Dear Father | Obligation of Holy Days is meant to describe minimum expectation
As Americans, there is a certain distaste for the word obligation. Obligation is a word meaning that we are forced to do something, which vexes us. We are a nation where freedom, not obligation, is paramount.
Obligation, however, is not meant to be such an abrasive word. It is a word, rather, that reminds us that going on this feast day is the minimum expected from a practicing Catholic. As a practicing Catholic, we are to attend Holy Mass not just on Sundays, but also on certain feast days as well.
Currently in the United States, there are six Holy Days of Obligation. Each of has special significance.
- Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1): This feast ends the Octave of Christmas, calling us to reflect more deeply on the place of Mary in the Word becoming flesh for us. Also, we ask for her intercession as we begin a new year.
- Ascension of the Lord (40 days after Easter): On this day, we see the Lord ascend to heaven, reminding us of our true homeland, His second coming and His promise that He is with us always.
- Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15): In 1954, Pope Pius XII instituted this feast as a reminder of hope to humanity of the dignity of the human person and our eternal vocation.
- All Saints Day (Nov. 1): On All Saints Day, we celebrate all the saints, those canonized by the Church and not, and our call to be saints.
- Immaculate Conception of Mary (Dec. 8): She is the patroness of our country, so we gather on this day to remember the great grace God gave Mary by preserving her from all sin, making her a worthy vessel to carry God's own Son.
- Christmas (Dec. 25): We celebrate the great mystery that Jesus is born to redeem us from sin.
At times, the obligation for a Holy Day varies from diocese to diocese. If you are planning to travel around a Holy Day, it is a good idea to check with your parish priest whether the diocese you are traveling to is celebrating the Holy Day. If it is, you would be obligated to attend Mass on that day.
Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in St. Charles. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119 or email email@example.com.
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