Holy days of obligation in different country


hi everyone,

I was just thinking of something today, I often have to travel for various things and different countries have different rules when it comes toholy days of obligation.

should I follow my country’s rules or the rules of the one I’m visiting if the days are different?

in Canada, for example, we only have Christmas and jan 1 as holy days besides sundays but you guys in the states, there are a few more.

hope my question makes sense


I would say just as you follow the rules of someone else house (i.e. washing hands before meals), you would do to for other countries. Plus what does it hurt to go to mass and visit God a couple extra times. :wink:

God Bless!


You would be considered a traveler.

Can. 100 A person is said to be: a resident (incola) in the place where the person has a domicile; a temporary resident (advena) in the place where the person has a quasi-domicile; a traveler (peregrinus) if the person is outside the place of a domicile or quasi-domicile which is still retained; a transient (vagus) if the person does not have a domicile or quasi- domicile anywhere.

You would be bound by the holy days that are universal law:

Can. 12 §1. Universal laws bind everywhere all those for whom they were issued.

§2. All who are actually present in a certain territory, however, are exempted from universal laws which are not in force in that territory.

§3. Laws established for a particular territory bind those for whom they were issued as well as those who have a domicile or quasi-domicile there and who at the same time are actually residing there, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 13.

As it pertains to particular law, you would not be bound by any holy days that are local (i.e. Feast of a local/county patron saint) nor by any particular laws of your own territory if you aren’t there:

Can. 13 §1. Particular laws are not presumed to be personal but territorial unless it is otherwise evident.

§2. Travelers are not bound:

1/ by the particular laws of their own territory as long as they are absent from it unless either the transgression of those laws causes harm in their own territory or the laws are personal;

2/ by the laws of the territory in which they are present, with the exception of those laws which provide for public order, which determine the formalities of acts, or which regard immovable goods located in the territory.


which days are in the universal law, besides sunday? seems like there are 10 holy days but certain countries are exemp from certain ones.

also, does it mean I would not be obliged to observe my own country’s holy days while I’m away, am I understanding correctly?

if it is possible, I would do it, I’m just thiking of circumstances where transport may be difficult.

I wouldn’t want to miss anything that would be deemed mortal sin


My gut says the Church is most merciful to travelers in this regard, but I could be mistaken. :shrug:

If there is a day of obligation in the visited territory which is not observed in the home diocese, how is the traveler to know? I believe the Church does not obligate in this situation.

If there is a day of obligation in the home diocese which is not observed in the visited territory, the traveler may not be able to find a Mass, and I believe the Church is likewise merciful in this situation. (This may fall under the precept that if it is impossible to assist at Mass one’s obligation ceases?)

But to repeat: I may be mistaken.



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.


Mortal sins are things you do on purpose. You have a disability and depend on your parents for transportation. You do not sin when unable to attend Mass for these reasons.


well, not always dependent on my parents when travelling alone

more likely scenario is getting myself lost in a city I don’t know.

so all those listed in your post would need to be observed if I’m understanding correctly?


Why don’t you talk to your pastor about this situation? I think that is best at this point.


ok, I will, if it happens.

but from what I gather of your posts, the general rule is that I should be going to mass for all those days listed in canon law as universal, regardless of whather my country or the one I’m visiting observes them? that’s what I’m a bit confused about


No. The holydays listed are the total. Most countries do not require people to go to Mass on all of these. Some are normally transferred to a Sunday, such as Ascension. Others are not celebrated in a number of countries.

Here in Trinidad, Epiphany and Ascension are moved to Sunday. Christmas, Mary Mother of God, and Corpus Christi are Holydays of obligation, but they are also public holidays.


1ke already posted the canons, so no need to repeat them.

Think of it this way:

  1. If you are exempt from that Holy Day in the place where you live, you are also exempt when you travel to some other place (even if that other place is not exempt). We say that “the dispensation travels with you.”
    Imagine it this way. The bishop writes a decree dispensing your home diocese from the obligation. You have a copy of that decree in your pocket. When you travel to some other place, you still have the dispensation, so you are exempt from the obligation.

  2. If you are not exempt where you live, but the place where you travel is exempt, then you share in that dispensation that applies to the place where you visit.
    The bishop of that other place dispenses everyone in the diocese. Since you are in that diocese at that moment, the dispensation applies to you just as it applies to everyone else. Just because you’re visiting that doesn’t exclude you from the dispensation.

  3. If you are obligated to observe a Holy Day at home and the place where you visit is also obliged, then you still have that obligation when you travel.


I think the idea of universal law trips up a lot of people because when it comes to HDOs. Unless you know the rules about dispensations for travelers you might think that travelers are bound to observe ALL 10 HDOs instead of the intersection of the local and home location days.


thank you, now it makes sense


that’s exactly what I was getting confused about


:stuck_out_tongue: Heck, I was pretty sure about the rules and *I confused myself *when I re-read the canons posted by 1ke. :stuck_out_tongue:



I realize this would be exceedingly rare, but what if the two locations each had their own holy day of obligation on the same day? Say for instance each bishop declared a day of obligation for his own local saint, and the days coincided. As I read it, because they are two different obligations, a traveler would not be obligated to observe that day during his travels.


Travelers are not bound by the holy day. Because it’s not a universal holy day but a local one. Really that sentence should be in the plural: they are local holy days.

Once the traveler leaves his home diocese, the obligation ceases. Both canons 12 & 13.
The traveler is loosed by virtue of leaving the territory.

The traveler is not bound by local laws. Again, c. 13

Yes, it would be rare, but it’s not as far-fetched as one might think at first. Let’s say that someone lives in Ireland (where St Patrick day is a holy day of obligation—even if it’s not, let’s just say for discussion sake that it is). That person visits New York for a week. Let’s say that the Archbishop of NY makes it a holy day in the diocese (again, hypothetical). The traveler would not be obligated.


There is another interesting variation for transients, those that do not have a domicile or quasi-domicile. They are bound to both the universal and local particular laws where they are at the time.

Also some Catholics are bound to observe personal particular laws instead of the particular territorial laws. Examples are members of:

]institutes of consecrated life
]personal prelature, i.e.,
Opus Dei**
*]associations of the faithful


Having family that lives in Canada I travel often for a visit. Many years ago when our children were very young we found ourselves in Ontario visiting and along came the day we knew as the Assumption. I had known the local parish and checked their daily Mass schedule only to find there was no Mass scheduled. We found a nearby Church that had morning Mass and planned to attend. When we arrived and were seated I realized that we were the only family in attendance. The few others scattered throughout were mainly elderly women and a few older men. Sitting in the front we were immediately singled out by the priest as guests and he proceeded, very politely, to inquire as to our presence. Being caught off guard I could only reply “well it is the Feast of the Assumption” to which he replied “not in Canada”. After Mass we had a very pleasant conversation with him. I thanked him for schooling us on the Holy days observed in Canada and he thanked us for attending Mass.
BTW as I recall he told me he was a U.S. citizen and attended seminary in the U.S.


I can only guess he was being facetious, or you are misreporting the exchange?

As near as I can tell, though the Canadian Catholics are not obliged to assist at Mass, 15-Aug remains the Feast (Solemnity) of the Assumption?


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