their Master but were also to be made susceptible of the graces imparted by the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The time therefore between Easter and Pentecost has a twofold interpretation: on the one hand, as being the subsequent commemoration of Easter, on the other hand, as a preparation for Pentecost. The celebration of Easter and Pentecost is so closely united, that the Easter celebration extends beyond Pentecost even to Trinity Sunday. This is to signify that the Easter joy reaches its perfection only at Pentecost. From Ascension day, however, the predominant thought is Pentecost, therefore this time is considered the true preparation for Pentecost.

2. Like the Apostles, the faithful should endeavor to be recollected and practice mortification during the time from Ascension to Pentecost; they should long ardently for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and continue to pray for them. We are especially reminded of this in the Mass and Gospel of the Sunday preceding Pentecost.

3. Saturday, the Vigil of Pentecost, forms the proximate preparation of this festal cycle. Formerly on this day solemn baptism was administered the same as on Holy Saturday, therefore its celebration has much similarity with that of Holy Saturday. Six prophecies chosen from those of Holy Saturday are read on this day. It was only after the coming of the Holy Ghost that these prophecies reached their fulfillment, and the Old Testament its perfection.

Although there is no fast during the entire Easter season, this vigil has been a day of fast and abstinence from the earliest times. This is to admonish us that we should practice mortification, as well as prayer, in order to become partakers of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.


1. The word Pentecost is a Greek word meaning fifty, and signifies the fiftieth day after Easter. On the fiftieth day after the Passover, God gave the Israelites the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. In remembrance of this, Pentecost was celebrated in the Old Law on the fiftieth day after Easter. On the fiftieth day after the resurrection of our Redeemer, the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles and enkindled in their hearts a zeal that inflamed the whole world. In commemoration of this event, Christians celebrate Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Easter.

By the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, the covenant between God and His chosen people received an actual outward sign; in like manner the covenant of the New Law received its consummation through the coming of the Holy Ghost. From that time on began its development and propagation; therefore the Feast of Pentecost is justly styled the birthday of our Holy Church.

2. The Feast of Pentecost introduced and celebrated by the Apostles was always considered one of the greatest feasts of the Ecclesiastical Year. It admonishes us to keep the Ten Commandments faithfully; for these Commandments are not to cease in the New Law, but rather to be performed in a more perfect manner. It reminds us of the descent of the Holy Ghost, in which we became partakers by the Sacrament of Confirmation. On Pentecost we should specially implore the Holy Ghost to renew in our souls the graces of this sacrament. Or this day the Holy Ghost assumed supreme guidance of the Church, and became the dispenser of divine grace, therefore every faithful child should on this feast offer to God a heart overflowing with gratitude for the priceless gift of faith, as well as for the numberless graces and benefits received through the Church.

The Season After Pentecost

1. The octave of Pentecost forms the proximate subsequent commemoration of the feast. The remote subsequent commemoration begins with Trinity Sunday and extends to Advent. In this period of subsequent commemoration the Church shows the working of the Holy Spirit, and how the faith is wonderfully spread all over the world, dispensing graces everywhere, and finally leading all faithful Christians to their eternal destiny. In the same manner the Holy Ghost operates in all individual hearts that are intimately united with the Church. Charity is expanded, Grace is increased and our claim to heaven becomes more and more assured.

2. The week after Pentecost is also Ember week, in which the Church zealously exhorts us to cooperate with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough that the Holy Ghost imparts His graces, we must also do our part, by subduing our evil inclinations, and through prayer and good works fructify the divine grace in our souls.

3. The Sundays after Pentecost, forming the remote subsequent commemoration, complete the Ecclesiastical Year.

On the feasts of our Lord which occur in this season we no longer commemorate the deeds of His life, but rather the fruits thereof. We now celebrate and partake of the treasures of grace bestowed on the Church by Christ which He. merited by His life, sufferings and death; these form her perpetual life, ornament and triumph.

On most feasts of the Blessed Virgin, of which there are many in this season, we glorify Mary as the Queen and Mother of the kingdom of God upon earth; she is the Star of the Sea which guides the Church, the Bark of Peter, into safe harbor. Other feasts of the Blessed Virgin, are the germ from which the Ecclesiastical Year unfolds.

The feasts of the Apostles occur very appropriately in this season, for they are the foundation upon which the Church is erected and established. The other Saints whose feasts occur in this season testify to the holiness of the Church, through whose guidance they have reached the goal. Many of them were active in the propagation of the faith, and in establishing our holy Church. For all Christians their lives serve as an encouraging example, worthy of imitation.

