Rorate Caeli

Canonical Commentary on the New Pontifical Decrees On Saints' Days and New Prefaces in the Traditional Missal (by Fr. Albert Marcello)

Cum Sanctissima and Quo Magis: A Canonical Commentary

by the Rev. Fr. Albert P. Marcello, III, J.C.D. (Cand.)

On 22 February 2020, two decrees, each issued along with a nota praevia, were issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith touching upon the celebration of the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite. The first decree, entitled Cum Sanctissima, deals with the question of the liturgical celebration of saints canonized subsequent to the issuance of the original 1962 liturgical books. The second decree, entitled Quo Magis, makes provision for seven (7) ad libitum prefaces to be permitted for usage in the Extraordinary Form. It should be noted that since the motu proprio of Pope Francis issued 17 January 2019[1], the same Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith enjoys competency for such matters which formerly were under the jurisdiction of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.

Both of these decrees should be seen to respond to the desires of Pope Benedict XVI as noted in Con grande fiducia, the nota explicativa accompanying the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum: “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.”[2] Universae Ecclesiae, the 30 April 2011 instruction which itself offered considerable guidance on the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, decreed: “New saints and certain of the new prefaces can and furthermore ought to be inserted into the older Missal, according to provisions which will be laid down imminently.”[3] Nearly nine years later, legislation has appeared from the Holy See on this matter.

One over-arching principle should be made very clear in discussing both of these decrees: the changes which have been implemented by these two (2) decrees are optional. No forma extraordinaria celebrant is being compelled to make any changes to the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 liturgical books. In a certain sense, the liturgical books of 1962 are being left as they are. This having been said, it is worth recalling, as the nota praevia for Cum Sanctissima likewise notes, up to and including the promulgation of the 1960 Codex Rubricarum, a number of Proprium Sanctorum Pro Aliquibus Locis (PSPAL) were included in the Missale Romanum. These Masses will be referred to in the nota praevia as well as in Cum Sanctissima itself.

1. Cum Sanctissima

Pope Francis approved of this decree on 5 December 2019 and ordered it to be published in an audience that same day with Luis Cardinal Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On 22 February 2020, the decree was promulgated, and came into effect on 19 March 2020.

The nota praevia gives an interesting perspective into the studies undertaken to implement these changes. Four (4) criteria were employed in the construction of this decree: 1) the existing high number of III class feasts in the 1960 calendar; 2) repercussions of any changes; 3) the desire for a harmony between the celebration of the Mass and the Divine Office; and 4) what specific texts would be used.

The intent of this particular decree is to broaden the scope of Rubricae Generalis Missalis Romani [RGMR] 302-c. RGMR 301 defines a festive Mass as “The Mass of a feast, in the proper sense, is understood to be the Mass of the mystery, saint or blessed celebrated according to the order of the office.” The subsequent number, 302-c, broadens this definition as being “the Mass of a mystery, saint or blessed whose entry is given on that day in the martyrology or in an appendix to the martyrology approved for the respective churches.”

The decree is very careful as well concerning the choice of sources for the liturgical texts for these new saints. In only enumerating three openings to change within Universae Ecclesiae 24-26, it appears that the Supreme Legislator wishes to take a cautious (some might say conservative) approach to altering the 1962 liturgical texts. And a conservative approach is very evidently taken by both decrees: first, the liturgical texts should be taken from the existing 1962 liturgical books, if possible – specifically, the Proprium Sanctorum Pro Aliquibus Locis; secondly, from a future supplement to be published by the Holy See; and third, from the Commune Sanctorum if neither of the two (2) above options are possible. This, in some ways, echoes what is already legally in force in RGMR 305, allowing the celebrant the option for a festive Mass to choose the Mass formulary from the Common, as well as for the Epistle and Gospel, if there are options provided in the same Commune Sanctorum. Interestingly, there are certain feast days, such as St. Ambrose on 7 December, which provide a Mass in the Proprium de Sanctis and which provide a different Mass in the Proprium Sanctorum Pro Aliquibus Locis.

Seventy (70) III class feast days in the forma extraordinaria calendar are not to be impeded by any new saints. The rationale is that these saints enjoy a special role in the liturgical calendar on the basis of the following: “the importance of these respective Saints in the Plan of Salvation or in the history of the Church, their importance in terms of either the devotion they have generated or their writings, or the antiquity of their worship in Rome.”[4]

The decree itself cites not only Mediator Dei of Pius XII, but also Benedict XIV’s regulations on the canonization of saints, stressing that these saints should be honored by all men since they are saints in the presence of Almighty God. It likewise indicates that this question, which was taken up by the former Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, has been treated now by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, as noted above, recently assumed that Pontifical Commission’s responsibilities.

