The Vatican presented a New Martyrology on 2 October 2001 and how this changes the liturgy of the Catholic Church is discussed. It lists the feast days of saints with all applicable names for a given date. It differs from a Church Calendar, which usually only gives one name per day.







New Martyrology

3 October 2001

According to "Dictionary of the Liturgy", by Reverend Jovian Lang (Catholic Book Publising Company, 1989):

Formerly the Martyrology was read during the Divine Office at the Hour of Prime, which has been abrogated with the advent of the new Liturgy of the Hours.

This was in accordinance with Vatican II's first document Sacrosanctum Concilium (4 Dec 1963):

89 d. The hour of prime is to be suppressed.

92 c. The accounts of the martyrdom or lives of the saints are to be made to accord with the historical facts.

7 November 2001

This morning I received an email from Father Murray Watson, a Canadian priest studying in Rome. He wrote:

I thought you and your readers would be interested to know that the new Martyrology is FINALLY (after 3 weeks!) available for purchase at the Vatican Bookstore here in Rome (I just bought a copy this morning). It is almost 800 pages long, and costs about $70US....
Hope this information is helpful---if any of your readers need immediate information, or want to check any dates, please let me know via e-mail, and I'll be happy to check.

His email address is:

11 November 2001

I wrote to Father Watson asking about whether it had a General Instruction about how it is to be used in the liturgy. His reply included:

Yes, there is an Introduction/Praenotanda to the new Martyrology. The fourth section "On the Uses of the Martyrology" contains a very brief overview of its liturgical use, saying that the public reading of the lectionary "is laudably done in choir, but it may be carried out even apart from choir." It offers an "Order for Reading the Martyrology Within the Liturgy of the Hours," and another for its reading apart from the Liturgy of the Hours. In both cases, the rubrics provide a basic liturgical structure, with introductions, and there are a variety of short Biblical passages and concluding prayers which can be included to "fill out" the Martyrology texts, making for a proper liturgical celebration.

4 January 2002

Here is some further light on how the Martyrology changes the Roman Rite. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on the Liturgy, in their Newsletter for October/November 2001:

What role does the Martyrology play in the choice of texts for the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours?

In this regard, readers may find paragraph 33 of the Congregations' "Notification on Proper Calendars and Proper Liturgical Texts" to be helpful. The BCL's unofficial translation of this September 20, 1997 document, reads:

"It is good to remember, in addition, the possibilities offered by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (nn. 316b, 316c) to the priest celebrating on the weekdays of Ordinary Time, or those of Advent before December 17th, or of the Christmas season from January 2nd onwards, or on those of the Easter season. In such periods, even when there is an optional Memorial, the priest can celebrate either the Mass of the weekday or that of any Saint inscribed that day in the Roman Martyrology. The same holds, analogously, for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 244).

It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, in such circumstances, to celebrate in honor of a Saint found in neither the General Calendar nor in a proper calendar. Obviously, such cases call for the exercise of pastoral good sense on the part of the celebrant."

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 2 October 2001. Last updated 4 December 2002.


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Martyrology on sale at

Report by Cindy Wooden

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