4. This entire subsequent commemoration may be divided into three parts:

a) The first period comprises the Sundays after Pentecost to the first Sunday of August, and commemorates the establishment and propagation of the kingdom of God upon earth in the hearts of the faithful, as well as in His Church.

b) The second period extends from the first Sunday of August to the last Sunday of October, and commemorates the interior confirmation of this kingdom of God, and its activity in distributing graces and blessings.

c) The third period, finally, includes the time from the last Sunday of October until Advent; it places before us the accomplished work of this kingdom of God.

Trinity Sunday

1. The Feast of Holy Trinity is not of ancient origin; it was celebrated in France in the tenth century, but it is only since the beginning of the fourteenth century that its celebration became universal. This feast commemorates the mysteries of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost collectively; it shows us, as it were, at a glance, the infinite love of the three Divine Persons for mankind, in, order to excite an ardent reciprocal love in man.

2. This feast divides the entire Ecclesiastical Year into two parts. The first part celebrates the work of the Redemption, the second the fruits of the Redemption. The first part shows us the foundation of the kingdom of God upon earth, the second part shows the continuation of the work of Redemption m the Church. The Feast of Trinity Sunday may be called the keystone of the first part and the cornerstone of the second part of the year.

3. We should, on this day, reflect especially on the fundamental mysteries of our holy religion; namely, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, in Whose name we are baptized, and receive all the other Sacraments. We should thank the three Divine Persons particularly for the greatest blessings bestowed upon us; namely, the Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification, and at the same time ardently implore the divine assistance, that we may be found worthy to obtain these benefits and by them our eternal salvation.

4. Although this feast is of such great significance, still it is celebrated as a feast of the second class, because this mystery is kept before our eyes the whole year through; we acknowledge our faith in it daily, every time we make the sign of the Cross, or say the Gloria Patri.

Corpus Christi

1. The words Corpus Christi, in Latin, mean the Body of Christ; for in this feast we celebrate the goodness of God in leaving us His Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament to be our food and drink.

2. From the time of the Apostles the memory of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament was always celebrated on Holy Thursday. But the Church is occupied on that day in meditation upon the Passion of Christ, and in mourning, therefore a proper celebration of this mystery at that time is not possible. God, Who generally makes use of some weak instrument to accomplish His designs, revealed to a poor nun in Liege, Blessed Juliana, that a special feast should be set apart in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. In consequence of this, the Feast of Corpus Christi was introduced into the diocese of Liege in the year 1246, and Pope Urban the IV. in 1264 extended this feast to the entire Church, and commanded it to be celebrated on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

3. While the Church on Holy Thursday celebrates only a simple commemoration of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, on Corpus Christi the Blessed Sacrament is especially glorified as the center of the Church's worship and solemnities. Therefore the time for the celebration of this feast is very appropriately chosen. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church; the Feast of the Holy Trinity shows us the three Divine Persons Who cooperate in protecting the Church, and in sustaining it to the end of time. The Feast of Corpus Christi is the fountain source of the Church. It is the Ark of the Covenant of the New Testament, in which God Himself dwells. It is the heart of the Church, from which life flows every moment into all its living members.

4. Corpus Christi is characterized by the procession held on this day. In this procession the Sacred Host is carried in a monstrance beneath a canopy; flowers are strewn on the way and censers swung; four altars of repose are. beautifully decorated with lights and flowers in honor of the Blessed Sacrament; at each of these altars, signifying the four quarters of the world, Benediction is given. This solemn ceremony is generally terminated by the Te Deum  in the Church.

5. The Corpus Christi procession is full of significance:

a) The Church professes thereby publicly and solemnly her belief in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; she announces this with a holy joy to the whole world, and all the faithful participate in this public avowal and joyous exaltation of the Church.

b) The Church celebrates a triumphant procession; she carries her Divine Spouse in triumph to show to the world, that she is the true Church which Christ founded and promised to remain with, unto the end of time.

c) This procession is a public act of gratitude for the innumerable graces which flow from the Blessed Sacrament upon the entire Church, as well as upon the faithful individually. It is also an act of public atonement for the blasphemies and profanities offered our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by the ingratitude of man. Every Christian should participate in this act of gratitude and atonement.

d) Finally, it is a symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd. He leaves His dwelling place—the tabernacle—to seek His lost sheep. He goes from house to house, from soul to soul, knocks and invites all to His feast.

