The Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer was a Catholic liturgical feast. It is celebrated in Venice as the Festa del Redentore. It is also celebrated by the Redemptorists and was celebrated in the City of Rome.
The feast is found only in the special calendar of some dioceses and religious orders and is celebrated with proper Mass and Office either on the third Sunday of July or on 23 October. In Venice this feast has been observed for more than four centuries with great solemnity. In 1576 a plague broke out in Venice which in a few days carried off thousands of victims. To avert this scourge the Senate vowed to erect a splendid temple to the Redeemer of mankind and to offer therein, each year, on the third Sunday of July public and solemn services of thanksgiving. Scarcely had the plague ceased, when they began to fulfil their vow. The church was designed by the famous Andrea Palladio and the corner-stone was laid by the Patriarch Trevisan on 3 May 1577. The celebrated painters Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Tintoretto decorated the interior. The church was consecrated in 1592 and, at the urgent solicitations of Pope Gregory XIII, placed in charge of the Capuchin Fathers.
By concession of Pope Benedict XIV, dated 8 March 1749, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer solemnises this feast as a double of the first class with an octave on the third Sunday of July. The same congregation also keeps the feast as a greater double on 23 October and 25 February and has, besides, the privilege of reciting once a month the votive office of the Most Holy Redeemer.
In Rome also Pope Pius VIII introduced the feast and by a Decree of 8 May 1830, the Sacred Congregation of Rites assigned it to 23 October. The characteristics of the Mass and Office are joy and gratitude for the ineffable graces and benefits of the Redemption. This appears especially from the Introit “Gaudens gaudebo”, from the antiphons of Lauds “Cantate Domino”, from the Epistle of the Mass, taken from St Paul to the Ephesians, (chapter 1), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings . . . in Christ”. For this reason white is the colour of the vestments and not red, as in the Mass of the Passion.
Why do Redemptorists celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer?
Who are Redemptorists?
A young priest, Alphonsus de Liguori, 36 years of age, gathered a group of companions around him in November of 1732. He was passionate about reaching out to people who were abandoned, socially and religiously, in the countryside all around the then-great city of Naples, in Italy. They were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. After a shaky start -his first companions left him -he gathered a group of like-minded men around him, who had the same passion, to go out to people, to share the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth with them, to show them the divine dignity that was in each human being and to share with them, the wonder of being redeemed, being set free, by the blood that Jesus shed for all people, everywhere.
That was the dream then. That is still the same dream now. Redemptorists all over the world (about 6000 in number) and their companions work to bring the joy of the Gospel to everyone we meet. ‘Caritas Christi urget nos’ –Christ’s love drives us.
‘Simon, do you love me?’ asked Jesus of Simon Peter. ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you’. ‘Feed my sheep!’ That’s what the young Alphonsus taught, again and again, that Redemptorists are to be about – if we love Jesus Christ (‘Jesus Christ is the centre of your life’ as a group – this is in our Constitutions), If we love Him, we will feed his people constantly. Hold us to it!
Why the name ‘Redemptorists’? The full title in Latin is ‘Congregatio Santissimi Redemptoris’ – a congregation of priests and brothers, under the title of ‘The Most Holy Redeemer’. In Italy, we are known as the Missionari Redentoristi, (playing on the word Redemptoris, in the Latin) and in Ireland we call ourselves ‘Redemptorist Missionaries’. Our middle name is SENT – just like Jesus! Everything about us is meant to reflect that -the way we live, the way we work, the way we pray, the joy in us, our community life together around the person of Jesus, the Redeemer. ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve’, Jesus said.
And St Mark tells us, about the calling of the Twelve Apostles: ‘he called them to be with him and to go out.’ ‘ To be with him’ in our lives, in our prayer and preparation, ‘to go out’ in our efforts always to reach out, to go to people, to be with them along the road of life, to go out physically to people, to reach out by all media available.
The Nuns of the Redemptoristine Order were founded one year before us. They live enclosed lives of prayer for the whole world. In Ireland, they are in Drumcondra, in St Alphonsus’ Monastery, St Alphonsus Road.
Both the Redemptoristines and the Redemptorists are constantly praying that young women and young men, in their twenties and older, will come and share the passion in us for people. We want the work of the Most Holy Redeemer to continue into future generations. … (Redemptorists, Ireland).
‘Every new generation is a continent to be won for Christ!’ (St John Paul II)