Monday, August 17, 2015


 Our American bishops as a collective group (thanks to synodality) have single-handedly dismantled one of the most beautiful aspects of our liturgical spirituality, that of the Holy Day of Obligation. Yes, it was our bishops who did it, not rank and file Catholic laity! To say that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops might be an understatement.

I was ordained in 1980 and all the Holy Days of Obligation were still in place no matter what day of the week these fell, be it Saturday or Monday. Ascension Thursday based upon the New Testament's count that Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after Easter was still on Thursday and still a Holy Day of Obligation! (However Corpus Christi which traditionally falls on the Thursday after the Sunday Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity had already been transferred to the Sunday in the USA after Holy Trinity, but Corpus Christi had never been obligatory in the USA, so why it was moved remains a mystery).

In every parish I have been, Holy Days of Obligation were well attended as though it was a Sunday, which is what the "obligation" to attend means. There were no problems with it. No one was complaining about one more Holy Day of Obligation during the week that a Catholic had to endure! I never heard of bishops or priests complaining about it either.

One of the best attended Holy Days of Obligation was Ascension Thursday. Our Masses, all of the ones we had, were attended as though it was a Sunday. Marian Holy Days were also well attended even if on a Saturday or Monday! No complaints from the laity about it!

Well, the bishops decided to fix once again something that wasn't broken and in the process have made a mess of something that wasn't dirty.

They said if the Holy Day fell on a Saturday or Monday that the "obligation" to attend was removed and that priests didn't have to schedule extra Masses. Really? How stupid was that?

So this past Saturday was the Solemnity of the Assumption. Guess what? This once extremely well attended Holy Day of Obligation became for this year and also for next year (as it is a leap year and Assumption will fall on a Monday) non obligatory.

I had scheduled a vigil Mass on Friday and could only schedule one Mass on Saturday due to conflicts in our schedule for the use of the Church Saturday morning (which would not have occurred if the day was obligatory).  At Friday night's Vigil, we had less than half of a church full of faithful and on Saturday morning the same number. Normally and with more Masses scheduled, many more, our Masses would be quite full. Thanks USA bishops for the decline in Mass attendance for this marvelous solemnity.

On top of that I did not tell our congregation that the obligation to attend Mass was removed when I promoted the Mass at the announcements the previous Sunday. I simply said that Saturday was a Holy Day for the Solemnity of the Assumption and then stated the Mass times. But the religious calendar our parishioners have states on it that the obligation was removed.  So I couldn't fool the majority into coming!

On Saturday night I did have a few people confess they missed the Assumption Mass not intentionally but because they simply forgot (which causes the missing of the Mass if it had been obligatory to become a venial sin rather than an intention mortal sin). I had to tell them they didn't sin at all since there was no obligation to attend Mass and there is no mortal sin in forgetting something. Then they asked me why it wasn't an obligation and of course I have to give them our bishops' silly song and dance about it which puzzles them and me too!

Thanks bishops!


John Nolan said...

In Catholic countries, and in the predominantly Catholic German Länder, Ascension Thursday, Corpus Christi, Assumption and All Saints are public holidays. Elsewhere, people are likely to be working on those days. In England people would usually fulfil the obligation by attending evening Mass when these were permitted after 1958. The Corpus Christi Mass and procession could be celebrated on the following Sunday as an external solemnity. More recently the bishops moved Assumption, SS Peter and Paul and All Saints to the Sunday if they fell on the Saturday or Monday; in Scotland they weren't moved but the obligation was lifted (why? Saturday is not a working day for most people). Still more recently, and controversially, the English bishops moved all Holy Days 'of the Lord' to the nearest Sunday, leading to the absurdities of Ascension Thursday Sunday and the Epiphany being celebrated on 3 January. This puts us out of sync. with our Anglican brethren, not to mention Catholics north of the border, but does allow for the EF Mass to be celebrated on the correct day (without, of course, any obligation being attached thereto).

rcg said...

Why do you think they dis this? It seems this sort of thing, including the vernacular in Mass seems to have created a mental state for Catholics where we have to remind ourselves that we are Catholic, that it is an almost abstract thing laminated on symbolically to our lives, like wearing green on St Partick' Day. When it comes to making a choice we will of course decide to wear the company logo instead of green, we will opt for the school sporting event over Mass.

Anonymous said...