6. The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated with a solemn octave; during this octave the Blessed Sacrament is daily exposed in the Mass; in some churches, evening service is also held with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Other Feasts of Our Lord

1. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on account of its relative significance to the Feast of Corpus Christi, is celebrated on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi. This feast had its origin in the middle of the seventeenth century, in consequence of a revelation of our Divine Lord to Margaret Mary Alacoque of the Order of the Visitation (beatified in 1864 by Pope Pius the IX., and canonized by Pope Leo XIII.) After repeated investigation and after long wearisome conflict this feast was finally instituted by Pope Clement XIII. The object of this feast is to bring more and more into recognition the love of Jesus for mankind by His passion and by the institution of the Blessed Sacrament; it is also an atonement for the insults offered Him in this sacrament of love. In the beginning of the last century a society having the same object was established in Rome; this society has been enriched by the Popes with many privileges and indulgences, and has spread all over Catholic countries. The devotion to the Sacred Heart has become so general, that few parishes can be found in which a statue or picture of the Sacred Heart is not exposed for public veneration.

2. The Feast of the Precious Blood. This feast by command of Pope Pius IX. in the year 1849 is celebrated on the first Sunday of July. The object of this feast is to awaken greater love for our Divine Redeemer, who shed His blood out of love for us. In this age of unbelief and religious indifference this feast certainly cannot be considered superfluous. Although a feast of Lent, it is placed in the third festal cycle, because this cycle portrays the active life of the Church, and reminds us thereby that the blood of the Redeemer has given life to the Church, and still continues to give it growth and nourishment.

3. The Feast of the Transfiguration on the sixth of August, which originated in the seventh century, reminds us of the future of the Church, as. well as. of Christians individually; namely, their glorification.

4. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, has been celebrated since the solemn erection of the Holy Cross in the new church built by Bishop Macarius on Mount Calvary in the year 335. Since the time of the Emperor Heraclius, in 631, who miraculously recovered and restored to this church the Cross stolen by the Persians, this feast has been celebrated with still greater solemnity. To exalt the Cross over the whole world, and in the hearts of mankind, is the mission of the Church.

5. The anniversaries of the three patriarchal churches of Rome are also celebrated throughout the Catholic world; namely, August 5 the Church of Our Lady of Snow, also called Maria Major; the Church of the Savior or St. John Lateran, November 9, St. Peter's Church, November 18. The Pope being the supreme bishop, the head of all the faithful; therefore the anniversary of the dedication of his three principal churches in Rome is celebrated, the same as the anniversary of the dedication of each cathedral is celebrated throughout its respective diocese.

Feasts of the Blessed Virgin

In this festal cycle the following feasts of the Blessed Virgin occur:

1. The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, May 24. It was instituted by Pope Pius VII. ( 1823) as a feast of thanksgiving for the miraculous help, which Mary had so often obtained for the Church in time of affliction and distress. It is at the same time a feast of supplication, whereby we implore Mary, the help of Christians, to always obtain victory for the Church and for her children in all their combats.

2. The Feast of the Visitation, July 2nd, was instituted at the close of the fourteenth century, that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the schism then prevailing might cease, and peace be restored to the Church. Pius IX. raised it to a feast of the second class, to thank Mary for his return to Rome, from whence he had been driven by the Revolution. According to its origin, this feast is a feast of peace, on which we should implore Mary to obtain by her intercession peace for the Church as well as for her faithful children. According to the mystery celebrated on this day, it serves as a preparation for the approaching Ecclesiastical Year.

3. The Feast of Mount Carmel (Our Lady of the Scapular), on the 16th of July. The Mother of God appeared to blessed Simon Stock, General of the Carmelite Order at Cambridge, England, and gave him a scapular, with the promise that everyone who wore it and lived piously should escape eternal death, should experience her protection in times of danger, and should be speedily released from Purgatory. A second promise, said to have been made by our Blessed Lady to Pope John XXII, is, that those who have devoutly worn her scapular, and die in the grace of God, shall be released from Purgatory on the Saturday after their death, by our Blessed Lady herself. Blessed Simon Stock in 1250 founded the Confraternity of the Holy Scapular. For over three hundred years the Church has celebrated a special feast in honor of our Lady of the Scapular.

This scapular consists of two pieces of brown woolen cloth fastened together by braid so that one piece hangs on the breast, the other on the back; this must be worn night and day. There are four other scapulars used in the Church; that of the Trinity, of white material with a red and blue cross, given by the Trinitarians or priests delegated by them; the Servite Scapular of the Seven Dolors, of black woolen stuff; that of the Immaculate Conception, of light blue woolen cloth, propagated by Ursula Benincasa in the sixteenth century, given by the Theatines, who governed the Congregation to which this nun belonged; the red scapular of the Passion, originated by a Sister of Charity at Paris, who is said to have received a revelation on the matter in 1846; it is given by the Vincentian Fathers. All of these Confraternities are designed to promote prayer, and other good works in their members.

