WDTPRS: Whit Monday

Octaves are mysterious times during which the liturgical clock stops. 

We have an opportunity to rest in the mystery, reflect on it during the 8th day – an echo of God’s rest continuing after the Creation and foreshadowing of the eschatological rest we will have in the Beatific Vision.

Today is Pentecost Monday during the Octave of Pentecost.  It is also called Whit Monday, a reference to the white garments of the newly baptized.

We observe the Octave in the Traditional Roman calendar.  It was tragically eliminated in the post-Conciliar calendar.

The Roman Station is S. Peter in Chains.

For Mass we sing the Pentecost Sequence, and use the Preface of the Holy Spirit, as well as a proper Communicantes and also Hanc igitur, as for Easter since Pentecost was also a time of baptism.

Many years ago, as a seminarian in Rome, I was told a story by one of the papal masters of ceremony for Paul VI.  This story has gotten around the web a bit, but I am the original teller in English.   I included it in The Wanderer and in the original Catholic Online Forum years ago, but it is worthy offering again The Novus Ordo – with so many changes to the liturgical calendar – went into effect with Advent in 1969.  When Pentecost of 1970 rolled around, Paul VI was surprised to find green vestments laid out for his morning Mass instead of the traditional red for the Octave of Pentecost.  When he asked about the unthinkable green vestments, he was told that it was now Ordinary Time.  The Pope responded "This is the Octave of Pentecost."  The reply came back that the Octave of Pentecost was abolished in the new calendar.  “Who did that?”, asked the Pope.  "You did, Your Holiness.  And Paul VI wept. 

You can listen to a PODCAzT for the Octave which I made last year.

As the old song says, "Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone…"

Well…. I know what we’ve lost, at least in the Novus Ordo.   People will make the observation that in the modern Ordo there is a reference to options to observe something like an Octave… but…

Let’s have a look at the Collect for today’s Mass of Pentecost Monday.

Deus, qui Apostolis tuis
Sanctum dedisti Spiritum:
concede plebi tuae piae petitionis effectum;
ut, quibus dedisti fidem, largiaris et pacem

I found this prayer in the 8th c. Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis

I like that elegant splitting of Spiritum Sanctum with dedisti.

Our trusty Lewis & Short reminds us that effectus, us, (efficio) means basically "a doing, effecting; execution, accomplishment, performance; with reference to the result of an action, an operation, effect, tendency, purpose".  Blaise & Dumas offers that effectus has to do with the "realization of a prayer".

O God, who gave the Holy Spirit to Your Apostles,
grant to Your people the realization of their dutiful petition,
that you may bestow also peace
upon those whom you have given faith

What immediately jumps into my mind are the references to peace in the ordinary of the Mass and also in the moderm form for sacramental absolution.

Allow me to stretch to a connection, in view of the Roman Station.

Christ is our Lord and Liberator.  After His Ascension he sent our Counselor and Comforter.

Together, under the eternal aegis of the Father, the Son and the Spirit bring us from bondage to freedom, anxiety to peace.  We need not fear our judgment.

This is accomplished through the ministry and mediation of the Church.

As a People who are members of Christ’s Body the Church we approach God’s mercy with a sense of filial duty, petitioning both the immediate effect of Christ’s merits and also the long-term effect of heavenly peace.

In the words of the Church’s worship, Christ Himself strikes from our limbs the heavy chains of our oppression.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in EASTER, SESSIUNCULA, WDTPRS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. John Repsher says:

    In your translation, couldn’t piae modify plebi “your faithful people”? The
    ambiguity, though, is one of the things that makes Latin so beautiful.

  2. Victor says:

    In the german speaking regions, Pentecost Monday is not only a secular holiday, but also a religious holy day of obligation, with its proper texts AND liturgical colour red! Can you say something about these propers? Where did they come from, since they seem not to be the old pre-1962 ones.
    You can find them here, btw.: http://tinyurl.com/l5tbrf

  3. Supertradmom says:

    Father Z, why was this octave dropped? Why was Corpus Christi and the Ascension changed to Sunday? Why did we drop Rogation and Ember Days? Why are there so few Holy Days of Obligation? I do not understand these changes. If there was ever a century which needed more days of prayer and reflection, is it the 21st century. All the dropped observances should be reinstated, and quickly, for all of our benefits. Can one imagine our Jewish brothers and sisters dropping Hanukkah or the Muslims dropping Ramada because of “inconvenience”, which was a reason given to me by a parish priest?

