Father Lam T. Le, Pastor
St. John Paul II Parish
3110 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs, Michigan
On June 10, 2016, a decree by the Congregation of Divine Worship formalized Pope Francis’ decision to raise the July 22 Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a Feast on the church’s liturgical calendar. In doing so, the Pope wants to highlight St. Mary Magdalene’s role as one of the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and as a “true and authentic evangelizer.”
The significance of this decision is obvious when we visit the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar (hereafter UNLYC) in the Roman Missal, which classifies the roman liturgical celebrations:
“Celebrations, according to the importance assigned to them, are hence distinguished one from another and termed: Solemnity, Feast, and Memorial” (UNLYC no. 10). The instruction continues: “Solemnities are counted among the most important days, whose celebration begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) on the preceding day. Some Solemnities are also endowed with their own Vigil Mass, which is to be used on the evening of the preceding day, if an evening Mass is celebrated…Feasts are celebrated within the limits of the natural day; accordingly they have no First Vespers (Evening Prayer I), except in the case of the Feasts of the Lord that fall on a Sunday in Ordinary Time or in Christmas Time and which replace the Sunday Office…Memorials are either obligatory or optional; their observance is integrated into the celebration of the occurring weekday” (UNLYC no. 11, 13, 14).
It should be noted that the designation of Feast is often given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar. Thus, with the above decision, the Pope indeed highlights the special mission of St. Mary Magdalene, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church, in witness to the resurrection of the Lord. The witness to the resurrection of the Lord belongs to the entire Church: women and men are included.
As St. Mary Magdalene was among the first witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord and addressed the resurrected Lord in Hebrew, “Rabbouni, which means Teacher” (Jn 20:16), may all of our mothers teach their children the first word in their lives: “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1: 21). Amen.