Holy Days of Obligation

We need to talk about something, and I’ve already told you what it is above.

Here are the remaining obligatory Holy Days in 2024

  • Thursday, May 9, 2024 – The Ascension of Jesus (moved to Sunday May 12th in many places)
  • Thursday, August 15, 2024 – The Assumption of Mary, Solemnity
  • Friday, November 1, 2024 – All Saints’ Day
  • Wednesday, December 25, 2024 – The Birth of Our Lord, Christmas

Let’s add in the remaining Solemnities (attendance optional but encouraged):

  • Thursday, May 30, 2024 – Corpus Christi
  • Friday, June 7, 2024 – The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Monday, June 24, 2024 – The Nativity of St. John the Baptist
  • Saturday, June 29, 2024 – Saints Peter and Paul
  • Saturday, November 2, 2024 – All Souls’ Day
  • Monday, December 9, 2024 – The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

There are some good liturgical calendar apps available for Apple, Android, and whatever, so consider downloading one.

And relax! Before Pope St. Pius X reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation to eight – via the motu proprio, Supremi disciplinae (1917) – there were thirty-six of them! I gather many of the Catholic faithful hadn’t minded the extra trips to church. (I can’t tell you exactly what’s in that document, because it’s not listed among the motu proprios of Pius X on the Vatican website, which is odd. Maybe the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments doesn’t want to remind Traditionalists of what used to be.)

Now, there’s a reason why I’ve not mentioned some well-known and very significant feasts that always fall on Sundays, and it’s a bombshell, which – sad to say – is a fact too many Catholics refuse to acknowledge or don’t even know: every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation.

I don’t need to repeat that, but here’s the proof, as stated in the Code of Canon Law:

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. [bold italics added]

§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.

And as the Catechism explains:

2193 “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound. . .to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body.” (CIC, can. 1247) [bold italics added]

We Americans, of course, work hard, and some like to sleep late on weekend mornings. But that doesn’t matter. We all have to be in church every Sunday. Have. To. Be.

The Foundation of the Trinitarian Order by Juan Carreño de Miranda, 1666 [Louvre, Paris]

Of course, if you are sick or have another serious reason for not attending Mass, you may be entitled to a dispensation. There’s no reason to come to Mass if you are suffering from influenza, and you should not, since you might infect other parishioners – even if you come masked and wearing surgical gloves.

Now the nuclear bomb: If you do sleep in and blow off Mass, you have committed a mortal sin. Again, the Catechism:

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. [Italics! Bold!]

Note that you can excuse yourself from the obligation as a matter of your own conscience and commonsense (knowing you have an infectious disease), or you may receive a dispensation from your pastor.

I once asked a priest friend if he gets swamped with calls from parishioners seeking guidance about such matters, and he said: “No, but I wish I did. That’s one reason why I’m here.”

Do not call him to ask him if he’ll give you dispensation from the Sunday obligation because you’ve tested positive for COVID. You already know the answer to that.

And let’s be honest: “I’m too tired” and “I don’t feel like it today” are not valid excuses. Neither is your regular foursome.

Let me add that the Church has no canon or Catechism entry about proper attire for Mass, but it should. I tire of hearing people say, God doesn’t care what I wear in Church! A few summers ago, at the church I attend (I’m one of four ushers at the 10:45 Sunday Mass), the pastor had to use part of his homily to address the wearing of t-shirts, tank tops, and short shorts. He reminded us that we are in God’s house and in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. He shouldn’t have had to point this out, but I’m glad he did.

Finally, on comments-based or membership websites (including free ones such as Facebook), there are users known as “lurkers.” These are the people who hover around a site and never register as a user, comment anonymously, or just read and leave. Don’t be a lurker in your parish.

Think of your local church as the vessel that will help carry you to heaven with your brothers and sisters. Because that’s what it is. Register! Donate! Participate!


Brad Miner is the Senior Editor of The Catholic Thing and a Senior Fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute. He is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His most recent book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with George J. Marlin, is now on sale. His The Compleat Gentleman is now available in a third, revised edition from Regnery Gateway and is also available in an Audible audio edition (read by Bob Souer). Mr. Miner has served as a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA and also on the Selective Service System draft board in Westchester County, NY.