Quodlibet 33 – The date of St Thomas’ feast
I was wondering if you could explain why St Thomas’ feast was moved from 7th March to 28th January. In particular, what is the significance of the new date?
The Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, emphasised the importance of the liturgical seasons (SC 108) which structure the Church’s year around her celebration of the Paschal Mystery at Easter, and allow her in the course of the year to contemplate the different aspects of Christ’s life, and so of our salvation. Lent has a special place in this cycle as the season which immediately prepares us for the celebration of Easter, and so is given a particular priority: in the celebration of the Eucharist and the Divine Office during Lent we notice, for example, the absence of lesser celebrations of the Saints (memorias) as we focus on the significance of the season.
In the Universal Church, St Thomas’ feast day is celebrated as a memoria, which means that, if it were kept on 7th March, it would usually be omitted, because that day normally falls in Lent. Therefore, as part of the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969, his feast was moved to 28th January, the day on which, in 1369, his relics were translated to the Dominican church in Toulouse. Although the church was sadly confiscated by the State during the French Revolution, St Thomas’ relics were preserved and remain there to this day.