QUAERITUR: TLM on 25 Jan. for Conversion of Paul, not 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

From a reader… actually quite a few readers, but this e-mail is representative:

I’m wondering if you have an opinion on whether the Conversion of St. Paul can be celebrated this Sunday in the EF?  It’s not mentioned in the FSSP Ordo.  Have you heard anything about what celebration different places are planning?

Below I’ve pasted the decree from the CDW.  It doesn’t exclude the EF [or even mention it], but it’s oriented towards the OF.

Link to the decree.



granting a special faculty for the celebration of the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle in the Jubilee Year bimillennium of his birth

The Apostle St Paul, who proclaimed the truth of Christ to the entire world and, after having been his persecutor, employed all means to announce the Good News to the peoples, committing himself with zeal for the unity and harmony of all Christians, has always been and is still now venerated by the faithful, especially in this particular Year, bimillennium of his birth, that the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has willed to institute it as a special Jubilee Year.

Therefore, in force of the faculties attributed to this Congregation by the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, grants, in an extraordinary way, that next 25 January 2009, the Third Sunday "per annum", the singular churches can celebrate a Mass according to the formula Conversion of St Paul, Apostle, as found in the Roman Missal. In this case, the Second Reading of the Mass is taken from the Roman Lectionary for the Third Sunday "per annum", and the Creed is recited.

This concession, by special mandate of the Supreme Pontiff, is valid only for the Year 2009.

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

From the Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 January 2008, on the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle.

Cardinal Francis Arinze

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith

You ask if I have an opinion.  I do. 

I would say yes, the Conversion of St. Paul can be celebrated on that Sunday for the following reasons.

First, this is a special year dedicated to St. Paul.  Let that fact not be obscured.

Second, this comes from the Pope, rather than just from the Congregation.  The Congregation does not have competence in matters concerning the older, Extraordinary Form, the Holy Father’s jurisdiction is not so limited.  The Holy Father simply used that Congregation to make known his will.  I grant that he did not make this explicit.

Third, the language of the decree says "Third Sunday ‘per annum’".  The typical edition of the 1962 Missale Romanum indicates that 25 January would be in the "Tempus per annum ante Septuagesima" and it would be the Third Sunday, namely after Epiphany.  

Fourth, in the Novus Ordo calendar this last year the Solemnity of St. Joseph was transferred to 15 March because of Holy Week.  Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" stated that this applied also to the Extraordinary Form.  Given that precedent, we can guess that the decree on Conversion of Saint Paul would pertain also to the Extraordinary Form.

Fifth, it just makes sense.

I put the question to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei for a response.

I have heard nothing back.

Perhaps this isn’t important?

Judging from the number of people who have written to me with this question, I would say it is.

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  1. Romulus says:

    Cardinal Arinze is still prefect?

  2. Romulus says:

    Oops, never mind. I see the date on the decree is almost a year old.

  3. QC says:

    Yeah, it seems the spirit of the law–the special celebration of St. Paul–would apply to the EF as well.

  4. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    We shall be having a lovely Mass of Third Sunday after the Epiphany. Alleluia!


  5. William of the Old says:

    The first Mass in the EF in 40 years, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, will be celebrated this Sunday as The Feast of Saint Paul.

  6. Dominican says:

    I feel I’m missing something. Instead of rejoicing that we can celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul during the Jubilee Year of St. Paul when we wouldn’t normally because it is on a Sunday, I’m getting the impression that people who attend the EF are seeing this as negative thing and an “opportunity” for someone to take a Sunday outside a priveleged season away from them.

    It seems a very “untraditional” attitude toward the liturgy. We should be happy to have every opportunity to celebrate the richness of the litugical year! There’s always next year to celebrate the 3rd Sunday

    Is this about the liturgical calendar or really about authority?

  7. Woody Jones says:

    ” I put the question to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei for a response.
    I have heard nothing back.”

    Maybe they are on gardening leave prior to the formal dissolution/merger into CDW?

  8. opey124 says:

    It makes sense to me seeing it is the year of St. Paul and a plenary indulgence, in our diocese, is granted to those that make a trip to the Cathedral and meet the other requirements.

  9. Geoffrey says:

    This says “can celebrate”, not must. I have my doubts it will be done in very many places.

    I suppose this would/could include First Vespers as well (Liturgy of the Hours)?

  10. Flambeaux says:

    First I’ve heard of this is here, now, although if I pick my brain I might recall hearing about it back with the Year of St. Paul was announced.

    I’m certain this won’t be done in either the OF or the EF Masses in Dallas or Fort Worth.