Any one may be enrolled in these Confraternities either by a priest of the respective Orders or by any other priest duly authorized. In this country it is customary for the bishops to give all their priests the faculty of investing with the brown scapular of Mount Carmel. Whatever formulas were heretofore permitted for investing with the scapular must now give way to the one prescribed by Pope Leo XIII., July 24, 1888.

Whoever is invested with one or more of these scapulars, participates in all the merits of the Order to which the scapular belongs, and partakes of all the indulgences with which the respective scapular is endowed.

4. On the 2nd of August occurs the Feast of Portiuncula—Church of St. Mary's of the Angels, at Assisi, one of the three churches which were repaired by St. Francis. It takes its name from a neighboring village, called Portiuncula. According to a common tradition Jesus Christ appeared to St. Francis in 1221, and bade him go to the Pope, who would give a plenary indulgence to all sincere penitents who should devoutly visit that Church. Two years later Pope Honorius III., at the request of St. Francis, granted this indulgence, known in Italy, as the Pardon of Assisi, confining it to the 2nd of August, and to the Church of the Portiuncula. Gregory the XV., 1622, extended it to all the churches of the observant Franciscans, including the Recollects or Reformed, between the first Vespers and sunset of August 2nd. In favor of these same churches, Innocent XI. in 1678 granted the application of this indulgence to the souls in Purgatory. Finally the indulgence of the Portiuncula can be gained in all churches in which the Third Order of St. Francis is canonically established, and it has been extended even to parish churches in countries where there are no Franciscan convents. A peculiarity of this indulgence is, that, after receiving the Sacraments, it can be gained as often as one visits the church and prays according to the intention of the Church.

5. The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15. It is called Assumption because it is the belief of the Church that the Blessed Virgin did not, like her Divine Son, by her own power, ascend into heaven, but by a special grace of God was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. Although it has never been declared an article of faith (dogma), still this has been, at all times, the universal belief of the Saints, Fathers and of all the writers of the Church.

This feast is one of the oldest in the Ecclesiastical Year. At first it was celebrated in several churches on the 18th of January, but since the sixth century it has been celebrated throughout the Church on the 13th of August. It has always been regarded as the crowning feast of the Mother of God, wherefore in many countries this day is called "Great Lady Day." It is the only feast of the Blessed Virgin which has been celebrated from the earliest times, as a feast of the first class with vigil and fast.

After the ascension of her Divine Son, Mary remained a longer time upon the earth, consoling and assisting the Apostles, in propagating the faith. But after the Church had taken firm root and had begun to be spread over all countries of the earth, Mary was taken up into heaven to be crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth. Since then she has remained Protectress of the Church and the Help of Christians. On this day Mary is hailed as the Queen of Heaven and Earth; raised above all the Angels and Saints, whence by her intercession she diffuses graces and blessings upon all mankind.

6. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, September 8. This feast originated in the Eastern Church, in the middle of the fifth century after the Council of Ephesus in 431. Later it was also admitted into the Western Church, and it is only since the beginning of the eleventh century that it has been universally celebrated.

The Church does not celebrate the nativity of any saint, excepting that of the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Baptist. All the other saints were born in original sin, and therefore separated from God, consequently the Church has no reason to celebrate these days as days of joy. On the contrary she celebrates the day of their death, as the birthday of eternal life.

7. The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, on the Sunday following the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. This feast was, at first, celebrated only in Spain, but when John Sobieski, the Polish king, after invoking the intercession of Mary, routed the Turkish forces with only a handful of troops and raised the siege of Vienna in 1683, Pope Innocent XI., in gratitude for this signal victory, extended this feast to the whole Church.

Although the name of Mary was not celebrated by a special feast, still this name had always been held in great veneration. Even the early Fathers of the Church endeavored to explain the significance of this name. Bitterness, Star of the Sea, Powerful Lady, are the common interpretations of the meaning. Formerly it was not permitted to give a girl the name of Mary, out of respect to the Blessed Virgin. In the Church of God upon earth, the name of Mary is praised by all nations, as the Blessed Virgin herself prophesies in her canticle, "Magnificat." The fulfillment of this prophecy is announced by the Feast of the Name of Mary. In all dangers and temptations, we should call with confidence on the name of Mary, and we shall experience how powerful that name is.

