Feast days, memorials, and Friday Penance

Can someone explain the different levels of importance in Church holidays, and how they relate to Friday Abstinance?

Every day that is a memorial for a saint, people tend to call it “the feast of St. _____”… even when as far as I can tell, it is not an official feast day.

Also how to solemnities fit in there? Are we supposed to skip Friday penance on solemnities, or just feast days, or on any saints day?

One of the best places for finding out information on all the above is fisheaters.com. You can even find out about pre-Vatican II classifications (if you think the CURRENT classifications are hard, you shoulda seen what came before).

Here’s the page that talks about feasts and the liturgical year that answers the first part of your question (Scroll down a bit and you’ll see where it talks about descending order, etc.) fisheaters.com/time.html

And this section on fasting and abstinence answers the other question about when one can eat meat on a Friday. fisheaters.com/fasting.html

In the first link I think it also mentions where one can find a calendar that would give you the feast days etc. and they usually note whether it is an optional feast, whether it is a memorial or a solemnity, etc. Once you’ve read the links it will all make more sense.

God bless.

To answer according to the current calendar:

The short answer, ranking celebrations from highest to lowest:
*]Feast of the Lord
*]Memorial (obligatory)
*]Optional Memorial
(A Feast of the Lord is kind of a hybrid. It ordinarily is celebrated like a Feast, but if it falls on Sunday it is celebrated like a Solemnity)

For more, and their interaction with the seasons of the year, see the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, particularly the Table of Liturgical Days.

(with emphasis added)
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays,

unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday

. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.


I’m glad I asked: I thought this Friday, the feast of St. James, was not a day of penance!

Thank you for the links. It seems to me that a lot of people talk about “the feast of so-and-so” when really its “the memorial of so-and-so”.

The easiest thing I do is get a parish from our church each year. :smiley: The days are marked with the liturgical color and the various feasts, solemnities, and Holy Days f Obligation are marked in different typeface. It even has a little fish icon on the days we should abstain. :wink:

If your parish does not give out calendars like that, perhaps a nearby one does or you can order one from an online Catholic store. I actually have 3 different ones this year!

Did you leave a word out? I think you meant parish calendar? I don’t know if my parish has one, but I’ll ask!

Interestingly, today at mass they said it was the “Feast of st. Appolinarius”… but I after reading this thread I happen to know that today is actually not a feast day, but rather a memorial! Is it normal to call memorial days “feast days”? I’ve heard/seen that at other parishes too.


(And an *Optional *Memorial at that!)

Yes, it is normal, and yes, it can be confusing.

The word *feast *has both a technical definition (a liturgical celebration of a particular rank), and a mundane definition (an occasion to be celebrated). Knowing which definition is meant in a particular context is not always easy. Sometimes Solemnities are also referred to by this mundane use of feast.


LOL Yes, I meant a parish calendar. Usually around November they are out on a table in the narthex. I like the religious art and the fact that they show the various feasts, memorials, etc.

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