A Pentecost Monday lesson

It was a terrible mistake to eliminate the Octave of Pentecost in the Novus Ordo.

It could be restored.


Years ago I told this Pentecost Monday tale and it has made the rounds.  It has made the rounds everywhere, but I am the origin of the anecdote, which I published years ago in the pages of The Wanderer and also on the now defunct Catholic Online Forum in its Compuserve days.  (Remember Compuserve? I’ve been at this since 1992.) Lots of people have picked it up.

It bears repetition.

This stands as a lesson for what happens when we lose sight of continuity.

Take this for what it may be worth.

Some years ago … gosh, it was decades now… I was told this story by a retired Papal Ceremoniere (Master of Ceremonies) who, according to him, was present at the event about to be recounted.

You probably know that in the traditional Roman liturgical calendar the mighty feast of Pentecost had its own Octave.  Pentecost was/is a grand affair indeed, liturgically speaking.  It has a proper Communicantes and Hanc igitur, an Octave, a Sequence, etc. In some places in the world such as Germany and Austria Pentecost Monday, Whit Monday as the English call it, was a reason to have a civil holiday, as well as a religious observance.

The Novus Ordo went into force with Advent in 1969.

The Monday after Pentecost in 1970, His Holiness Pope Paul VI went to the chapel for Holy Mass. Instead of the red vestments, for the Octave everyone knows follows Pentecost, there were laid out for him vestments of green.

Paul queried the MC assigned for that day, “What on earth are these for?  This is the Octave of Pentecost!  Where are the red vestments?”

Santità,” quoth the MC, “this is now Tempus ‘per annum’.  It is green, now. The Octave of Pentecost was abolished.”

“Green? That cannot be!”, said the Pope, “Who did that?”

“Holiness, you did.”

And Paul VI wept.


[And now it’s another thing: HERE]

For more on that era check these PODCAzTs:

093 09-11-16 40 years ago… Paul VI on the eve of the Novus Ordo
094 09-11-20 40 years ago… Paul VI on the eve of the Novus Ordo (Part II)
095 09-11-24 40 years ago… Paul VI on the eve of the Novus Ordo (Part III)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Iacobus Mil says:

    “It could be restored.”

    And should be restored!

  2. Geoffrey says:

    Was St Paul VI so aloof that he did not know what he was signing? I never had that impression, but what do I know.

    I recently noticed that in the Ordinary Form, Ascensiontide is devoted to praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which is reminiscent of the very first novena. Meanwhile in the Extraordinary Form, Ascensiontide is devoted to the Ascension, with the Octave of Pentecost being devoted to the Holy Spirit.

    After praying the Liturgy of the Hours for about 20 years, I recently changed to the Divine Office in the Extraordinary Form. That Pentecost is still being talked about on Monday, instead of coming to an abrupt end on Sunday, is very interesting to experience. I make no judgement on one being better than the other, but the differences are quite stark.

  3. Pingback: Sacred Music: The Pentecost Sequence (Gregorian Chant)

  4. Fr. Youngtrad says:

    I’m under the impression this story couldn’t have taken place, as Pentecost Monday in 1970 was feast of Pope St John 1. Perhaps Tuesday?

  5. Boniface says:

    The book _I Met Paul VI: the Pope By Those Who Knew Him_, edited by Archbishop Rino Fisichella (appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the first President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization) contains direct quotes from correspondence between St. Paul VI and Archbishop Bugnini in which the Holy Father discusses the question of the Pentecost Octave in the Novus Ordo, expressing his surprise to Bugnini at his proposition of its removal, but then indicates in another letter that he understands the logic behind the decision and finds it acceptable.

    Also, another poster here once commented that the Ordo for the diocese of Rome on that first post-Novus Ordo “Pentecost Monday” in May 1970 indicated only two liturgical color options: red and white, since it was also the memorial of a pope-martyr, and those are always celebrated in Rome.

    With all respect, this story about Paul VI – who was widely known to be a meticulous man, especially with paperwork – signing off on a missal he hadn’t read, then weeping in surprise afterward, cannot possibly be true.

  6. Josephus Corvus says:

    If one is dismayed at the results of the actions that one has taken, why would one not immediately take steps to undo those actions?

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    “It was a terrible mistake to eliminate the Octave of Pentecost in the Novus Ordo.

    “It could be restored.”


    ““Green? That cannot be!”, said the Pope, “Who did that?”

    ““Holiness, you did.”

    “And Paul VI wept.”

    Yes, it could be restored. It requires Leadership (or Management or Supervision). In other words, restoration requires a Shepherd with some backbone and faith.

    Matthew 8:

    [8] And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. [9] For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. [10] And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel…[13] And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.

    In addition to clear commands and a professional demeanor, another leadership principle is developing and supporting subordinates.

    This principle should apply to Dubia (a request for clarification submitted to the Vatican). The Dubia submitted in 2016 by four Cardinals to the Vatican remain unanswered. The refusal to answer the Dubia creates an atmosphere of anarchy, and the refusal to clarify can be reasonably interpreted as further evidence that the current “Shepherd” is merely an autocrat who prefers sycophants rather than subordinates.

    The consequence of such a “leader” not guarding doctrine and tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15), and who is disdainful of the fact that he, too, is under authority, is that the organization will gradually transform into a mere personality cult, marketing brand, or warehouse for the latest fads and fashions.

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