I was looking at my TAN Catholic calendar today. I like the TAN calendar because it is very detailed, having the feasts for the current calendar and the 1962 calendar, as well as indicating the fasting/abstinence, the devotions for the months and days of the week, etc.
I noticed some interesting jumping around of feasts this weekend. In the 1962 calendar, St. Henry II is on June 15th, and St. Bonaventure is on June 14th. In the current calendar, Henry is on the 13th, and Bonaventure is on the 15th, which corresponds to their actual dies natales, their historical days of death.
Except, in the 1962 calendar, there is nothing on the 13th. So why wasn't Henry on his actual day of death? Well, a little research reveals that on the Tridentine calendar, St. Anacletus was on the 13th. (However, it was later concluded that St. Anacletus was the same as St. Cletus, the third pope, and so his feast was removed much later.) Henry was originally added as a commemoration on the 13th about a century after Trent, but when his feast was upgraded to the rank of a semidouble it was placed on the 15th (technically, I think these were supposed to be conceived of as a "perpetual transfer") because Anacletus was on the 13th, and Bonaventure was already on the 14th. I have no idea why Bonaventure was on the 14th instead of his real day on the 15th, because there was nothing on the 15th in the Tridentine calendar. Perhaps there was something there in the Middle Ages and so when Bonaventure was originally added it was impeded, and then it was already so established that they just kept him there after Trent even though there was no longer anything impeding the 15th.
This reminds me of a similar case, this time involving St. John Vianney and St. Dominic. At Trent, St. Dominic (who actually died on the 6th of August) was placed on August 4th because the Transfiguration, of course, falls on the 6th. Apparently, the presence of St. Donatus stopped them from picking the 7th (from a "purist" perspective, transference of an impeded feast would ideally only occur "forward" in time at the next free day, not backward), Sts. Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus stopped them from picking the 8th, and then came the vigil of St. Lawrence and his feast and Octave. And, working backwards, the Dedication of St. Mary Major is on the 5th, so they picked the 4th.
Later, when John Vianney, who actually did die on the 4th, was added to the calendar, he was placed on the 9th, apparently because they no longer considered the Vigil of St. Lawrence (patron of Rome) that important universally. Later still, in the 1962 calendar, many of the old Roman Martyrs who fill the traditional calendar (but are really rather obscure and important only at Rome itself) were reduced to commemorations, and so John Vianney moved up to the 8th with Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus merely commemorated. Then, when they did the Novus Ordo calendar, they put John Vianney on his actual dies natales on the 4th, and then Dominic on the 8th (even though the only things on the 7th are optional memorials of St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, the latter of which had actually overtaken Donatus on that day about a century after Trent; this suggests that Donatus wasn't so important at that point, and that if Dominic had been added later, he would have simply taken the 7th like Cajetan did).
Both of these examples highlight important issues in the calendar question. It is clear that as the calendar has evolved over the course of history, certain Saints (especially the obscure old Roman martyrs; let's remember that the general calendar promulgated by Trent was the local calendar of Rome itself, and that medieval calendars were much more local) have become less and less emphasized, while other Saints have risen in popularity. As this has occurred, Saints whose feasts once required transferring someone to a day other than their death...have been removed or reduced in rank, even reduced to just commemorations (or, at least, greatly surpassed in importance by the transferred Saint). This has allowed, sometimes, Saints to move back to their real dies natales (usually, the Martyrology notes the real day and the feast) or at least closer.
However, there has been a tricky question of balance here. As the calendar evolved organically, it was not "revamped" from scratch at each stage, so you wind up with weird vestigial situations like in 1962 where Henry II remained on the 15th even though the 13th had been cleared up by the removal of the supposed Anacletus. Or the historically "circular" causation whereby John Vianney was able to be placed on the 8th because by that time Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus were just a commemoration, even though they are the ones who had originally prevented Dominic from taking that spot in the first place (who himself, in turn, prevented Vianney from taking his own proper day on the 4th)!!
The Novus Ordo reforms did take more of a "from scratch" attitude. It seems like they went back and tried to create the calendar that "would have" existed if the universal calendar had always been more abstracted from the local Roman calendar, if the the local Roman martyrs had never effected where the more popular "universal" Saints were placed. In other words, they decided which Saints they wanted to have on the calendar today, and then placed them onto (or as close to) their real dies natales as possible, with no regard for the tangled historical effects of feasts which were no longer on the calendar. Only very occasionally was some other date chosen (for example, because Bl. John Paul II died on the feast of St. Francis de Paola and since it usually occurs during Lent or Eastertide, his feast was placed on the day of his installation on October 22).
