Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs – Liturgy and Legends


As the devotional cults of relics or patrons, so also many feasts of the year, especially those of the early saints, are connected with traditional observances based on mere legendary claims. Hence it might seem to the lessinformed reader that the popular veneration of the saints is but a sentimental tribute originating from unhistorical, and sometimes ridiculous, legendary beliefs.

Actually, these traditional observances rest on the bedrock of liturgical piety, which has always remained the source of popular celebration. Every true Christian knows from childhood that the basis of his devotion to the saints is not some fictional event or legendary patronage (although he might celebrate them, too), but the very real and historical fact of the saints’ heroic service to God and love of men, the radiant perfection of their lives in Christian virtue and faith.

The liturgical prayers hardly ever mention any of the legendary elements with which popular tradition abounds, but quote the historical facts of martyrdom or heroic virtue and perfect faith. It was on this basis only that the Church tolerated those additional expressions of legendary observance outside the liturgy. The liturgical Mass prayers of the various feasts, which may be found at the end of the following sections, will serve as illustration and proof.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weiser, SJ. “Liturgy and Legends”. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 1952. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 February 2017. Web. 22 February 2019. <>