  11. Father Bartoloma says:

    I’m also a little bit confused about this. Funny that this should be a post because I was just looking into the matter. The FSSP and the PCP Ordo note that this Sunday is merely the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany and the PCP ordo (which I prefer) even makes a bold note that there is not even to be a commemoration of the Feast.

    Now I know the debates about how ordos (ordines?) are frequently flawed and that because of pre-1962 commemorations on Sundays, now gone, certain things have to be emphasized at times.

    But… It would seem a bit awkward, in the year of St. Paul, not to be able to celebrate the office or Mass of his conversion this coming Sunday.

    Does anyone have a “fast track” to Ecclesia Dei? It’s only a few days from now but even a brief clarification could serve the greater purpose of demonstrating where the “mutual enrichment” of the forms of the Roman Rite is possible and beneficial.

  12. Michael J says:


    Not to single you out, but your post illustrates why some may be a bit gun shy about this sort of thing. As others have noted, the decree says that churches “*can* celebrate a Mass according to the formula Conversion of St Paul” – not must or will celebrate.

    Yet when some indicate their preference to leave the calendar as-is, well within their rights, out come the accusations of disobedience, when in reality there is simple disagreement with your opinion.

  13. Why are people opposed to the feast being celebrated in the extraordinary form?
    In fact, until St. Pius X revised the calendar’s precedence of feasts such a feast would have been celebrated. Thus, St. Francis de Sales (his homily for the 2nd Sunday after epiphany mentions that in the cathedral the Mass of St. Anthony had been celebrated as that Sunday was Jan 17th!!!), St. Alphonus Liguori, and Bl. Pius IX all would have celebrated the Conversion of St. Paul if it fell on a Sunday. The Pope here is giving a gift. Let us be gracious in accepting it.

  14. Flambeaux says:


    Some of us don’t have any choice in accepting the gift.

  15. Speaking of the extraordinary form…
    Those in DC for the March for Life, I received notice that there will be a 9:45 am Mass at the Basilica.

  16. Hermann says:

    They wish to change the calendar at a whim, they wish to change the ancient Good Friday prayers in TLM at behest of those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ – in short some in the Church for last 40 years have used the OF Mass as a play thing. I personally don’t want that in the TLM.
    What the Church and TLM community needs now is stability and return to tradition, not a constant stream of novelties.

    regards In Domino

  17. Michael J says:


    I agree that His Holiness is giving us a gift, but I suspect that we may disagree about what constitutes that gift. To my mind, the gift is the ability to choose to celebrate either the Conversion of St. Paul or the Mass of Third Sunday after Epiphany.

    Why do you consider it an ungratious rejection if people choose the latter?

  18. Ken says:

    The problem with trying to apply 2008 decrees to the 1962 missal is that folks are left guessing what to do. For instance, this is from the pope’s decree regarding Sunday:

    “In this case, the Second Reading of the Mass is taken from the Roman Lectionary for the Third Sunday ‘per annum’…”

    So, what does a priest saying the traditional Latin Mass do with that?

    Better to say the Mass of the Third Sunday After Epiphany and not worry about these things. Offer it up to the state we are in with having two different calendars for what is supposed to be one Roman rite.

  19. “So, what does a priest saying the traditional Latin Mass do with that?”

    Nothing. This problem doesn’t arise in the EF, where there are the same number of readings for the feast as for the Sunday.

  20. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    Liberals say, Let’s tinker with the liturgy. We know best what would be an improvement. Those Church fathers of ten centuries were superstitious and ignorant fools.

    Neo-conservatives say, Let’s tinker with the liturgy. Never mind the fact that we are in the middle of a revolution, a time when caution is best. We are smarter than the liberals (which is true) and our Pope knows better than the countless popes and fathers of the past. So let’s try new and different things even with the Traditional Mass. Why restrict ourselves to the Mass said by 99.9% of the Latin Church? We want it all.

    Traditionalists say, This is the wrong time to experiment in any way. This is the one time for stability. Let us wait for fifty years and then, with the value of hindsight, let us consider a few small necessary changes.

    Immobilists say, Change is always wrong in all circumstances.

    I’m a traditionalist. The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul needn’t be lost. We’ll have it next year and the year after and the year after that, on weekdays. Let’s not change things right now. Let’s be cautious. Fortunately, that is what our celebrant in my town is doing. Deo gratias!


  21. Paul Madrid says:

    Geoffry, not so sure about Conversion of Paul liturgy of the hours at all on Saturday night/Sunday. The faculty only specifies mass, and privileges are to be interpreted strictly.

    I’d be happy if I was wrong about this though.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    Paul Madrid:

    Thank you for your thoughts on the subject! Though as a layman I could pray the office of the Conversion of St. Paul if I wished, I like to stick to the rubrics, so I guess unless it is further clarrified, I’ll stick with the current Sunday.