In our diocese the same thing happened. Most who attend the Traditional Latin Mass missed out on the Solemnity of the Assumption all together. Why? Because Sunday was not the Solemnity of the Assumption under the old calendar and most dioceses, if they do offer a Traditional Latin Mass, only offer one Sunday Mass and there was no Saturday Novus Ordo Masses offered for the Assumption, except at a few evening Masses. I was travelling so couldn't attend. I also know that at least one request for a Traditional Mass of the Assumption on Saturday was turned down. Therefore, I believe that those who missed the Solemnity of the Assumption any sin incurred will fall on the souls of the bishops.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father, your assertion, "In every parish I have been, Holy Days of Obligation were well attended as though it was a Sunday,.." is rather striking and wholly abnormal.

CARA reports: "Twenty-seven percent of Pre-Vatican II Generation Catholics report that they “always” attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation (51 percent at least “frequently or usually”). No more than 12 percent of members of other generations say they “always” attend. Catholics of the Vatican II and Post-Vatican II generations are least likely to say they attend Mass at least “frequently or usually” on Holy Days of Obligation (31 and 32 percent, respectively).

Could it be that your counting of Holy Day attendees is a little bit ... off?

That being said, I would recommend one of two remedies for this mess. One, return all Holy Days to their historic locations on the calendar, but remove the "obligation" from them. Making mass attendance on these days obligatory made very little, if any, difference for the vast majority of Catholics.

If that's not the path chosen, then move all the Holy Days to the nearest Sunday, with the exception of Christmas. There is great value in Catholics celebrating the mysteries of these days, hearing the Scripture readings, and allowing the mystery to influence their way of life.

Regarding your comment: "They said if the Holy Day fell on a Saturday or Monday that the "obligation" to attend was removed and that priests didn't have to schedule extra Masses. Really? How stupid was that?" Remember that you and I serve in a diocese with enough priests to staff all parishes. There are many other diocese in the United States where this is not the case. In the mid-west and upper mid-west, priests serve two or three or, in some cases, four parishes with large numbers of parishioners. For them, scheduling masses for Holy Days is a huge problem, one that is lessened by the admittedly inelegant step the bishops took to remove the obligation for Holy Days that fall on Saturdays and Mondays (except Christmas and the Immaculate Conception.)

Lefebvrian said...

In a couple of the Traditional parishes here in my diocese, Assumption was billed as a Holy Day of Obligation...

Anyway, we attended the Sung Mass for the Feast at the local church staffed by the Institute of Christ the King. The Mass was followed by the traditional blessing of fruits and herbs. It was a very joyous feast day celebration!

Joe Potillor said...

Fortunately, as an Eastern Catholic, this is not a problem, as we had our obligation kept....but is is a problem, when I'm trying to fulfill the obligation at a Roman church.

John Nolan said...

Father Kavanaugh has a good point. On a holiday we hear Mass and desist from servile works. If from one reason or another we cannot take a day off work it would have been impractical to hear Mass in many places (certainly before evening Masses were authorized in 1958). So removing the obligation makes sense.

Transference of Holy Days to the nearest Sunday does mean that the liturgical riches of the feast are available to more people (although in the NO as normally performed these would not be much in evidence since the folk group would no doubt be churning out the same dire stuff that they do every week).

On Saturday I attended the EF Missa Cantata for the Assumption at the Oxford Oratory. The following day I sang at the same Mass in a church a mile away up the Woodstock Road (external solemnity). Meanwhile the Oratory was celebrating a Solemn Latin OF Mass of the Assumption, since the bishops have transferred the feast to the Sunday. The Oratory's 8 o'clock EF Low Mass was also transferred. The feast was therefore spread over two days. Absurd and unliturgical? You decide.

Anonymous said...

So if missing Mass on a hold day of obligation is a mortal sin (meaning if one dies having not repented via reconciliation one is bound for eternity in Hell) and if one missed mass under those circumstances in 2013 and dies unrepentant one would be languishing in Hell, someone who missed Mass on a HDOO this year would not? That is the serious message you expect people to swallow? Spare me. Please, less talk of this nonsense and more of social justice issues. More health care for the poor, fewer guns for example. God Bless.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The problem with the progressive agenda (which isn't necessarily wrong) is that most individuals can't do much about it, especially the things you speak of, like health care, getting guns away from gangs and criminals, not to mention terrorists and finding homes for the homeless and setting up day shelters for the poor. These are all laudable things but go beyond individual's abilities.

But when it comes to Mass attendance, sexual morality, how one treats their family and the care of them with proper priorities, this is where things can change and become better because it is within the ability of the individual to do so.

Thus the antipathy to the obligation of Mass attendance and personal sexual morality with sophomoric attitudes about these is the problem of the progressives which has reared its ugly head again after going into hiding somewhere in the 80's.