In addition to the liturgical cycle of Sundays and feasts, the Roman Missal and Lectionary of Paul VI (1969) provide prayers and readings for Masses to be offered in response to various pastoral situations. There are three kinds of such occasional Masses: Ritual Masses for the celebration of certain Sacraments, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, and Votive Masses (Gen InstrRom-Missal 326–341). In the former Missale Romanum of Pius V (1570), as well as in most sacramentaries from the Roman tradition, the term Missae votivae referred to all three varieties of such occasional Masses. In the present Missal (Sacramentary), however, the term Votive Mass refers only to fifteen Masses which celebrate such objects of devotion as the Sacred Heart, the Holy Name, the Precious Blood, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the Apostles. In addition, the new Missal contains forty-six Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, and a great variety of Ritual Masses.
The Votive Masses may be celebrated on the following days of the liturgical year: (1) on weekdays in ordinary time when there is either an optional memorial of a saint or no memorial; (2) on obligatory memorials of saints, on weekdays of Advent, of Christmastime and of the Easter Season, only in the case of genuine pastoral need; and (3) by permission of the bishop, when serious need or pastoral advantage dictates, on any day except the Sundays of Advent, Lent and the Easter Season, Ash Wednesday, and during Holy Week. These same directives also apply for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions.
The practice of Votive Masses grew during the Middle Ages after the genesis of the liturgical calendar. Christians who had a special devotion to Jesus, Mary, or a saint would ask priests to offer Masses of petition or thanksgiving in the spirit of that devotion. The faithful would also request Masses for special needs or situations that arose in their daily lives and in society. Ritual Masses also arose from the sacramental needs of the people.
Bibliography: j. d. crichton, Christian Celebration: The Mass (London 1971). g. dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (London 1945). j. jungmann, Mass of the Roman Rite (New York 1951,1955).
[j. t. kelley]