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Assumpta Est Maria

El Greco, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin MaryFor some reason beyond my comprehension, the American Catholic Bishops declared that today, August 15, the feast of Mary's Assumption, the most important Marian feast of the year, is not a holy day of obligation. (According to their decree, the requirement for Catholics to attend Mass is lifted if August 15 falls on a Saturday or a Monday.) Even our French friends staying with us, who admit that the only time they enter a church is for a wedding, funeral, or baptism, were scandalized. (Granted, in France, le 15 août is a very important holiday: they also could not believe that everyone has to work today, including Catholics.) It was a big singing day for us in the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, of course, with a Kyrie and Gloria by Mogens Pedersøn, the Agnus from Victoria's Missa Salve Regina, Palestrina's motet Assumpta est Maria (à 6), and Victoria's Ave Maria (à 8). The choir now embarks on its annual hiatus, not to return to singing at Mass until the Sunday after Labor Day. Rest well earned.

Of course, on the evening news from France 2, there were three pieces about Assumption being celebrated in France. The most interesting one was about the town of Puy-en-Velay and its Assumption procession. It turns out that the Diocese of Puy-en-Velay had a special Jubilee celebration this year, culminating in the August 15 procession of 20,000 people. The Jubilee occurs only if Good Friday happens to fall on the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), which happened this spring for the first time since 1932. There have been celebrations in the town for the 145 days between March 25 and August 15. The next time the Jubilee will occur in the liturgical calendar is 2016.

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