8. The Feast of the Seven Dolors is again celebrated on the third Sunday in September, to show us that Mary through her innate participation in the sufferings of Jesus, became the mother of mankind, and patroness of the Church. The Mother of Sorrows admonishes us on this feast to bear our sufferings with patience and resignation, and thereby obtain the everlasting joys of heaven.

9. The Feast of. the Holy Rosary, on the first Sunday in October. On the 7th of October, 1571, the Christians under Don John of Austria obtained a glorious victory over the Turks at Lepanto; this event occurred on the same day that the Confraternity of the Rosary was holding a solemn procession in Rome, and offering special devotions to obtain a victory over the Infidel. In gratitude for this extraordinary victory, which was attributed to Mary's intercession, Pope Pius V. instituted this feast, which after repeated victories over the Turks, in the beginning of the last century, 1716, was permanently established on the first Sunday in October.

The recitation of the rosary is for the laity what the Breviary is for the clergy. As the Breviary is composed of the 150 psalms of David, so the Rosary contains 150 Hail Marys. Therefore the entire Rosary is often called the Psalter of Mary. We never tire of repeating words that come from the depths of the heart. Our Lord in His agony did this in the Garden of Gethsemane on Mount Olivet. David in his psalm, CXXXV., exclaims no less than twenty-seven times: "His mercy endureth forever"; and St. Francis of Assisi spent whole nights repeating the words: "My God and my All." The devout servants of Mary used to address her frequently in the words of the Archangel, adding one Hail Mary after another as one places roses in a wreath.

The hermits of the first century who could not read the psalter were wont to recite one Our Father and one Hail Mary instead of every psalm, and in order to note the number they had said made use of small pebbles, or a row of little balls strung on a cord. The Hail Mary presents to us the Incarnation of Christ, whence all the mysteries of our redemption proceed.

The Rosary is divided into fifteen decades, the mysteries being arranged in three sets of five each, corresponding to the three great divisions of our Lord's life; His infancy and youth; His Passion and death; and His Resurrection and glory.

We begin the Rosary with the Creed and three Hail Marys, for the increase within us of the three theological virtues. While reciting the Rosary every one should touch the beads as he says the prayers; but if several persons join in saying it, it is only necessary for one to hold the rosary to regulate the number of prayers. This form of prayer must be most pleasing to the Blessed Virgin, for when she appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes, she held a rosary in her hand (1858). Pope Pius IX. says: "I specially recommend the devotion of the Rosary for it was taught us by the Mother of God herself, and it is far more pleasing to her than any other (1877)."

The Rosary in its present form owes its origin to St. Dominic; although the idea was not original with him, still he was the first to make the custom general of substituting one hundred and fifty Hail Marys for the one hundred and fifty psalms. When about the year 1200 the heresies of the Albigenses wrought great mischief in Southern France and Northern Italy, St. Dominic was commissioned by the Pope to preach in refutation of their erroneous tenets. As his efforts availed but little, he then had recourse to the Mother of God; she appeared to him and said: "Preach the Rosary, which is a shield against the shafts of the enemy, the rampart of the Church of God, and the Book of Life. . . . Exhort everyone to be devout to the Rosary, and thou shalt produce wonderful fruit in souls." (Lambing, The Sacramentals.")?> Bravely he introduced it everywhere and before long, it had effected the conversion of more than a hundred thousand heretics.

The Rosary has been richly indulgenced by the Holy See, and its recital has been strongly urged upon the faithful. Leo XIII. has granted an indulgence of seven years and seven quarantines each time one assists at the recitation of the Rosary, commanded to be said during the month of October. Pope Pius IX. bequeathed as a legacy to the faithful this admonition: `"Let the Rosary, this simple, beautiful method of prayer, enriched with many indulgences, be habitually recited of an evening in every household. These are my last words to you: the memorial I leave behind me." Again he said: "In the whole of the Vatican there is no greater treasure than the Rosary."

There are three forms of blessing by which indulgences are attached to beads: The Dominican, the Bridgetine, and the Papal or Apostolic. It is natural to expect that the Dominicans should have special privileges in the matter of blessing rosaries, and so it is, according to the decrees of several Sovereign Pontiffs.

So numerous are the indulgences attached to the recitation of the Rosary that no attempt will be made to state them here; the reader is recommended to simply form an intention, while reciting the beads, to gain all the indulgences within his reach.

