Pope adds memorial of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to calendar; also Hildegard, Gregory of Narek, and John of Avila

A decree issued today by the Congregation for Divine Worship indicates that Pope Francis has expanded the commemoration of July 29 to include Mary, Martha, and Lazarus – an obligator memorial. Francis also added three other saints and doctors of the Church as optional memorials: St. Hildegard of Bingen on Sept. 17, St. Gregory of Narek on Feb. 27, and St. John of Ávila on May 10.

Fully story and good explanation at CNA.


  1. Finally, the Calendar accords with the Martyrology on SS Martha, Mary and Lazarus of Bethany, Disciples of the Lord.

  2. And the ancient octave of Mary –> Mary is restored!

    Of course, as the Sarah’s letter noted, “in some particular calendars the three siblings are already celebrated together,” such as the Benedictine Calendar, where they’re “hosts of the Lord.” So there’s nothing to restore there.

  3. St. Mary, St. Martha, St. Lazarus, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Gregory of Narek, and St. John of Ávila – Pray for us.

  4. I wonder how long we will have to wait for translations of these texts.

    The merits of these particular changes aside (and I think that they are welcome and needed), I think it is unfortunate that the original idea of the calendar in the reform is slowly diminishing. Sundays are increasingly being devoted to thematic ideas, and more and more celebrations are being added (even during Lent). It may be necessary at some point to take a step back and reevaluate some of the criteria guiding the General Calendar.

    In addition, it leads to ‘solutions’ like the placing Gregory of Narek during Lent (when the celebration is muted), or Hildegarde on the same day as another fairly prominent saint like Bellarmine (and for those in the Franciscan tradition, the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis). The result is that one inevitably gets ignored (as today’s memorials of Blaise and Ansgar/Oscar perpetually demonstrates).

    1. I am not convinced that a clean up of the calendar is needed. I know that one of the aims of the liturgical reform was to put Sunday as the day of Resurrection in the pride of place. But I don’t think that means saint celebrations cannot also occur on Sunday as well. The Eastern Rite, which places much more emphasis on the Resurrection during it’s Sunday services, is able to handle multiple celebrations on the same day adequately. I am not sure why the Roman Rite should be any different. Why not have two collects prior to the readings? Or use a collect after the intercessions?

      Another solution is collapse multiple saints into the same day. Augustine & Monica, Francis and Clare, Popes John XXIII and JPII for example.

  5. The older calendar leaves 22 July as a composite liturgy. Mary witness to the Resurrection; the (unnamed) sinful woman; the sister of Lazarus are all alluded to in the texts of the Mass/Office.

    The interesting result of separating Magdalene and Mary of Bethany is that what isn’t commemorated anymore in the liturgy is the sinful woman who was traditionally associated with Magdalene. The sinful woman of the gospels no longer finds a place as a saint in the Roman liturgy.

    There’s a certain wisdom in the older system of leaving things less rigidly schematized, and allowing every Mary, as it were, a mention in the liturgy. Especially since the historical question about the identity of the Marys hasn’t been definitely resolved, pace the decree issued in this case.

    All that said, this pontificate is certainly filling up the calendar. Three popes; two Marian feasts (one a feast that had actually been dropped from most particular calendars in 1961); three doctors; S. Faustina. Such is the nature of calendars, but the 1969 calendar has certainly ended up a lot more cluttered than the principles behind “Mysterium Paschale” intended.

    1. Also missing is the unnamed woman who anointed the head of Jesus in the gospels of Ss Mark and Matthew, unless she remains hidden under St Mary, who anointed the feet of Jesus in St John’s gospel.

      The irony here is that this unnamed woman provides the best justification for the whole Calendar of Saints with the words spoken of her by Jesus:

      Wherever in all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told in memory of her.

      This prophecy will still only be heard once in every three years.

  6. I must be missing something. The present Roman Missal (third typical edition) has St John of the Cross as an obligatory Memorial on December 14. Why would it be changed to an optional Memorial?

    1. Although he was closely associated with St. Teresa of Avila and was himself a native of the Avila region, St. John of the Cross is a different person from St. John of Avila. (Not to mention St. John of God, who was also associated with that circle.) St. John of Avila is actually a relatively recent canonization (1970) and was named a Doctor only in the last few years.

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