Monday, July 11, 2022

The Feasts of St. Benedict and Their Proper Texts in Benedictine Churches

Catholics attentive to the sanctoral cycle will have noticed two feasts of St. Benedict that appear in the calendar (depending on your location and the form of the Mass): the dies natalis of March 21, which almost always falls during Lent, and the summer feast on July 11, which historically originated as a feast of the translation of relics but has been simply accepted by most Benedictines as an opportune time to celebrate their holy father. Traditionally March 21 has no octave due to Lenten austerity but July 11 has a jubilant octave. In the Tridentine calendar, March 21 is the only feast of the saint, and sadly since John XXIII the day is rarely given over to the great patriarch of Western monasticism. Even if the feast is observed, it would be observed with the “Os Justi” Common.

However, Benedictines who keep their own traditions rejoice in three proper Masses for their holy founder: one on March 21; another on July 11; and a third on July 18 for the octave. I thought it would interest NLM readers to see the proper texts for all three, which are conveniently found in an appendix to the St. Andrew Daily Missal (reprint of the 1945 edition). I do not know if any other founder of a religious “order” (taking that term in the broadest possible sense) enjoys such a profusion of proper Masses! The texts are extraordinarily rich and well-suited to the saint, a luminous exemplar of how the usus antiquior coalesces its changing texts around the figure of a saint as an icon of Christ, as a figure that fulfills in his life the message of Sacred Scripture.

I would draw the reader's attention particularly to the Sequence and the proper Preface.

We should bear in mind thatt the July 11th feast as the translation of St Benedict’s relics, while very old, was not universally celebrated by the OSB before the 19th century, and the recasting of it as the “solemnity of St Benedict” with an octave is rather recent. E.g., it is not in this edition of the breviary from 1831.

UPDATE (7/12/22): I have been informed by several people that there is yet another feast of St. Benedict observed in some monasteries, namely, a December 11th "In Veneratione et Repositione Sacrae Reliquiae Capitis SS. Patriarchae Nostri Benedicti." I have not been able to get hold of the Propers but here's a screenshot that was shared with me:

March 21

The March 21st propers are conveniently available as a PDF online, from which the following images have been extracted.

July 11

July 18

May St. Benedict of Nursia, patriarch of Western monasticism, co-patron of Europe, intercede for us, and especially for all his sons and daughters throughout the world.

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