It’s not a mistake. St Patrick’s Day, for this year at least, is on Monday 18 March. I hate to disappoint those who hope that Sunday Masses will focus on the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, but that’s the way it goes.
The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, written after the Second Vatican Council to direct the reforms made to the Church’s liturgical seasons and feasts, begins with the following:
Christ’s saving work is celebrated in sacred memory by the Church on fixed days throughout the year. Each week on the day called the Lord’s Day the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. Once a year at Easter the Church honours this resurrection and passion with the utmost solemnity. In fact through the yearly cycle the Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ and keeps the anniversaries of the saints. (article 1)
Our unfolding of “the entire mystery of Christ” is central to our liturgical life and is of upmost importance. The General Norms include a table of liturgical days in order of precedence. The Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter rank among the days of highest importance, following the Easter Triduum, Christmas, the Epiphany, Ascension and Pentecost.
Consequently, when the Church in each country prepares its liturgical calendar, it has to make appropriate determinations when solemnities and feast days fall on Sundays during the Christmas, Advent, Lent and Easter seasons. As St Patrick’s Day enjoys in Australia the highest rank for a liturgy feast – solemnity – it is transferred to the following Monday whenever it falls on a Sunday during Lent. The same happens with the solemnity of St Joseph. As 25 March falls during Holy Week this year, the solemnity of the Annunciation has been transferred to the first day after the conclusion of Holy Week and the Easter Octave, namely Monday 8 April.
Don’t fear though, all will be back to normal next year. I’m sure there will also be plenty of people who’ll use this year’s circumstances as a good excuse for two days of celebration, rather than one!