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CNP Feedback - Rite of Crowning an Image of the BVM

The Coronation of the BVM Q. Dear CNP:

My parish would like to celebrate the Rite of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary on or near the beginning of the month of May, or perhaps on Mother's Day. We would prefer to do this within the context of Sunday Mass, if it is permissible. Item #9 in the Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary states that "The rite of crowning is fittingly held on solemnities and feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary or on other festive days. But the rite is not to be held on principal solemnities of the Lord or on days having a penitential character."

The Table of Liturgical Days according to their Order of Precedence distinguishes between Sundays of the Easter Season (Precedence I-2) and Solemnities of the Lord (Precedence I-3). This would seem to indicate that a Sunday of the Easter Season is not a Solemnity of the Lord. Is it therefore permissible to celebrate this Rite within the context of Sunday Mass, particularly if that Sunday falls during the Easter Season or happens to be Pentecost Sunday as Mother's Day is this year? I've noticed that many other parishes in the United States celebrate the Rite of Crowning on Mother's Day, but I want to be sure that it is permissible by the Church before mine does.

Crown Her with Many Crowns

A. Dear Crown:

There are several questions at issue here.

1. When is it best to celebrate the Rite of Crowning?

The Order indicates clearly that the best times to schedule a Rite of Crowning an Image of the BVM is on one of her solemnities or feasts (or by inference, on a Marian memorial or optional memorial or Saturday morning remembrance of the BVM).

2. If it is to be celebrated during Mass, on which days is it better not to include the Rite of Crowning (so as not to prejudice the major focus of the liturgy)?

The rubrics would have us avoid certain days, so as not to mix various liturgical themes within one Mass. The "rite is not to be held on principal solemnities of the Lord or on days having a penitential character." Obviously, during May the penitential days, like Advent and Lent, are not an issue. However, what exactly constitutes a "principal solemnity of the Lord"? Every Sunday of the year has a special rank, although they're not technically called "Solemnities of the Lord." Sundays during Ordinary Time have a rank II-6 on the Table of Precedence, such that even Feasts of the Lord outrank them, as do any Solemnities (of the Lord, of the BVM, or of the saints). This is why we'll celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (on June 29), even when this falls on a Sunday.

The pertinent question for us, though, is the rank of the Sundays of Eastertide. They are listed as I-2 in the table, of equal rank with Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension and Pentecost. "Solemnities of the Lord" are given the rank I-3.

When the rubrics indicate that the Rite of Crowning is to be avoided on "solemnities of the Lord," we can safely infer that this means to avoid those celebrations ranked higher in the Table of Precedence as well. Certainly, one wouldn't schedule the rite during the Easter Triduum, or on Christmas, or Epiphany. Days within the Octave of Easter and even Sundays of Eastertide surely fall in the category of "days to avoid," because on their high ranking in the table.

Even if one hoped to hedge a little on the prohibition against using the Rite of Crowning on an Eastertide Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost is even more clearly and specifically delineated in the table.

My informed opinion (although I'm neither a canon lawyer nor a "licensed liturgist") is that the Rite of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary should not be used on Pentecost Sunday, even if it coincides with Mother's Day. Remember, the Church is celebrating Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the close of the Easter season. Liturgically, the Church is unaware of "Mother's Day," which is a social holiday constructed in the United States only. Mention may certainly be made of Our Blessed Mother in the homily (she was present at the first Pentecost) and we should pray for our own mothers in the Prayer of the Faithful. This is not, however, a Marian feast, nor should ritual actions or musical emphases detract from the primary focus of the celebration.

3. What other options exist in May?

On May 11 (Mother's Day), the Rite of Crowning might much better be used during Solemn Vespers that evening. Vespers [Evening Prayer] always ends with the chanting of the Magnificat (the Canticle of the Blessed Virgin), and the Orderl for the Rite of Crowning includes a legitimate option for its use during Vespers. Another option for this day might be to schedule a period of Eucharistic Exposition (perhaps beginning after the Sunday evening Mass, if there is one). This could certainly end at night (maybe at 9:00 pm) with Compline [Night Prayer]. The conclusion of Compline is always a Marian antiphon (Regina caeli laetare during Eastertide), so the Rite of Crowning might conveniently be scheduled there. That would be a very fitting way to close the Easter season.

Scheduling the Rite of Crowing at a Pentecost Mass is less than desirable, and if none of the options above seems possible, there are other times during May when this Rite could be scheduled.

  • Tuesday, May 13, is the Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. Why not schedule an evening Mass and invite the Women's Club (or Altar Society, Christian Mothers, etc), the Knights of Columbus, the altar servers, the choir(s), the First Communion Class, to be part of a wonderful procession that evening, culminating in the Mass of Our Lady of Fatima and within it, the Rite of Crowning? 

  • Other dates when this Mass could be scheduled include Saturday mornings on May 17, May 24, or better, May 31 (the Feast of the Visitation of the BVM). 

  • If you'd like to keep the Rite of Crowning during Eastertide, any evening (Monday through Friday) of the week prior to Pentecost, that is May 5-9, has a rank III-13 — the lowest ranking on the table. A Votive Mass of the BVM could be celebrated on any of these days, with the festivity and ceremony that was mentioned above for the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima.

Thus, there are many possibilities in May to celebrate the Rite of Crowning in a liturgically pure and effective way. One needs to ponder whether the convenience of "having a large congregation" pastorally outweighs the rubrics of the rite. Pastors are occasionally given leeway in liturgical matters (for example, moving the parish feast day to the nearest Sunday in Ordinary Time, for the good of the people). Does such "pastoral prerogative" apply here. I would suggest not.

Having said all that, one must still make a judgment based on local situations (keeping in mind universal norms). I live in a diocese in which the bishop has requested that a Marian hymn be sung at every liturgy he celebrates when visiting a parish, including Confirmation! This caused me to write a hymn linking the themes of Mary and the Holy Spirit — using the Annunciation and Pentecost as my Scriptural references.

Liturgy is not always easy, either in its planning or its implementation. I hope this little treatise has been helpful to you in your thinking.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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