Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Approval of the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the New General Roman Calendar (Mysterii paschalis)

by Pope Saint Paul VI


The motu proprio of Paul VI for the reform of the Liturgical calendar for the Western Church in 1969, and implemented in the United States in 1972. See also the document General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (GNLYC).

Publisher & Date

Vatican Polyglot Press, Rome, Italy, February 14, 1969





The Paschal Mystery's celebration is of supreme importance in Christian worship, as we are clearly taught by the sacred Second Vatican Council, and its meaning is unfolded over the course of days, of weeks, and of the whole year. From this it follows that it is necessary that this same Paschal Mystery of Christ be placed in clearer light in the reform of the liturgical year, for which norms were given by the Sacred Synod itself, with regard at once to the arrangement of what is known as the Proper of Time and of the Proper of Saints and to the revision of the Roman Calendar.1


For in fact, with the passage of centuries, it has happened that, partly from the increase in the number of vigils, religious festivals and their extension over an octave, and partly from the gradual introduction of new elements into the liturgical year, the Christian faithful had come not rarely to practise particular pious exercises in such a way that their minds seemed to have become somewhat distracted from the principal mysteries of divine redemption.

Yet everybody knows that several decisions were issued by Our Predecessors Saint Pius X and John XXIII, of blessed memory, with the intention on the one hand that Sunday, restored to its original dignity, should be truly considered by all as "the primordial feast day,"2 and on the other that the liturgical celebration of Holy Lent should be restored. It is no less true that Our Predecessor Pius XII, of blessed memory, ordered by means of a decree3 that in the Western Church during Easter Night the solemn vigil be restored, so that during it the People of God might renew their spiritual covenant with Christ the risen Lord in the course of celebrating the Sacraments of Christian Initiation.

That is to say, these Supreme Pontiffs, following the teaching of the holy Fathers and holding firmly to the doctrine handed down by the Catholic Church, rightly considered not only that in the course of the liturgical year those deeds are commemorated by means of which Christ Jesus in dying brought us salvation, and the memory of past actions is recalled, so that the Christian faithful, even the more simple of them, may receive spiritual instruction and nourishment, but these Popes also taught that the celebration of the liturgical year "possesses a distinct sacramental power and efficacy to strengthen Christian life."4 This is also Our own mind and teaching.

Rightly and properly, therefore, as we celebrate the "mystery of the Nativity of Christ"5 and his appearance in the world, we pray that "we may be inwardly transformed through him whom we recognize as outwardly like ourselves,"6 and that while we celebrate Christ's Pasch, we ask almighty God that those who have been reborn with Christ may "hold fast in their lives to the Sacrament they have received in faith."7 For, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, "honoring thus the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age in order that the faithful may touch them and be filled with the grace of salvation."8

Hence the purpose of the revision of the liturgical year and of the norms accomplishing its reform, is nothing other than that through faith, hope, and charity the faithful may share more deeply in "the whole mystery of Christ, unfolded through the cycle of the year."9


We see no contradiction between what has already been said and the clear brightness that shines from the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son,"10 and the Memorials of the Saints, to which the birthdays of "our Lords the Martyrs and Victors"11 are rightly joined, since "the feasts of the Saints proclaim the wonderful works of Christ in his servants and offer the faithful fitting examples for their imitation."12 Furthermore, the Catholic Church has always held firmly and with assurance that in the feasts of the Saints the Paschal Mystery of Christ is proclaimed and renewed.13

Therefore, since it cannot be denied that with the passage of centuries more feasts of the Saints were introduced than was appropriate, the Sacred Synod duly cautioned: "Lest the feasts of the Saints take precedence over the feasts commemorating the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be celebrated by a particular Church or nation or religious family; and only those should be extended to the Universal Church that commemorate Saints having universal importance."14

Furthermore, to put these decrees of the Ecumenical Council into effect, the names of some Saints have been removed from the General Calendar, and likewise permission has been granted for the observation of the Memorials of some other Saints to be made optional, and that their cult be appropriately restored to their own regions. As a result, the removal from the Roman Calendar of the names of certain Saints not known throughout the world has allowed the addition of names of some Martyrs from regions to which the announcement of the Gospel spread in later times. Thus the single catalog displays in equal dignity, as representatives of all peoples, as it were, some who either shed their blood for Christ or were outstanding in their most signal virtues.

For these reasons we regard the new General Calendar drawn up for use in the Latin Rite as being more in keeping with the spiritual attitudes and sentiments of these times and to be a clearer reflection of that characteristic of the Church which is her universality, since it proposes henceforth names of outstanding men to put before the whole People of God clear examples of holiness, developed in many different ways. There is no need to speak of the immense spiritual value of this for the whole multitude of Christians.

Therefore, after most carefully pondering all these matters before the Lord, with Our Apostolic Authority We approve the new General Roman Calendar drawn up by the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and likewise the universal norms governing the ordering of the liturgical year, so that they may come into force on the first day of the month of January in the coming year, 1970, in accordance with the decrees that the Sacred Congregation of Rites has prepared in conjunction with the aforementioned Consilium, which are to remain in force until the publication of the duly renewed Roman Missal and Breviary.

Whatsoever we have laid down motu proprio in these Our Letters we order to be held firm and valid, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the Constitutions and Apostolic Ordinances issued by Our Predecessors, or other prescriptions worthy of mention and derogation. Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the fourteenth day of the month of February in the year 1969, the sixth of Our Pontificate.



1. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 102-111.

2 Ibidem, no. 106.

3 Cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Decree, Dominicae Resurrectionis, 9 February 1951: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 43 (1951), pp. 128-129.

4 Sacred Congregation of Rites, General Decree Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria, 16 November 1955: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 47 (1955), p. 839.

5 St. Leo the Great, Sermo XXVII in Nativitate Domini 7, 1: PL 54, 216.

6 Cf. Missale Romanum [editio typica, 1962], Epiphany, oration [Collect 2 for the Baptism of the Lord, below, p. 472].

7 Cf. Missale Romanum [editio typica, 1962], Tuesday of Easter Week, oration [Collect of Monday within the Octave of Easter, below, p. 779].

8 Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 102.

9 Cf. ibidem, no. 102.

10. Ibidem, no. 103.

11 Cf. B. Mariani (ed.), Breviarium Syriacum (5th century), Rome 1956, p. 27.

12 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 111.

13 Cf. ibidem, no. 104.

14 Cf. ibidem, no. 111.

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