Liturgically speaking, St. Patrick's Day will be on March 14 this year in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.


Liturgically speaking, St. Patrick's Day will be on March 14 this year in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.   Parade, corned-beef-and-cabbage, and green-beer speaking, it'll still be on March 17.   For the Roman Catholic Church and some of her Protestant descendants, this year will see the rare confluence of St. Patrick's feast day and Holy Week.   The Catholic calendar is determined by when Easter falls. A formula used since the fourth century places Easter on the first Sunday after the first astronomical full moon after March 20, the earliest date on which the March equinox can fall. That places the earliest possible date of Easter at March 22.   This year, Easter falls almost that early, on March 23, which means that Holy Week, the seven days leading up to Easter, starts on Sunday, March 16.   Holy Week is a solemn period. After Palm Sunday, on which Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem is celebrated, things turn dark with betrayals and a crucifixion before the Resurrection turns it all around.   "The observance of Holy Week has its own flavor and character in preparation for the celebration of the central mysteries" of the Christian faith, said the Rev. Rick Hilgartner of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.   The importance of Holy Week observance means that it always trumps any lesser festivals that fall during that time - in this case, St. Patrick's Day on March 17 and St. Joseph's feast day on March 19.   Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria addressed the coincidence in his 2008 Festival Letter, which he issues at the beginning of the year to tell the Catholic faithful when holy days like Easter and, thus, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Lent, the Ascension and other celebrations will fall.   He wrote that although this year "the commemoration of Saint Patrick is not celebrated due to the timing of Holy Week," for the 22 diocesan churches dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland "this local solemnity is rightly transferred to Friday, the 14th of March."   That means St. Patrick's Churches like those in Washington, Minonk, Elmwood and Camp Grove will be able to liturgically commemorate their patron at Masses two days before Holy Week begins. Even the once-a-year Mass at the tiny church in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Kickapoo will be moved to March 14, said the Rev. Patrick Riordan. He's pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Kickapoo, which oversees the cemetery chapel.   Since March 14 is a Friday in Lent, though, Catholics are obliged to abstain from meat. Jenky, though, lifted that obligation "in those parishes celebrating the solemnity of their patron on Friday, March 14th."   Jenky took what action was available to him from the U.S. bishops' conference, which had earlier ruled that a March 17 liturgical observance of St. Patrick's feast day was out, but that local bishops could move it.   "Some places are also moving it to Thursday (March 13)," said Hilgartner, who is associate director of the USCCB's secretariat for the office of divine worship.   He said that even in Ireland, where St. Patrick's Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, the liturgical observance is being moved.   Outside of churches, though, erin will still go bragh - whatever that means - on the day itself.   The annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Downtown Peoria, for instance, will go on as scheduled at 11 a.m. March 17, said St. Patrick's Society president Dann Haney.   He said the society checked with the diocese to make sure it wouldn't be a problem to have the parade and post-parade party on March 17.   Not only did the society get the OK from Jenky, but it's expected the bishop will lead the parade as usual.   In fact, the annual Chrism Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, at which oils for use in rites for the coming year are blessed, will be moved to make way for the traditional Hibernian Society Mass at 8 a.m. March 17. The Chrism Mass is typically held on the Monday of Holy Week, but will be on Tuesday this year to make room for St. Patrick's Day festivities.   All of which means it'll be Holy Week, but with a touch of green.   Michael Miller covers religion for the Journal Star. Write to him in care of the Journal Star, 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call him at 686-3106, or send e-mail to Comments may be published.