A process of consultation also is cited in this decree, which involved experts who are tied to the celebration of the usus antiquior, as well as representatives from religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. Concessions of calendars or particular feasts previously made by the Apostolic See to religious communities remain intact.

[1] Missa festiva latiore sensu (cf. RGMR 302) celebrari potest iusta de causa omnibus diebus festis III classis (iis exceptis de quibus inferius sub n. 8) necnon in vigiliis de Sanctis III classis.

As no. 1 of the decree notes, the festal Masses (in the broader sense, as described by RGMR 302) can be celebrated on any III class feast or III class vigil of a saint. It should be noted, as footnote 2 of the nota praevia states, that in the 1960 Codex Rubricarum, only one such III class vigil day remains, which is the vigil of St. Lawrence on 9 August.

[2] Praeterea, quod attinet ad RGMR 302 c), permittitur etiam Missa cuiuslibet Sancti Catalogo Sanctorum post diem XXVI mensis Iulii a. D. MCMLX ascripti, eo nempe die quo memoriam liturgicam eiusdem ab Ecclesia Universa recoli statutum est. Missa autem votiva eiusdem item permittitur ad normam RGMR 311, servatis aliis rubricis de Missis votivis.

No. 2 notes that any saint canonized after 26 July 1960 may be celebrated on the day on which the Universal Church celebrates that saint. Votive Masses may be celebrated of such saints, according to the norms laid down in RGMR 311: “It is permissible to celebrate as votive Masses of saints the Masses of any canonized saint having an entry in the Roman martyrology, or in an appendix to the martyrology approved for the respective churches.”

[3] Quotiens dicitur Missa festiva latiore sensu, integrum Officium divinum cum Missa concordans absolvi potest, velut Officium ordinarium (RGBR 169).

No. 3 indicates that whenever such a festive Mass in the broad sense is celebrated, the entire course of the Divine Office for the day can be completed in honor of that saint as the ordinary Office, making reference to the Rubricae Generalis Breviarii Romani 169, which provides the ordering of the Divine Office on III class feasts and the Officium de S. Maria in Sabbato.

[4] Commemoratio ordinaria de festo aut vigilia omissa iuxta ea quae in nn. 1-3 statuuntur semper fit cum aliis commemorationibus occurrentibus iuxta rubricas, servata RG 111 d).

No. 4 provides for the commemoration of the impeded feast from the original 1960 calendar if this option is being used. It should take place according to the rules for other commemorations, specifically as provided in Rubricae Generales 111, but particularly section d, which notes that “on 3rd and 4th class liturgical days, only two commemorations are admitted.”

[5] Ad formulam Missae et Officii secundum suprascriptas ordinationes eligendam, nisi habetur in Proprio Sanctorum pro aliquibus locis Missalis Romani anni MCMLXII vel in eius novo Supplemento a S. Sede approbato, sumitur de Communi Missalis vel Breviarii. Quotiens in eodem Communi plures exstant formulae, electio fit ad libitum celebrantis. Formulae autem quae recensentur in praedicto Proprio Sanctorum vel Supplemento adhiberi debent eo die quo in iis habetur.

No. 5 offers guidance concerning the liturgical formulae which are to be used for such saints. It is clear that the decree is establishing a preference as to what formulae should be used, as described above in the nota praevia: those which are found in the Proprium Sanctorum Pro Aliquibus Locis or in the forthcoming Supplement from the Holy See should be used on that day where they are found (adhiberi debent eo die quo in iis habetur). Only then, if there is no proper formulary, should the celebrant then use the formulae found in the Commune Sanctorum, and if there is a choice, the discretion is left to the celebrant.

[6] Commemoratio praeterea ordinaria ad libitum celebrantis admitti potest de Sancto vel Mysterio eo die quo recensetur in Proprio Sanctorum pro aliquibus locis vel in novo Supplemento tam in Missa quam in Officio diebus liturgicis III vel IV classis, servata RG 111 d).

No. 6 extends some liberty to the celebrant to make a commemoration of a saint found in the PSPAL or in the forthcoming Supplement. For instance, one could theoretically celebrate the Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on 27 June (a Mass found in the PSPAL) and commemorate St. Joseph Cafasso, whose Mass formulary is found on the subsequent page in the PSPAL. Another instance could be if the celebrant were to choose to celebrate the Mass of St. Leonard of Port Maurice on 26 November, he could also, ad libitum, commemorate St. Sylvester and St. Peter of Alexandria in that Mass, according to the rubrics.

[7] In domibus institutorum religiosorum vel societatum vitae apostolicae superiori domus, haud celebranti, competit decernere modum fruendi his ordinationibus in missa conventuali necnon in officio choraliter vel communiter celebrato.

