So you love besting your friends with obscure Catholic trivia. You find a nugget of geekery and you treasure it up, waiting like a spider in its web to rush out and pounce on some Catholic friend or acquaintance with your stumper question. Well, I have a little gem for you.
Question: What saints’ feast days fall on different days depending on what year it is?
Think about this one before you read the answer. The solution has nothing to do with a difference between the old and new calendars (although we’ll say something about that difference in a moment). It has nothing to do with when Easter falls, or how many Sundays there are in Advent. Got it yet?
In the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, 9 saints are celebrated on February 28. But in a leap year, saints 4 through 7 are moved to February 29. Those are Pope St. Hilary, St. Oswald, Blessed Antonia of Florence, and St. Augustus Chapdelaine.
The pre-Vatican II martyrology has a somewhat messier solution for leap years. The vigil of St. Matthias the Apostle is celebrated on February 23 together with a number of other saints, with his feast falling on February 24, again together with a bunch of other saints. But in a leap year, February 24 is emptied entirely and the only martyrology entry for the day is “the Vigil of St. Matthias the Apostle”. What would normally be celebrated on the 24th is bumped to the 25th, the 25th is bumped to the 26th, and so on until the 29th has what used to be the saints of the 28th.
Both solutions are odd, but they escape something even odder. If February 29th had its own saints, then we would only celebrate those saints liturgically once every four years!