  4. Ohio Annie says:

    supertradmom, the changes were made because people no longer live and work in a limited area. most people commute quite a way both to church and work (meaning, outside walking distance). the change was made to make it more likely for someone to get to church on Ascension Day, for example. gone are the days when we walked to work and to church in our little towns and neighborhoods. for example, my parish has people from over 50 zip codes.

  5. Frank H. says:

    Does anyone publish a liturgical calendar featuring both the 1962 and the current calendar side by side?

  6. Ken says:

    Ohio Annie — The whole world suddenly moved in the last forty years? No, it got lazy.

    Your argument would have some merit if not for the personal parishes, SSPX chapels and other traditional Catholic locations that attract many people from great distances on the actual feast day, not the rounded-off pretend day.

  7. Frank H. says:

    Ken, I agree. Among the most well attended Masses I have seen in recent years is the Ash Wednesday evening Mass, not even a holy Day of obligation.

    If the faithful see it as important, they will come!

  8. Fr. Mike says:

    Ash Wednesday is also our most popular day. I commented this year that my parish is an “A and P” crowd as opposed to a “C and E” crowd. We get bigger crowds for Ashes and Palms than for Christmas and Easter… I guess they want to take something home with them (other than the Body of Christ).

  9. Ohio Annie says:

    actually, the whole world didn’t get lazy or move in the last 40 years. you are being snotty and arrogant on purpose i know but the point is that the major demographic shift in the US has coincided with the mobile, car-owning, suburban family. and this has happened mostly in the last 60 years, which is when the Church started changing some things. the Church in her wisdom wants to make it possible for people to take part in her rites who otherwise would be unable to.

    I know you want to think you are not lazy and that makes you superior, but think of the circumstances of other people. Not everyone lives in the same circumstances.

  10. GJP says:

    The thing that bugs me about Corpus Christi being moved to Sunday (and I know this is not germane to the original topic, but I bring it up because someone else did, and I don’t feel like waiting until the actual day) is that the move was made so that more people could experience Corpus Christi. Which, if you think about it, is a good thing. More people should experience Corpus Christi, the procession, and all the associated activities which strengthen the belief in the Real Presence.

    Except (in my diocese, at least…and I’m sure mine isn’t the only one), what has happened is that by moving Corpus Christi to Sunday, it has become just another Sunday. Now, even “just another Sunday” is a beautiful event, because every Mass, now matter how simple, is our way to experience Heaven on Earth (and if it isn’t, it should be). But, what I mean to say is, that it is “just another Sunday” because there is no procession, no blessing with the monstrance, etc. And what we are left with is a diminished Corpus Christi.

    In my opinion, we might as well move it back to Thursday if the day is going to be treated like that.

  11. AP says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf

    Please explane why Sanctum Spiritum is split by
    the verb dedisti. I have noticed this also in
    other phrases such as, “magna cum laude”; even with
    the address of a cardinal, e.g. John Cardinal Smith.
    I have not been able to come up with an answer;
    perhaps you can shed some light on it.


  12. AP: Please explane why Sanctum Spiritum is split by the verb dedisti.

    It sounds nice!

    magna cum laude” is similar, but the honorific title Cardinal is not.

  13. crazylikeknoxes says:

    Fr. Z: Not to fear judgment is a difficult thing.

    Frank H.: TAN Publishers produces a Saints Calendar and Daily Planner with both the new and traditional feast days, etc. indicated, as well as “historical” feasts (those not included in the new and post-1962 traditional calendars).

  14. Simon Platt says:

    Annie, Annie!

    It’s not just in the States that the church has made these changes, and they are not all about the distance you or others have to travel to mass. And, besides, one might make the contrary argument that vehicularisation makes access to mass much easier than in the past. There have been many relaxations of religious obligation over the last forty or fifty years and many of them had nothing to do with travelling. The relaxation of the rules on fasting and abstinence, including the eucharistic fast, is one example, and the ember days and octaves which Supertradmom mentioned were never to my knowledge of obligation.

    I’m with Supertradmom and others who feel let down by our bishops in this respect.

    I notice that I wrote that there have been “many relaxations in obligation”, but actually, it’s worse than that. These relaxations in religious obligation are actually obstacles to religious practice in many cases.