No. 7 is addressed mainly to religious institutes and societies of apostolic life (for instance, communities such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter or Institute of Christ the King), and notes that it pertains to the superior of the house (and not at all the celebrant of the Mass – haud celebranti) to determine in which way these regulations should be applied at the conventual Mass, as well as in the Office celebrated either in choir or in common.

[8] Dies festi III classis qui his ordinationibus neque impediri neque omitti possunt enumerantur in sequenti tabella. Dieta [sic] festa celebrari possunt etiam in feriis III classis Quadragesimae et Passionis, facta commemoratione feriae iuxta rubricas.

No. 8 indicates the listing of seventy (70) liturgical days which cannot be impeded by the celebration of new saints. However, in an interesting change of perspective from the 1960 Codex Rubricarum, which (in general) tended to privilege the ferial days in seasons such as Lent and Passiontide over what would have been III class feasts, these new feasts may be celebrated during those aforementioned seasons, with a commemoration of the feria.

2. Quo Magis

In this decree and its accompanying nota praevia, seven (7) new prefaces are given official recognition for usage in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite. It is affirmed, as was mentioned above concerning the decree Cum Sanctissima, that this study was carried out in order to safeguard the wishes of Pope Benedict XVI that the 1962 liturgical books could be enriched with various new prefaces, in addition to the approval of the celebrations of new saints as mentioned in section 1 of this commentary. 

This decree is described in its latter sections as being promulgated simultaneously with the decree Cum Sanctissima, which is understandable given the very similar subject matter and intent. It describes the same process of consultation of experts and approval granted by the Supreme Legislator to this decree, and indicates that these seven (7) new prefaces may be used according to the rubrics.

The nota praevia indicates the historical development of the prefaces in the sacred liturgy during the twentieth century, namely that prefaces were introduced for occasional celebrations rather than for the temporal cycle. Indeed, the latest preface formally introduced into the Missale Romanum and not merely pro aliquibus locis would be the Praefatio Defunctorum, now over a century in use.

Four (4) of these new prefaces are found in the forma ordinaria, namely the prefaces for the martyrs, for the angels, for St. John the Baptist, and for weddings. The other three (3) prefaces, previously conceded to the dioceses of France and Belgium, are those for the dedication of a church, for the Blessed Sacrament, and of the saints and holy patrons.

A Preface of St. John the Baptist in the 1963 Praefationes Propriae Ad Usum Omnium Dioecesium Galliae is found in the 1963 Maison Mame altar missal[5] as well as the popular Baronius Press 1962 Latin-English hand missal. This, however, is not identical with the preface for St. John the Baptist found in the forma ordinaria Missale Romanum. A side-by-side comparison notes:

Praefationes pro Gallia 1963
Forma Ordinaria 2002[6]
Et tuam in beáto Ioánne Baptísta Præcursóre magnificéntiam collaudáre, qui vocem Matris Dómini nondum éditus sensit, et adhuc clauso útero, advéntum salútis humánæ prophética exsulatióne significávit.  Qui et genetricis sterilitátem concéptus ábstulit, et patris linguam natus absólvit, solúsque ómnium prophetárum Redemptórem mundi, quem prænuntiávit, osténdit.  Et ut sacrae purificatiónis efféctum aquárum natúra concíperet, sanctificándis Iordánis fluéntis, ipsum baptísmo baptísmatis lavit auctórem.
In cuius Præcursóre beáto Ioánne tuam magnificéntiam collaudámus, quem inter natos mulíerum honóre præcípuo consecrásti. Qui cum nascéndo multa gáudia præstitísset, et nondum éditus exsultásset ad humánæ salútis advéntum, ipse solus ómnium prophetárum Agnum redemptiónis osténdit. Sed et sanctificándis étiam aquæ fluéntis ipsum baptísmatis lavit auctórem, et méruit fuso sánguine suprémum illi testimónium exhibére.

The Maison Mame editions also use a different preface De Sanctissimo Sacramento from that which was published in the Benziger, Desclée or Pustet editions[7]. Juxtaposing the embolisms of these prefaces will provide some contrast:

Mame 1963
Benziger 1963, Desclée 1960, Pustet 1964
Verum aeternumque Pontificem, et solum sine peccati macula Sacerdotem. Qui in novissima cena formam sacrificii perennis instituens, hostiam se tibi primus obtulit, et primus docuit offeri. Cuius carne pro nobis immolata, dum pascimur, roboramur; et fuso sanguine, dum potamur, abluimur.
Qui remótis carnálium victimárum inánibus umbris, Corpus et Sánguinem suum nobis in sacrifícium commendávit: ut in omni loco offerátur nómini tuo, quae tibi sola complácuit, oblátio munda. In hoc ígitur inscrutábilis sapientiae, et imménsae caritátis mystério, idípsum quod semel in Cruce perfécit, non cessat mirabíliter operári, ipse ófferens, ipse et oblátio. Et nos, unam secum hóstiam effectos, ad sacrum ínvitat convívium, in quo ipse cibus noster súmitur, recólitur memória Passiónis eius, mens implétur grátia, et futúrae glóriae nobis pignus datur.

