St. Patrick to be honored at March 17 cathedral Mass

BRIGHTON -- Though St. Patrick’s Day falls during Holy Week this year, Boston still plans to honor and mark the life and ministry of its patron saint on March 17.

Due to this year’s unusually early date for Easter Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day falls on the Monday of Holy week, preventing its liturgical commemoration. In the Church’s liturgical calendar, the celebration of Holy Week takes precedence over the feast of a saint.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley wrote in his Feb. 22 blog posting that he will celebrate a noontime Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross March 17 and the homily will focus on St. Patrick’s life and missionary work.

“We will celebrate the liturgical Mass, with its readings and prayers, of the Monday of Holy Week, but at the Mass we will reflect on the life and ministry of St. Patrick.”

“As usual, we will bless and distribute the shamrocks, which St. Patrick used so effectively -- as a symbol of the cross and as a symbol for the Trinity,” the cardinal said.

In his blog post the cardinal also encouraged all Boston Catholics to attend the Mass.

“Just like every year, we hope to have a nice group of priests and laity joining with us as we honor St. Patrick. We expect people to come to the cathedral wearing green in honor of the patron saint of the archdiocese. And I always remind people that they should celebrate his feast day whether they are Irish or not. After all, St. Patrick was not Irish.”

In a letter sent to priests of the archdiocese, Vicar General Father Richard M. Erikson, also explained the conflict of dates and invited priests to “acknowledge the life and example of St. Patrick within the context of the celebration of the Monday of Holy Week liturgy” in their own parishes.

According to the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, St. Patrick’s Day “will not be commemorated liturgically in most U.S. dioceses” this year.

The Irish bishops’ conference requested and received permission from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to move the solemnity of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, to the nearest Saturday, March 15, the day before Palm Sunday.

But an earlier decision by the Vatican congregation to transfer the feast of St. Joseph this year from March 19, the Wednesday of Holy Week, to March 15 “impedes the transfer of the solemnity of St. Patrick to March 15” in the United States, according to an April 2007 article in the liturgy secretariat’s newsletter.

The feast day may be moved to Friday, March 14, in dioceses “where St. Patrick is the principal patron of a particular church” and where “it is customarily commemorated as a solemnity,” the newsletter said.

Cardinal O’Malley also discussed that possibility in his blog, explaining that he ultimately decided against moving the feast.

“An option would have been to move the feast; however, the official calendar of the Church has already moved St. Joseph’s Day to Saturday, and I was loath to move St. Patrick’s Day to a Friday in Lent.”