Roles of the Sacristan: The Calendar

Carmel Bulletin, 2 August 2015

The role of the sacristan, or of the group of volunteers who attend to the work of the sacristy, is an important ministry in any parish.  These ministers not only assist the priest, but support the entire assembly to participate fully, consciously and actively in liturgical celebrations.

There are many responsibilities that are carried out by sacristans.  Books like The Sacristy Manual (by G Thomas Ryan) outline their tasks and give advice regarding the traditions, customs and practices they need to be familiar with.

One responsibility of the sacristan is to ensure that the liturgical calendar for the parish is observed and implemented on a daily basis.

The liturgical calendar gives details on the feast days to be observed throughout the year, and specifies the readings, prayers, liturgical colours and specific rituals to be used

This will often require some coordination with the parish priest and the parish office.  Sacristans use the liturgical calendar issued by the Australian Bishops (and in our parish, the Carmelite calendar issued by the Province as well) to ensure that the correct prayers, readings and coloured vestments are arranged and prepared for the celebration.

Ashes prepared for Ash Wednesday Mass

Some feast days allow for, or even require the celebration of particular rituals.  These need to be noted and considered well in advance, as sacristans may need to ensure that items are prepared for them.  Imagine celebrating Ash Wednesday without ashes!  As crazy as it sounds, it can easily happen if sacristans are not paying attention to the liturgical calendar and are caught unawares.

Other sacramental celebrations, events and unexpected celebrations such as funerals are inevitably added to the liturgical schedule of a parish.  Some are known well in advance, others come with only a few days’ notice.  Sacristans need to be aware of these as well to ensure that all is ready.  These are often occasions that bring many visitors to our church, and good preparation helps ensure that visitors feel welcome.

Sundays and Feast Days

Carmel Bulletin, 26 October 2014

calendarThere have been several feast days this year that have fallen on Sunday, and have taken the place of a Sunday in Ordinary Time.  These feasts have been determined by the universal Church to be of such importance that they should be observed even when they fall on a Sunday.

This usually cannot occur during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.  For example, even though the feast days of St Patrick and St Joseph are of great significance in the Australian liturgical calendar, they fall during Lent, meaning they cannot replace the Sunday feast.  Instead, they are celebrated on the next possible day.  This happened last year, when St Patrick’s Day was observed on Monday 18 March.

Certain feasts, however, do take the place of Sundays in Ordinary Time.  This has happened more often than usual this year, with the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul (29 June) and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14 September) falling on Sundays.  It will continue for the next two Sundays, when we will observe the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls, 2 November) and the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (9 November).

It is not typical for us to put aside the prescribed Sunday celebration because of the centrality of the Lord’s Day to our lives as Christians; the day of the resurrection.  Thus the Vatican document, General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (1969) says that “Sunday must be ranked as the first holyday of all” (article 4).

The Church, however, also provides for the celebration of feast days that it believes to be of great importance and benefit to the people.

Because of its special importance, the Sunday celebration gives way only to solemnities or feasts of the Lord. The Sundays of the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, however, take precedence over all solemnities and feasts of the Lord

General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, article 5.

Image credit: By Itzuvit (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons