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Holy Days of Obligation

For the Latin Church


A holy day of obligation is a day on which Christians are required to go to Mass and refrain from servile work, unless one has a legitimate excuse (such as caring for infants, providing important social services, a contageous or debilitating illness, etc.; cf. CCC 2185). Deliberately to neglect this precept is a <mortal sin>. For more on this, see the section at the end, "Why Holy Days of Obligation?"

Please take note:

  • All Sundays throughout the year are holy days of obligation, in every rite and in every locality. This is because the ceremonial observance of Sunday replaces that of the Jewish Sabbath (cf. Ex. 20:8; CCC 2175).

  • There is no separate list of holy days of obligation for the Traditional Mass. Holy days of obligation are associated with the current calendar as to the feast celebrated, but the obligation applies to the day or date only, and not to the subject matter (cf. CCC 2180). The obligation is fulfilled in either form of the Roman rite (or in any other rite) on the same liturgical day or date. So, for example, the obligation for 1 January, Mother of God, is fulfilled by attending a Traditional Mass celebrating the Octave of Christmas (or, for that matter, an Eastern Liturgy commemorating the Circumcision of the Lord). For more information, see <Calendar for Extraordinary Form, Liturgy Office of England and Wales>.

  • Holy days of obligation can vary somewhat from one nation to another, as determined by each national conference of bishops.

  • The Eastern Catholic Churches have their own holy days of obligation, which more or less overlap with those of the Latin Church.


Holy Days of Obligation in Some English-speaking Countries

As of November 2013

Please cross-check this information with your local diocese.


AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

  • 25 Dec. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • 15 Aug. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

These two holydays of obligation are to be observed annually, regardless of the day of the week on which they fall.

CANADA

  • 25 Dec. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • 1 Jan. Holy Mary, Mother of God (1962 - Octave of Christmas)

Source: <Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops>


ENGLAND AND WALES

  • 25 Dec. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • 29 Jun. Ss. Peter & Paul, Apostles
  • 15 Aug. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven
  • 1 Nov. All Saints

Source: <Liturgy Office of England and Wales>


IRELAND

  • 8 Dec. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • 25 Dec. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • 6 Jan. The Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • 17 Mar. St Patrick
  • 15 Aug. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven
  • 1 Nov. All Saints

Source: <Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference>


SCOTLAND

  • 25 Dec. - The solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • 25 May - The solemnity of the Ascension
  • 29 June - The solemnity of St Peter & St Paul, Apostles
  • 15 Aug. - The solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • 1 Nov. - The solemnity of All Saints

Source: <St. Michael's Dumbarton (Archdiocese of Glasgow)>


UNITED STATES

  • 1 Jan. Holy Mary, Mother of God (1962 - Octave of Christmas)
  • Thurs. of the Sixth Week of Easter. The Ascension of Christ into Heaven (in some provinces, transferred to the following Sunday)
  • 15 Aug. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven
  • 1 Nov. All Saints
  • 8 Dec. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • 25 Dec. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Whenever 1 January, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or 15 August, the solemnity of the Assumption, or 1 November, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.

Source: <United States Conference of Catholic Bishops>



Why Holy Days of Obligation?

Observing holy days of obligation is a Precept of the Church. The Precepts do not in themselves belong to divine law, but their observance is nevertheless incumbent upon Christians.

Protestants might ask, Didn't Christ abolish the old system of laws, and aren't we under grace now? How can the Church create something called "precepts" to which Christians are morally bound?

While it is true that the old ceremonial law was abolished (cf. Eph. 2:15), it is equally true that Christ endowed his Church with the power to bind and loose (Mt. 16:19; 18:18), that is, to make binding decisions, including laws to govern the faithful and to disuade them from neglecting the health of their souls. Pope Benedict XV (1854-1922) explains that

the Church, our most prudent Mother, by the constitution received from her Founder, Christ, was endowed with all the qualities suitable to a perfect society. So, too, from her very beginning, since she was to obey the Lord's command to teach and govern all nations, she has undertaken to regulate and protect by the laws the discipline of clergy and laity alike. (Providentissima Mater Ecclesia, 1917; qtd. in "Ecclesiastical Law," s.v. Modern Catholic Dictionary)

 The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:

2042 The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.

...

2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.

2182 Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God's holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church states:

Can. 1246 §1. Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation. The following days must also be observed: the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All Saints. §2. With the prior approval of the Apostolic See, however, the conference of bishops can suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.*

Can.  1247 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.

Can.  1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.

* Canon 1246 §2 is referring to regional episcopal conferences such as the ones listed above. Some conferences have not only suppressed the obligation for certain holy days, or transferred their observance to Sunday, but have also added days not mentioned in Canon 1246 (such as 1 Jan. Mother of God). Such lists are, nevertheless, all approved by the Holy See.


 


See also:

The Liturgical Year

Liturgical Seasons

Proper of Seasons

Proper of Saints

Ranking of Liturgical days

Figure Out This Year's Calendar

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