Definitions

holy-day

Holy Day of Obligation

In the Catholic Church, Holy Days of Obligation or Holidays of Obligation, less commonly called Feasts of Precept, are the days on which, as canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law states,
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.

Eastern Catholic Churches

The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches lays down the following norms for Eastern Catholic Churches:
It is for the authority competent to establish the particular law of a sui iuris Church to constitute, transfer or suppress feast days and days of penance for that sui iuris Church, after, however, seeking the views of other sui iuris Churches and observing canon 40 §1.''
Holy days of obligation common to all the Eastern Churches are, apart from Sundays, the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Dormition of Holy Mary the Mother of God, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, except for a particular law of a sui iuris Church, approved by the Apostolic See, which suppresses some holy days of obligation or transfers them to a Sunday.
The Christian faithful are bound by the obligation to participate on Sundays and feast days in the Divine Liturgy or, according to the prescriptions or legitimate customs of their own sui iuris Church, in the celebration of the divine praises.

Latin Catholic Church

The holy days of obligation for Latin Catholics are indicated in canon 1246 of the Code of Canon Law:
§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.

Placed in the order of the civil calendar, the ten days (apart from Sundays) that this canon mentions are:

The number of holy days of obligation was once much greater. With the motu proprio Supremi disciplinae of 2 July 1911, Pope Pius X reduced the number of such non-Sunday holy days from 36 to 8 (the above 10 minus the feasts of the Body and Blood of Christ and Saint Joseph). The present list was established in 1917.

In many countries the bishops had obtained, even before the time of Pope Pius X, the Holy See's approval to diminish the number of non-Sunday holy days of obligation, making it far less than 36. Today too, Episcopal Conferences have availed themselves of the authority granted them in law to reduce the number below the ten mentioned above.

Non-Sunday holy days of obligation all have the rank of solemnity. Accordingly, if in Ordinary Time one of them falls on a Sunday, the Sunday celebration gives way to it; but the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter take precedence over all solemnities, which are then transferred to another day.

Latin-Rite observance by country

In Vatican City, but not in the rest of the Diocese of Rome, Sundays and all ten days listed in canon 1246 are observed as holy days of obligation. This is also the case in the Swiss canton of Ticino, but perhaps nowhere else.

Some countries have as holy days of obligation feasts that are not among those listed in canon 1246. Ireland has Saint Patrick's Day. Germany has "Second Christmas Day" (26 December), Easter Monday and Pentecost Monday (Whit Monday).

In countries where they are not holy days of obligation, three of the ten feast days listed above are assigned to a Sunday as their proper day:

If they are thus assigned to a Sunday, they are not included in the following national lists of holy days of obligation, since in every country all Sundays are holy days of obligation.

Australia

Belgium

Canada

England and Wales

(See Liturgy Office)

Germany

(See Feiertagsregelung)

In addition, some dioceses have one or more of the following holy days of obligation:

  • Epiphany(6 January)
  • Body and Blood of Christ
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August)
  • All Saints (1 November)

The solemnities of Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul and the Immaculate Conception of Mary are observed nowhere in Germany as holy days of obligation.

Austria, Switzerland and German-speaking areas in neighbouring countries have similar rules.

Greece

Instead of being transferred to the following Sunday, the Ascension of Our Lord, though not a holy day of obligation in Greece, is kept on Thursday of the sixth week of Easter, in order to celebrate it on the same day as the Orthodox Church of Greece.

Ireland

(See Liturgical Calendar)

Italy

Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei

The Netherlands

Poland

United States

(See United States norm complementary to canon 1246)

However, whenever January 1 (solemnity of Mary, Mother of God), August 15 (solemnity of the Assumption), or November 1 (solemnity of All Saints) falls on a Saturday or Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated. In Hawaii, in 1992, the Bishop of Honolulu, pursuant to an indult from the Holy See, established the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas as the only two holy days of obligation to be observed in the State of Hawaii.

References

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