Thursday, 16 September 2010

When St. Bartholomew's Day precedes St. Bartholomew's Day

A reader posed a question regarding the celebration of the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle a couple of weeks ago. The reader asked why the feast of St. Bartholomew was celebrated in Rome on the 25th August according to the 1568 Breviary and on the preceding day elsewhere. At the time I was unaware of the reason for the variation in praxis and decided to find out.

The Breviary I normally use, of 1910 vintage, indicated the 25th for Rome too. The HBS volume ‘Saints in English Calendars before A.D. 1100' contains kalendar information from twenty-seven MSS. Of those twenty-seven nineteen have St. Bartholomew on the 25th August. The 25th date is also given in a facsimile copy of the Vetus Missale Romanum Monasticum Lateranenses. A perusal of two editions of the Martyrologium Romanum on my shelves indicated that the variance had stopped with the Pius X reform. Searching the AAS (wonderfully now available on-line) I was able to find the relevant decree of the SRC dated 28th October 1913, AAS V (1913) pp.457-464. This decree, following Pius X's Abhinc duos annos, abolished the Roman practice of celebrating St. Bartholomew on the 25th (and St. Louis on the 26th) and ordered the celebration of the feasts on the days in the Universal Kalendar (V, 2.d). The decree did however allow for the external solemnity (of both) to be kept on the former days

Having still not found the reason for the variation in praxis I consulted three experts. Mr. Craig Toth in the USA found a reference that Carolingian Kalendars gave the day as the 25th which would explain some of the MSS dates. From Rome Mr. Gregory DiPippo noted that by the time of the Tridentine reform basically all local rites and the religious orders celebrated the feast of St. Bartholomew on the 24th but that in Rome a major celebration took place in Rome at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island with the assistance of the Greek community in Rome. Both Mr. Toth and Mr. DiPippo suspected the Roman praxis had some relationship to the translation of relics.

The third expert, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, replied to my enquiry and categorically stated that the celebration on the 25th in Rome was the feast of the translation of St. Bartholomew’s relics. At the same time Mr. Toth found a reference in Baronius’ edition of the Martyrology that give several, historic, dates for the celebration of St. Bartholomew and refers to the translation of his relics being celebrated on the 25th in Rome.

Finally, when back at ‘head office’ I looked at Gueranger and found:
‘The city of Rome celebrates the feast of St. Bartholomew to-morrow [25th], as do the Greeks who commemorate on the 25th August a translation of the Apostle’s relics. (…) The 24th of this month, consecrated by the use of most of the Latin churches, is the day assigned in the most ancient martyrologies, including that of St. Jerome. In the 13th century, Innocent III, having been consulted as to the divergence, answered that local custom was to be observed.’ (Ft. nt. Decretal. lib. iii. tit. xlvi, c. 2. Consilium.)

How sad that such a venerable praxis came to an end in 1913.

My grateful thanks to Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, Mr. Toth and Mr. DiPippo for the information they kindly provided.

Photograph of Church of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island where some of St. Bartholomew's relics are enshrined from Wikipedia.

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