Hey, Father! Why is the saint of the day mentioned during daily Mass but hardly on Sunday?

Why, during daily Mass, are there references to the saint of the day and, if the saint is a martyr, the priest wears red to honor their death, and the priest’s homilies tend to mention the saint, yet during Mass on Sundays there is hardly — if ever — any reference the saint for that day.

Andrew in Springfield

Whenever the Church gathers at the altar for the offering of the holy Mass, she always praises, thanks, and honors her founder, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the Church is the Body of Christ and that He is the Head of the Body (cf. I Corinthians 12; Colossians 1:18). Because the baptized have been incorporated into the Body of Christ, He is honored when his members are honored.

Throughout the course of the year, the Church pays particular honor to some of the saints with a greater universal importance, as well as to those with a more local importance. The dates of these memorials of the saints are delineated in the Roman Martyrology and some of them are included in the General Roman Calendar.

When the memorial of a saint is celebrated within the Eucharistic Liturgy, there is usually a mention of the saint in the Collect (what had been formerly called in English the Opening Prayer). There is also usually a mention of them in the Prayer after Communion and rarely a mention in the Prayer over the Gifts. Depending on which Preface the priest uses, there may also be a mention of the saint before the Holy, Holy, Holy. Some of this is at the priest’s discretion, as is mentioning the saint in the homily, and some is required by the Church.

As to why saints aren’t often mentioned in the prayers of the Sunday Masses, that answer is because the liturgical memorials do not often outrank a Sunday with their particular focus on the life of Christ Jesus. It is at the discretion of the priest as to whether or not to work in a story about a saint in his homily. I am presently pastor of a parish dedicated to St. Augustine of Hippo, who has left us a treasure trove of writings; consequently, I try to quote from him in my Sunday homilies, so he usually gets a mention from me. Not every priest preaches in this fashion.

When a saint is honored in the Mass, the color of chasuble the priest wears depends on the life of the saint. Red is worn for the memorials of the martyrs who shed their blood for Christ, and white is worn for the memorials of the other saints symbolizing the Church’s joy at their holiness.

Father Daren Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S., is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.