    However, I believe the Pope will be celebrating Solemn Vespers… I wonder for which liturgical day?

  23. Berthold says:

    I am a bit surprised about the debate. This is not about tinkering with the calendar (something I am vehemently opposed to, as also shown in comments on this blog) but on a one-off celebration of one of the Princes of the Apostles, and it would be absurd to believe that this could only be done in the new but not in the old calendar (I also find it quite absurd that this feast is only a third class-feast in 1962, given the importance of the event, but that’s another issue). One could hope that in similar cases in the future the Curia would acknowledge that there are two forms of the Roman Rite and give instructions for both.

    What I am quite interested in are the rubrical implications because we will be celebrating it in Cambridge. My guess is as follows: It would be technically a ‘Votive Mass’ with the Office remaining that of the Sunday (however, with the Propers of the Feast because it is the proper day). As a Sunday Mass it would have the Asperges, but there would be no commemoration of the Sunday, nor a proper Last Gospel (because the 1962 rubrics dislike these things), and the Preface would be of the Apostles. Any corrections are most welcome.

  24. Geoffrey says:

    According to the Vatican website, the Holy Father will be celebrating Solemn Vespers for the Conversion of St. Paul on Sunday 25 January.

    This looks like it will be Second Vespers. I thought the Holy Father usually celebrates First Vespers? I wonder then if First Vespers is supposed to be of the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time? So many questions!

  25. Fr. Brendan Kelly says:

    One thing to remember, is that both the PCP and FSSP ordines would have been substantially, if not wholly, put together before the rescript was issued. (or at least widely published)
    Yesterday I was speaking with one of the priests of the FSSP and in passing mentioned the rescript above. He said their instructions were similar but more detailed in terms of the Office and Mass. The conversation continued in a different direction, so I didn’t have a chance to ask for the details, but I had the distinct impression that it applies substantially to the EF. I can only assume his instructions come from PCED. If there is desire, I can ask him tomorrow. (It is too late tonight.)

  26. William says:

    What is the PCP?

  27. Paul Madrid says:

    Geoffry: Then again, what about General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours ¶ 245?

    For a public reason or out of devotion, except on solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, the octave of Easter and the 2nd of November, a votive Office may be celebrated, in whole or in part, for example, on the occasion of a pilgrimage, a local feast or the external solemnity of a saint.

    So why not votive office of the Conversion of Saint Paul?

  28. Geoffrey says:

    Paul Madrid: Thank you for that quote from the GILH! I guess that solves that! :-)

  29. Patronus says:

    Has anyone noted that the permission is for only one Mass in each church on the day of January 25th?

  30. Father Bartoloma says:

    Fr. Brendan Kelly,
    Greetings from your fellow St. Charles alumnus and thanks for your input.

    PCP is Preserving Christian Publications. Their ordo is excellent, especially for breviary rookies like myself.

  31. Fr. Brendan Kelly says:

    Fr. Bartoloma,
    It is good to run into you here. Greetings from the frozen Midwest!
    I trust things are going well where you are?
    In my diocese, the several parishes are recommneded, but not required to take advantage of this privilege.

    Oremus pro invicem!

  32. Greg Smisek says:

    The Latin text of the decree is explicit about allowing only one Mass in any given church: “una tantum Missa — “only one Mass” (see adverb tantum and adjectival phrase unus tantus, Lewis and Short tantus, II, B).

    I question whether this has been granted by a special mandate of the Supreme Pontiff. The English translation makes it look like the Pope personally granted the concession, which is not what the text says. The Latin is vigore facultatum huic Congregationi a Summo Pontifice BENEDICTO XVI tributarum, conceditur. Does this mean according to the usual faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff or by a special, one-off faculty? The “special mandate of the Supreme Pontiff” mentioned at the end seems to apply to the restriction of the concession to 2009, not to the granting of it. I’d be interested to hear how a canon lawyer would read that.

    Of course, this is a proper solemnity (ordinary form) and first class feast (extraordinary form), outranking the Sunday, in all churches named for the Apostle to the Gentiles and all cities and towns where St. Paul is the duly constituted patron. In addition, it is a first class feast (extraordinary form only) in any diocese whose principal patron is St. Paul. (See GNLYC, n. 59 and Rubricae Generales, n. 91.)

  33. Carlos Palad says:

    It is my understanding that if the calendar of the Roman Rite pre-1911 will be used, the Conversion of St. Paul will actually take precedence over the Sunday. So, it is not as if the pope is permitting a complete innovation…

  34. Anna says:

    What are the scriptural readings for the Mass celebrating the conversion of St Paul?


  35. Anna says:

    What are the scriptural readings for the Mass celebrating the conversion of St. Paul?


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