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A Tale of Two Octaves

Father X POSTED: 4/30/11

(  The Second Sunday after Easter is the Octave of Easter. This is a fact that cannot be truthfully denied or altered by any earthly power--even by the Pope himself. After all, the word octave refers to a period or interval of eight, and necessarily the second Sunday after any Sunday represents a succession of eight days. It is possible, however, for a Pope to declare that a particular Octave carries with it a specific title or meaning, such as is the case for the Feast of Divine Mercy. Traditional Catholics are not obliged to celebrate this feast, since they are allowed to follow the more traditional liturgical calendar of the past. But for much of the Catholic world, commonly referred to as the Novus Ordo component of the Church, the Second Sunday after Easter is celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy.

Pope John Paul II did much to bring attention to this Feast and insure that it was popularly received by the faithful. Among other things he attached a Plenary Indulgence to it, so that those participating in some Divine Mercy devotion on the day of the Feast and fulfilling other conditions would receive this divine indulgence from the treasury of the Church. Within the papal decree establishing the Feast of Divine Mercy, there is the following exhortation to priests:

 “Priests who exercise pastoral ministry, especially parish priests, should inform the faithful in the most suitable way of the Church's salutary provision. They should promptly and generously be willing to hear their confessions. On Divine Mercy Sunday, after celebrating Mass or Vespers, or during devotions in honor of Divine Mercy, with the dignity that is in accord with the rite, they should lead the recitation of the prayers that have been given above.”

It has been my experience that most conservative priests of the Novus Ordo persuasion have been eager to implement Divine Mercy devotions in their parishes and generously make themselves available for confessions, not only in their own parishes but in others as well. In dozens of parishes in a typical diocese, half a dozen priests may be hearing confessions through the afternoon hours of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Contrast this remarkable enthusiasm for the decree on Divine Mercy of Pope John Paul II with the equal-but-opposite remarkable disinterest or disdain that many of these same conservative clergy have for the dictates of the motu proprio on the Traditional Sacraments by Pope Benedict XVI. Whereas half a dozen priests may be carrying out the exhortations of Divine Mercy in each of dozens of churches in a typical diocese, most of these same dioceses probably do not have even a dozen churches offering the Traditional Mass, at least on a regular basis. This in spite of the fact that the mandates of Summorum Pontificum to accommodate the faithful desiring tradition are binding upon all pastors and bishops, whereas there is no strict mandate to accommodate the Divine Mercy devotion in any particular instance.

This year the Feast of Divine Mercy received more attention by the Church than since its original addition to the calendar, due to the fact that the official beatification of Pope John Paul II was timed to occur on the anniversary of this Feast that was so dear to the late Pope. I do think the contrast between the reception of Divine Mercy and that of Summorum Pontificum is a curious phenomenon but not surprising. It should not surprise us either, that if the current Holy Father continues his efforts to slowly advance the restoration of tradition and even brings about a reconciliation with the Society of Pius X, that the same Novus Ordo faithful who are now chanting “Santo Subito” (Sainthood now!) for Pope John Paul II will be crying out instead “Aspetta un Atimo” (Wait a minute!) for Pope Benedict XVI for any cause for canonization.

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