As to the Bridgetine Rosary, this chaplet is so called because it was introduced by St. Bridget of Sweden, who died at Rome in the year 1373. She conceived the idea of commemorating by a set form of prayer the sixty-three years that our Blessed Mother is said to have lived on earth. In her chaplet she made six divisions, each division comprising ten Hail Marys, preceded by the Our Father, and followed by the Apostles' Creed. The whole prayer was concluded by one Our Father and three Hail Marys. Thus the Hail Mary is said sixty-three times. The Bridgetine chaplet should have six decades. To gain the indulgences of the chaplet of St. Bridget it is not necessary to meditate on the mysteries of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. No formula is required for blessing the beads, it is sufficient that the priest merely makes the sign of the Cross over them without saying a word, and without sprinkling them with Holy Water. Although priests in general have faculties for blessing Bridgetine chaplets, few persons really obtain the indulgence. To obtain all the indulgences with which the Bridgetine chaplet is endowed, it is necessary to have a chaplet of six decades and to terminate each decade with the Apostles' Creed. But if the rosary of five, ten or fifteen decades has been blessed by a Dominican, or by a priest having faculties to give the Dominican blessing, not only the Rosary indulgences, but also all the indulgences conceded to the chaplet of St. Bridget may be gained by virtue of the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences, April 13, 1726, approved by Benedict XIII. This privilege is not true of other beads or chaplets. (See Lambing and Spirago.)

10. The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, November 21, has been celebrated in the Western Church only since the fourteenth century (1374), but in the Eastern Church at a much earlier period. It is an ancient tradition that the Blessed Virgin was, when about three years old, solemnly offered to God in the temple.

By this feast we are admonished to imitate the example of the Blessed Virgin, and dedicate ourselves to the service of God; also to implore her intercession, especially at the hour of death.

11. Besides the above mentioned feasts of the Blessed Virgin, there are several others of minor importance celebrated in this season: viz.,

a)   The Feast of St. Mary ad Nives (of the Snow), August 5;
b)   Our Lady of Mercy, for the Ransom of Captives; September 24;
c)   Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin on the second Sunday in October;
d)   Purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the third Sunday in October;
e)   the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, second Sunday in November.

Mary is truly the Help of Christians, the principal protectress of the Church of God upon earth. Through her intercession Christianity is spread more and more, and protected against its enemies; therefore we celebrate so many feasts of the Blessed Virgin in this last festal cycle.

Feasts of the Angels and Saints

1. The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24, belongs to the oldest feasts of the Church. The nativity of this Saint is celebrated because at his birth he was free from original sin, and by the miracles that occurred at his birth he announced the coming Redeemer.

On account of its significance this feast might, very appropriately, be placed at the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year; nevertheless, it is more fittingly placed at the beginning of the third festal cycle. St. John the Baptist, the Precursor of our Lord, preached penance to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and so should he now move our hearts to contrition and penance, that we may, as living members of our Holy Church, serve the Redeemer. In ancient times this feast was preceded by a forty days' fast; this was later mitigated to three weeks, and finally abolished altogether.

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist is celebrated at a time when the days begin to shorten; on the contrary the birth of our Lord is celebrated when the days begin to lengthen. According to St. Augustine the meaning of this is, as St. John himself says: "He must increase, while I must decrease."

2. The Feast of SS. Peter and Paul has been celebrated since the earliest times on the 29th of June. According to the general tradition, this day is the anniversary of the death of these Apostles. This feast is very solemnly celebrated, because it belongs to the two greatest Apostles, who distinguished themselves the most by their zeal; it is specially celebrated as the foundation of the Catholic Hierarchy, being also a celebration of the Papal Primacy at Rome. Peter appointed by Christ, Head of the Church and keeper of the keys suffered martyrdom at Rome, and bequeathed the primacy of the holy church to his successor. The Mass and Office of t is day refer particularly to Peter as the Prince of the Apostles, the Head of the Church; on the following day, however, the Feast of St. Paul is celebrated. These two Apostles are so intimately united, that a feast of the one is never celebrated without a commemoration of the other. As these Apostles were attached to each other in life, always animated with the same zeal, and unwearied in their labors for the propagation of the Gospel, and the Church of Christ, so they suffered martyrdom on the same day at Rome, and since then their memory is celebrated on the same day. Although only Peter was chosen by Christ to be the Head of the Church, still St. Paul is called, like him, Prince of the Apostles. Paul, who was often called the Apostle of the Gentiles, contributed most to the spread of Christianity, especially among the Heathen nations. If we consider St. Peter the cornerstone of the Church, we must admit that St. Paul was the chief laborer in its construction. Therefore we justly honor them as the chief mainstays of the Church—as the Princes of the Apostles. This feast occurs most appropriately in the fore part of the third festal cycle, because it presents to us the foundation of the Church and its development. It is very solemnly celebrated in Rome, and on this day the Holy Father bestows his blessing upon the whole Christian world. We, also, on this day should remember with joy that we are children of the Apostolic Church, and renew our resolution of openly professing our faith at all times.