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the "purist" in me actually does like the principle of keeping Saints on their real date of death as much as possible or, when you can't because it is impeded by a prior feast (and, I'd add, a higher ranking feast; if the new feast is higher ranking, then it is the old which should be transferred), then at least transferred to the next free day in the future. The Novus Ordo basically creates a calendar that sticks to this principle (although its selection of Saints is a bit arbitrary and sometimes feels more like an attempt at a "United Nations" calendar; I'd prefer many local calendars each with their own "complete set" of locally relevant Saints and Blesseds, like the great religious orders have, rather than an attempt at a one-size-fits all international "diverse sampling.")
On the other hand, there is something to be said for letting tradition stand. Dominic was on the 4th for hundreds of years. And he was no minor feast either (which have jumped around quite a bit), but a Greater Double. If you referred to "the feast of St. Dominic" in the past, you meant August 4th. The switch to the 8th frees up the 4th for John Vianney, but it doesn't give Dominic his own real day either, since that will always be the Transfiguration. So was that change worth it? Worth leveling the traditional dating? I don't know.
Like I said, I have mixed feelings. Technically, the dates on the old calendar that didn't correspond to the real date of death were really just supposed to be "perpetual transference," the implication being that if the original day was ever freed up of whatever was impeding, the feast would just naturally move back. So in some ways the new calendar is merely implementing this "theory" in practice. But I'm not sure it was worth upsetting the traditional calendar in the first place. However, I would say, now that it has been upset...all bets are off. At this point, we might as well go with the more slavish adherence to the original dies natales and try to create as "ideal" a calendar in that regard as possible.
There is often talk nowadays about reconciling the calendars of the ordinary and extraordinary form. I think we should be very careful about messing with the traditional liturgy. I think it would probably best to just let it sit for another generation and re-establish itself in the life of the Church first. However, I am not against the idea on principle, as I've written before how I think there are some reforms the old liturgy (mainly in the direction of maximizing rather than minimizing) could undergo (and should if it is to become something more than a museum piece).
I've never actually gotten around to doing it in practice, but I've often thought about trying to construct the ideal calendar I would have currently, by comparing the Tridentine, 1954, 1962, and Novus Ordo, and cross-referencing with the actual dates of death in the Martyrology or Catholic Encyclopedia. The temporal cycle would have to be taken from the old liturgy, no doubt (meaning restoration of Septuagesima, the Ember and Rogation Days, etc). However, the Sanctoral would be more of a mix. I think the Novus Ordo needs to reconsider the list of Saints it includes to be more traditional.
At the very least, the Tridentine Calendar should be taken as a reference point or starting point in that regard (if not all the "clutter" that had been added by the 1950's). So I think my first step in such a project would be to start with the Tridentine calendar to provide the basic outline of which Saints must be included. Then, however, I would do what was done by 1962 and reduce the obscure local Roman martyrs to commemorations, even perhaps optional, and encourage the idea of each locality creating its own cycle of more obscure local Saints (in Europe especially this would be easy, and there are medieval calendars to reference in this regard) to replace them in each locality (except, perhaps, those mentioned in the Canon; although, I'm not opposed to letting local churches switch-out the local martyrs for their own in the Canon either, like Milan does in the Ambrosian rite). Then I would see how this freed up any actual dies natales for the remaining Saints and move them back accordingly. Finally, I would then add back in newer Saints added since Trent from the 1954 calendar and the Novus Ordo, sticking to the principle of placing Saints on their actual day of death, or transferring the lower-ranking to the next free day if there is a conflict.
So, to summarize: 1) start with the Tridentine calendar, 2) reduce the Roman martyrs to commemorations as in 1962, 3) move remaining Saints to their actual day of death when possible if they are not already, 4) add Saints since Trent (as on the 1954 and current calendars), especially Doctors, Founders, and those of special popularity or "national" importance like the large groups of national martyrs, 5) stick to the principle of keeping Saints on their dies natales, or perpetually transferring the lowest ranking the next free day when there is a conflict (with the understanding that it would "automatically" go back if the day was ever freed, or if the ranks of feasts changed relative to each other.)
I might also, between steps 2 and 3, take into account the thought of trying to reconcile the feasts of the Apostles with the Eastern churches as I wrote about before, though that would require more research on my part regarding what was actually being commemorated on those days in each church originally (usually it was a transfer of relics rather than purporting to be the actual death-date of the Apostle). However, this would likely require a mutual ecumenical effort, and I would not let it effect any current reform of the Roman Rite calendar; if it happened later, any transference that required (or "un-transference" it allowed) would just work according to the rules/principles I've laid out.
I think this is something that, with a little effort, could be be sorted out in a rather satisfactory manner.