The Vatican announced yesterday that the memorial for Blessed Pope John Paul II will be celebrated on October 22 in Rome and in Poland.
For all those who do not really understand the significance of being declared “Blessed”, to be perfectly honest neither do I. It seems to represent a preliminary declaration on the holiness of a person. Before the Church has declared someone to be Blessed, public “cult” is not allowed, such as celebrating a Mass in honor of that person, praying in a formal way for his or her intercession, arranging a Diocesan sponsored pilgrimage, etc. The declaration of Beatification permits public veneration in a limited way, usually in the diocese or city where the person lived, or in the religious order he or she belonged to.
With a newly Blessed who was a parish priest to the whole world, it is a little difficult to figure out a way to limit his celebration. The Vatican declared this his memorial would be part of the yearly calendar for Rome and for the dioceses of Poland. There is the additional permission that the conference of bishops (for its region), the diocesan bishop for his diocese, or the superior general for a religious family, may request permission to place an optional memorial to Blessed Pope John Paul II in their own particular calendar. A priest can only use the particular prayers for the day if he is saying Mass in a place where the memorial is on the calendar. This seems a little odd, but I don’t think this situation will last too long.
The date of October 22 is a little bit of a surprise and ends “wild” priestly speculation as to when his memorial would be celebrated. The day of his death, April 2nd, would fall in Lent or during the Octave of Easter, as it did the day he died. That means it would always be eclipsed by the liturgical season, unless Easter is extremely early, which happens about once every 30 years. One priest speculated that they could make it a “movable” feast, happening on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday, but that would really be out of place in the Easter season.
October 22 is a perfect choices: it was the day of his inauguration as Pope, and this means that he joins an all-star cast of Heavenly favorites: St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (Oct. 1), St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), Our Lady of the Rosary (Oct. 7), St. Teresa of Jesus (Oct. 15), St. Luke the Evangelist (Oct. 18) and the Apostles Simon and Jude (Oct. 28).