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MY CATHOLIC FAITH: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOLEMNITY, FEAST AND MEMORIAL?


INTRODUCTION

During the course of the liturgical year, the Church celebrates the whole mystery of Christ in a special way, the Church also honors our Blessed Mother, marking those special events of her participation in the mystery of salvation. Finally, the Church also commemorates the memorial days of saints, who through their lives bring to the minds of the faithful the call to holiness. This celebrations are often distinguished from each other with the use of Solemnities, Feasts and Memorials. 

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

According to their importance, celebrations are distinguished from each other and named as follows: Solemnities, Feasts, Memorials.

SOLEMNITIES

Solemnities are the celebrations of greatest importance. Each Solemnity begins on the prior evening with first vespers (evening prayer) and several of the solemnities have their own Vigil Masses. On these days, both the Gloria and the Creed are recited.

Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (Like the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas) are always considered solemnities.  Other examples of solemnities include the Solemnity of Saint Joseph (March 19), the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi), and the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29).

FEASTS

Feasts are of second importance in our liturgical calendar and are celebrated on a particular day. These feasts do not have a first vespers or Vigil Mass the prior evening.  An exception would be the feasts of the Lord which occur on Sundays in Ordinary Time and Sundays in the Christmas season. For example, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) has its own first vespers.  On these days, the Gloria is recited but not the Creed.

MEMORIALS

Next in line are memorials, which are classified as either obligatory or optional. Memorials commemorate a saint or saints. Obligatory memorials must be observed whereas optional memorials may not  be observed. For example, the memorial of St. John Bosco (January 31) is obligatory while the memorial of St. Blaise (February 3) is optional. Only the memorials of those saints who are of “universal significance” are observed by the whole Church and marked in the general liturgical calendar.

Particular churches, countries, or religious communities may also celebrate the memorials of other saints of “special significance” in accord with their special devotions.  For example, the memorial in honor of the patron saint of a diocese is raised to a “feast.”

Also on Saturdays, when there is no obligatory memorial, it is most appropriate to offer the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

CONCLUSION 

Christ's saving work is celebrated in sacred memory by the Church on fixed days throughout the year. Each week on the day called the Lord's Day the Church commemorates the Lord's resurrection. Once a year at Easter the Church honors this resurrection and passion with the utmost solemnity. In fact through the yearly cycle the Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ and keeps the anniversaries of the saints.

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