Given the concession of these various prefaces even before the reform of the liturgical books, it appears clear that the favor granting usage of these prefaces should be interpreted broadly, as a positive concession. Indeed, the nota praevia itself states that “the Decree does not cancel any eventual concessions of proper Prefaces granted in the past, and therefore in those particular cases where there already exists, on the basis of preceding permissions, and for the same liturgical circumstance, a different particular Preface, one may choose between that Preface and the newly approved text.” Again, pastoral common sense and prudence are encouraged. In that same forma extraordinaria Missale Romanum, published by Maison Mame in 1963, there also remains one (1) additional preface, De S. Fundatore Ecclesiae Dioecesanae. This preface, though not specifically mentioned in the decree or the nota praevia, would appear to fall under this latter indication that permission already exists on the basis of preceding permissions.

This final statement of the nota praevia concerning previous permissions is worth exploring. For purposes of considering the harmonization of the discipline surrounding the forma extraordinaria in existence between 1962 and 1965 with that in existence today, it is important to demonstrate that there existed many privileges and indults which are thus foreseen in current disciplinary law. At the same time, however, it should be noted that these are singular administrative acts, which under CIC/83 c. 36, §2, should not be extended further than those cases to which they are granted. Indeed, many of these provisions were granted – especially as decennial faculties to the mission countries – for a time. A complete description of such privileges and indults would be outside of the scope of this brief paper. If the complex of laws surrounding the 1962 liturgical books has been reinvigorated, it appears that an argument could be made that these faculties could still be invoked.

This author is the supervisor and co-founder of “The Divinum Officium Project”, which preserves the work of the late Laszlo Kiss in offering a web-based Breviarium et Missale Romanum according to various rubrical structures. The options available are the 1570 books, those immediately prior to the reforms of St. Pius X, the Divino Afflatu code of rubrics, the 1955 reductions envisaged by Cum hac nostra aetate, and the 1960 Codex Rubricarum. One of the breviary options available on the site is the “1960 New Calendar” rubrical structure. Using this option enables users to pray the Divine Office according to the 1960 rubrics, but with newly-canonized saints as well as proper saints for the United States of America. This rubrical structure on the website “implements a variety of new saints from the United States particular calendar in use in 1960, as well as some recent saints (i.e. Saint Padre Pio). Offices not found in the Extraordinary Form are created from the Common of Saints. Memorial offices are implemented as III class feasts.[8] Furthermore, this rubrical structure already respects the provision of Cum Sanctissima no. 4, since “If two saints are assigned for the same day, the newer feast in the calendar is chosen, with a commemoration of the 1960 feast.”[9]

Fr. Albert P. Marcello, III, J.C.D. (Cand.) is a priest of the diocese of Providence and tribunal official of several dioceses, including his own. He is also a doctoral candidate in canon law at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.

[1] “The tasks of the Commission in question are assigned entirely to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, within which will be established a special Section committed to continue the work of supervision, promotion and protection conducted thus far by the decommissioned Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.” Francis, apostolic letter given motu proprio “On the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’”. Available online at: (accessed 25 March 2020).
[2] Benedict XVI, Epistola ad Episcopos ad producendas Litteras Apostolicas motu proprio datas, de Usu Liturgiae Romanae Instaurationi anni 1970 praecedentis, AAS 99 (2007) 797.
[3] Pontificia Commissionis “Ecclesia Dei”. “Instructio ‘Universae Ecclesiae’ ad exsequendas Litteras Apostolicas ‘Summorum Pontificum’ a S.S. Benedicto PP. XVI Motu Proprio datas (30.04.2011)” in AAS 103 (2011) 413-420, no. 25.
[4]    Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Note for the Presentation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Decree Cum sanctissima on the liturgical celebration in honour of Saints in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, 25.03.2020.” Available online at: (accessed 25 March 2020).
[5]    Missale Romanum. Editio iuxta typicam. Tours: Mame, 1963.
[6]    Missale Romanum ex decreto Sacrosanti Œcumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum auctoritate Pauli PP. VI promul- gatum editum Ioannis Pauli PP. II cura recognitum. Editio typica tertia, 2002. Available online at:, p. 458.
[7]    Missale Romanum. Editio iuxta typicam. New York: Benziger, 1963. Missale Romanum. Editio iuxta typicam. Tournai: Desclée, 1960. Missale Romanum. Editio iuxta typicam. Regensburg: Pustet, 1964.
[8]    The Divinum Officium Project. “Divinum Officium Versions”. Available online at (accessed 25 March 2020).
[9]    Ibid.