3. In this festal cycle, some other feasts of the Apostles are celebrated, viz.;

The Feast of St. James the Greater, on the 25th of July.
It is the day of the translation of his relics, but not the day of his death; he suffered martyrdom about Easter.

The Feast of St. Peter's Chains on the first of August;
it is of very ancient origin, and is celebrated in commemoration of the chains which Peter wore at Jerusalem, and later at Rome; they are still preserved.

The Feast of St. Bartholomew, August 24.

The Feast of St. Matthew, September 21.

The Feast of the Apostles, Saints Simon and Jude, October 28.

These feasts of the Apostles originated in the first Christian centuries, and remind us of the burning zeal with which the Apostles labored in the establishment and propagation of the Church, and shed their blood for Christ.

4. Theo Feast of the Archangel Michael, September 29, occurs very appropriately in this season, for St. Michael is the guardian of the whole Church. This feast probably originated in the fourth century, in the time of Constantine the Great, who built a church at Byzantium, in honor of St. Michael. At first this feast was not in commemoration of St. Michael alone, but of the Angels in general. It was only in the beginning of the sixteenth century, that the faithful began to celebrate a special Feast of the Guardian Angels; in 1670, the 2nd of October was set apart for Its celebration. In Eastern lands it is celebrated on the first Sunday of September. How beautiful is this feast of the Holy Angels! How vividly it reminds the faithful of the powerful protection of the Heavenly Spirits, under whose watchful guidance we are shielded from numberless dangers of soul and body from childhood to the grave. The faithful Christian, therefore, will show his gratitude to the Holy Angels, by recommending himself anew to their further protection and thus strengthen his faith in their invisible presence.

5. The Feast of All Saints, on the 1st of November, was celebrated as early as the fourth century by the Greeks, who kept a feast of all the martyrs and saints, on the first Sunday after Pentecost; and we still possess a sermon delivered on that day by St. Chrysostom. In the West, this feast was introduced by Pope Boniface IV, after he had dedicated, as the Church of the Blessed Virgin and the Martyrs, the Pantheon, which had been made over to him by the Emperor Phocas. The feast of this dedication was kept on the thirteenth of May. About 731 Gregory III. consecrated a chapel in St. Peter's church in honor of all the saints, from which time All Saints' Day has been kept in Rome, as now, on the first of November. From about the middle of the ninth century the feast came into general observance throughout the West. It ranks as a double of the first class, with an octave.

That none of the elect might be omitted in the honor and veneration due them, this feast was established. During the course of the year the Church offers for our contemplation the feast of one saint after another, but on this day she shows us the heavens opened and the countless multitude of the Elect from all nations, races and states of life. The Church celebrates her harvest feast on this day, showing herself the true Church that leads her children to eternal bliss. The true Christian, especially should feel on this day that he also is created for heaven. The sight of so many saints that were once human, like himself, enlivens the hope within him of reaching his eternal goal. Renewed courage and strength invigorates his heart. Penetrated with a lively faith in the Communion of Saints, he confidently calls upon the inhabitants of heaven for their powerful assistance.

By far the greater number of the Elect who have attained to the beatific vision are unknown to us. The Church honors only those as saints who either have suffered martyrdom, or whose sanctity has been indisputably confirmed. In former times bishops could declare a deceased person worthy of veneration, but now this right: reserved exclusively for the Pope. For this purpose the Church has established an exceedingly strict and deliberate process, which usually develops into three degrees,—that of Venerable, Blessed, and Saint. The first step of the process is a formal inquiry as to whether the deceased practiced the virtues in an heroic degree. If this is attested in the affirmative, then the deceased is declared venerable. The second degree is that of beatification. 1 tie person who is to be beatified must have practiced, in the heroic degree, chiefly, the three theological virtues,—Faith, Hope and Charity, and the four cardinal virtues,—Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance, with all that these suppose and involve. It must also be proved that four or at least two miracles have been wrought by the intercession of the person whose virtues are under debate; upon which the Pope declares him or her Blessed (Beatus), by virtue of which a limited public veneration is permitted. Canonization is the third and final degree in the recognition and estimation of the virtues of a servant of God, preparatory to his or her being elevated to the altars, and commended to the perpetual veneration and invocation of Christians throughout the Catholic Church. Before proceeding to canonization it must be proved that at least two miracles have been wrought through the intercession of the blessed person since the beatification. This proof is attended with the same formalities and surrounded by the same rigorous conditions as in the case of the miracles proved before beatification, whereupon the Pope declares, that the servant of God in question shall be inscribed on the register of the Saints. Though Rome from century to century, has established many miracles with the greatest judicial rigor and exactitude still the unbelieving world persist in denying, without further examination, the truth of these miracles; even going so far as to dispute their possibility. For the thoughtful Christian, these authenticated miracles are an indisputable proof that the Catholic Church is the sanctifying Church of Christ. This proof is confirmed anew at every process of beatification or canonization.

6. The commemoration of All Souls is celebrated on the day after All Saints, November 2nd, in order to show the intimate union of the Church Triumphant with the Church Suffering and the Church Militant. We find traces of this feast even in the eighth century. Abbot Odilo (998) introduced it into all the monasteries of his Congregation and from this time on, it gradually spread to all the Christian world.

In some parishes it is customary to have an octave of prayers, or of Masses, for the Poor Souls. The Church knowing their suffering condition, never relaxes her motherly care, but, from the earliest times commanded a special memento for the dead to be made daily after the Elevation. In the Breviary they are always remembered. Besides all these commemorations, the Church like a tender mother has instituted this special feast, to summon all Christians to pray and offer sacrifice for her suffering children in Purgatory; she has also established highly indulgenced Confraternities for this same purpose.

This tender, maternal love of the Church should awaken sympathy for the Poor Souls in every heart. The true Christian will not forget the souls of his parents, relatives and benefactors, but bear in mind that he will, one day, find mercy in Purgatory in the same degree as he has practiced it upon earth.

It is a beautiful custom for children to decorate the graves of their parents with flowers, but it is more gratifying to them when they ornament the graves of the departed with prayers, and tears of penance.

Feast of the Dedication of a Church

1. Dedication means, properly speaking, the act by which a church is solemnly set apart for the worship of God; afterwards this event is commemorated by a feast of dedication. As the Jews in the Old Law dedicated the tabernacle and temple with solemn rites, so Christians have, since Apostolic times, solemnly dedicated their churches to Almighty God. From the time of Constantine the Great, when the Christians were allowed the free exercise of their religion, not only the dedication of a church was solemnly celebrated, but also the anniversary of the dedication. The feast of the dedication is looked upon as the birthday of that church, and is therefore very solemnly celebrated.

The solemn consecration of a church is reserved to the bishop of the diocese, or to another bishop appointed by him. The present law of the Church forbids the use of a church for the celebration of Mass, unless it has been at least blessed. This blessing is a less solemn rite, and may be performed by a priest deputed by a bishop. Only those churches that have been solemnly consecrated by a bishop can have a feast of dedication commemorated in the Breviary and in the Mass.

2. The Feast of Dedication is kept in consecrated churches on the anniversary of the consecration as a double of the first class with an octave. The bishop may for grave reasons fix a day other than the actual anniversary on which the feast of dedication is to be kept, but after the consecration no change in the day can be made without leave from the Pope. The feast of the dedication of the Cathedral is also kept throughout the diocese as a double of the first class, but without an octave.

The bishop dedicates the church, and the celebration of the anniversary should remind the faithful that they are members of this church, and united with their bishop form one Christian community.

When celebrating a dedication feast, the Christian should thank God for the priceless gift of faith, and resolve to make use of the graces and blessings which flow from this inestimable treasure. It is to be deplored that in many places the spiritual significance of the dedication feast has degenerated into a feast of worldly enjoyment, oftentimes leading to excess.

Titular Feast

1. In early Christian times it was customary to erect churches or altars over the graves of martyrs in which to venerate their relics. From this arose the custom of venerating that Saint whose relics were preserved in the Church; the name of that Saint was given to the church at its dedication. When a church is dedicated to some mystery of our holy religion, either from the life of our Lord or the Blessed Virgin, viz.: The Incarnation, Assumption, etc., the name given to it is its title, and the feast set apart for its celebration is called its Titular Feast. When, however, the church is dedicated to some Saint or Angel, that Saint or Angel becomes its patron Saint, and the feast is called its Patron Feast (patrocinium).

2. The patronal or titular feast of a Church is always solemnly celebrated, either on the day itself, or on the following Sunday; so, also, the patronal feast of a country or diocese.

The patronal feast of the United States is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Under this beautiful title, the Blessed Virgin was chosen not merely as Patroness of the Church in the United States, but as Patroness of the United States.