  15. †JMJ† says:

    Ohio Annie – your explanations seems to be lacking logic for a number of reasons. As some of the other posters explained, Ash Wednesday is one of the most well attended days of the year. Secondly, while people may live in greater distances, there are many other parishes for the most part that can be attended that are closer to work. While my own parish is closer to home, I have 2 or 3 that are very close to the office. Or they can go in the evening at 7 or 8 o’clock. Finally, what happens on all the other Holy Days of Obligation? We already know that Ash Wednesday is well attended, do all the other days (Circumcision, Assumption, All Saints & Immaculate Conception) have to be changed to Sunday too because of your logic? At my parish they are all very well attended.

  16. Derik says:

    It’s the first time I read that story about Pope Paul VI. Thanks for sharing

  17. Mary Kay says:

    Apples and oranges. For what my two cents is worth, I’d like to see Ascension and Corpus Christi moved back to their real day. But “lazy” doesn’t apply to any one group. The pastor of my neighborhood (dissident) parish has been heard to be in favor of moving the days of obligation to Sunday.

    As to the original topic, the current lectionary ends the Easter season with Pentecost, called the birthday of the Church, the beginning of “going out to all the nations.” In the newer calendar, the Acts of the Apostles is read in its entirety with the progression from immediate post-Resurrection, focus on Jerusalem to gradual focus on the rest of the world with Paul’s journeys. In the octave of Christmas, the daily readings – or at least the first three days – are the same in both Missals. In the octave of Easter (new calendar), the weekly readings are the Resurrection appearances. But to have an octave of Pentecost in the new calendar would mean extending the Easter season. What would the daily readings be in an octave of Pentecost? What say you, Fr. Z?

    btw, the following website has both calendars, but not side-by-side:


  18. Geoffrey says:

    I find it odd that in the Extraordinary Form, the Octave of Pentecost, an extension of the Sunday celebration, includes the Ember Days this week. I thought the rule was no penitential days/practices on Sundays (octaves extending the Sunday).

  19. crazylikeknoxes says:

    Geoffrey: I think it is a solemnity, as opposed to the octave, which suspends the obligation of penance. E.g. the solemnity of Easter extends for a week, thus one could eat meat on the Friday after Easter.

  20. Nathan says:

    Geoffrey, that’s a really interesting question! I would like to know how the summer Ember Days were made part of the Octave of Pentecost–the Catholic Encyclopedia online does seem to indicate that the practice is ancient.

    In Christ,

  21. Argon says:

    Isn’t Whit Monday a popular wedding day in some European countries?

  22. father m says:

    In my (highly fallible!) understanding, in the ancient Church the Easter season was simply called “the season of Pentecost” or “the fifty days” which were kept as one long Sunday. The day of Pentecost, the fiftieth day, brought about a completion of the mystery of Easter. The mystical number of seven is repeated seven times over in the seven weeks of Easter, in which the Church celebrates her seven Sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then crowns her celebration of Easter on the fiftieth day. In both East and West the reading of the Acts of the Apostles during “the days of Pentecost” — the fifty days following Easter — was a tradition well-established certainly by the time of St. John Chrysostom’s sermons at Antioch (late fourth century).

    Pentecost is itself a day which “repeats” and refers back to Easter Sunday, completing the Paschal Mystery…therefore it would not seem to make “liturgical” sense to have an octave — Pentecost has already been celebrated for 50 days previously. The octave of Pentecost was one of those additions which were legitimately removed at the time of the liturgical reform of Paul VI, so as to restore the more ancient tradition of the Roman Rite, which kept the week following Pentecost as a week of fasting with the Ember Days, which would seem to pre-date and be somewhat at odds with the celebration of any octave of Pentecost.

    That’s my take on it…can any one else confirm or deny my understanding or shed light on the origin of the Octave of Pentecost? I am very interested!!

  23. Fr. Brian Hurley says:

    Fr. Z…

    may I reprint all or most of this blog? I would like to at least reprint the story of Pope Paul VI weeping. I have a number of parishioners that were fooled after Vatican II about the changes and this would give them some insight into some of the abuses or changes that were railroaded through that were not necessarily the intention of the Holy Father.


    Fr. Brian Hurley

  24. Geoffrey says:

    Father M:

    Makes a lot of sense to me!

Comments are closed.