Holy Days of Obligation.

Why are some holy days moved to the Sunday and not others? I understand if a holy day falls on a Monday it gets moved and if it fell on a Wednesday it doesn’t, this makes sense.

In England the Ascension and the Epiphany gets moved but St Peter & St Paul doesn’t get moved, no offence but I would see the Ascension as a bigger feast than Sts Peter and Paul.


I suspect that the reasoning behind moving a feast to Sunday was to make it easier for the faithful to observe it. By moving it to Sunday it’s observed by more people than if left on the actual day of the feast when many might not be able to make it to Mass or when it might be ignored altogether.

Because it is within the competence of the bishops’ conferences to suppress or translate holy days. Canon law gives them the power to do so

Can. 1246 §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.

And the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar explicitly notes that, when certain days are suppressed, they are translated to an appropriate Sunday

  1. In those places where the solemnities of Epiphany, Ascension, and Corpus Christi are not observed as holydays of obligation, they are assigned to a Sunday, which is then considered their proper day in calendar. Thus:
    *]Epiphany, to the Sunday falling between 2 January and 8 January;
    *]Ascension, to the Seventh Sunday of Easter;
    *]the solemnity of Corpus Christi, to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.

Thus, the answer to your question *Why are some holy days moved to the Sunday and not others? *-- Because the GNLYC requires them to be moved.

NB too, that the Solemnities of St Joseph Husband of Mary, nor the Immaculate Conception are not observed as days of obligation in England and Wales, nor are they translated since there is no explicit requirement to do so.

Not A Canon Lawyer
An Armchair Liturgical Calendar Nerd :nerd:

The determination of which HDO’s to suppress, and which to move, is done on a local basis.

Local reasons are considered, I think maybe the bishops consider the fact that the Feast of the Ascension is not a public or civil holiday in the UK, and that makes it difficult for those who work for a living or attend school to avoid work and attend mass.

Mostly. But to repeat: By my reading of the GNLYC, when certain days (viz. Epiphany, Ascension, Body and Blood of Christ) are suppressed, they must be translated to Sunday. That is: I believe it is not within the competence of an episcopal conference to rule Ascension will be celebrated on Thursday after the VI Sunday of Easter, but will not be a day of obligation

I think.


That’s my reading of that article in the GNLYC

Actually, no. That’s exactly what “suppress” means in the canon you quoted earlier.

To “move” and to “suppress” are two different things. The conference can do either.

The canon actually gives the bishop’s conference the authority (remember, always with prior approval of the Holy See) to completely eliminate a Holy Day–although it’s difficult to imagine that actually happening. Since they have the authority to do the whole (suppress the day) they have the authority to do part-of-the-whole, which is to remove the obligation while keeping (albeit moving) the day in the calendar.

Allow me to make an imaginary example.

In the U.S. St Joseph day is not a Holy Day of Obligation. It falls on March 19. Imagine a country where March 19 has some cultural significance. The bishops of this hypothetical country might decide to move St Joseph Day to March 12 or perhaps “the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday,” but have it as a non-obligatory day. They could certainly propose that to the Holy See, and if approved, that’s what would happen–all within the way the law is currently phrased.

Thank you, Father.

What is your reading of GNLYC #7?


GNLYC (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar)* dates from 1969. When it was written, the 1917 Code of Canon Law was in effect.

I am not sure exactly what the Code said at that time. Also, remember that there were revisions made to the law itself (at the time) which did not necessarily appear in the Code, especially with regard to the topic at hand.

The 1917 Code was abrogated and replaced by the 1983 Code. In the 1983 Code, the bishops’ conferences were given the authority, with prior approval of the Holy See, to suppress or move the Holy Days (canon 1246, which has already been posted).

Ergo, if there seems to be a conflict between the GNLYC of 1969 and the Code of Canon Law of 1983; which is, I think, the crux of your question, the Code of Canon Law takes precedence.

Simply put, the Conference did not have the authority to suppress in 1969 (or so it seems) but they do have that authority today.

Remember that the GNYLC has not been updated since 1969. Not a single word has changed. We have the exact same document today. I would venture to suppose that if it were updated and re-issued today, the proper authorities would edit the paragraph in question (#7) to reflect the changes made to the Code of Canon Law in 1983.

  • Some readers might not know all these acronyms.

I was taught that holy days such as Ascension Thursday were moved to Sunday because so many of the “faithful” didn’t attend on Thursday so the bishops moved them to keep the “faithful” out of mortal sin. Keeping that in mind is it possible for the bishops to take away the holy day obligation for Sundays because so many of the “faithful” are not attending?

I know this site still maintains that we must attend Mass when possible on Sundays under the pain of mortal sin, but that is not what is being taught and I was wondering if maybe this is why?

I do not understand your last question.

What do you mean by “that is not what is being taught.” Also, to what does the “why?” refer?

Do you mean “why is this not being taught”? or “why did the bishops move some days to Sunday”? or something else?

I have been explicitly told that we no longer teach that Sundays are days in which you **must **attend Mass. I have been told not to teach that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass (unless of course you have a good reason, sick, bad weather, travel etc…). Not even to Confirmation Candidates. Not even to adults. I have been told that people should want to come to Mass and not come our of an obligation. I think some of the thinking is that if people do not understand/know of the rule, they can’t be bound to it.

Now taking that a step further, is it possible as this thinking expands, could the bishops change the rule? If they did, it would keep many of the faithful out of mortal sin…which is kinda a goal of ours…

Oh boy! You’ve actually been told not to teach that we are obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation under pain of mortal sin? Might go a long way to explaining why we see such low numbers in church. Of course we’re obligated to go to Mass on Sundays under pain of mortal sin. Why would we want to keep people from knowing that??

Of course it’s true that we should want to come to church to praise, thank, and worship God the Father through and with his Son, Jesus Christ. But better to go because it’s a sin not to than to not go at all.

That is most unfortunate.
No, the Church has not changed. It is still a mortal sin to intentionally fail to attend Mass (insert all the usual conditions).

Now taking that a step further, is it possible as this thinking expands, could the bishops change the rule? If they did, it would keep many of the faithful out of mortal sin…which is kinda a goal of ours…

That depends on what you mean by “the bishops.” Some Catholics are surprised to learn this, but the answer is actually “yes.” The Church (meaning the Magisterium) could change this. It would require a change to canon law, which any pope could do on his own authority, or it could be done by an Ecumenical Council (which requires the pope’s assent). An individual conference of bishops (United States, for example) could not do this.

Many Catholics today are surprised to learn that the law requiring all Catholics to attend Mass every Sunday, as a universal law, did not exist until sometime in the 19th century. Before then, there were local laws (we might say “regional” or based on the political geography of the time) that either did or did not require attending Mass on every Sunday.

Remember that keeping the Lord’s Day holy is a Divine Command, however, the specific way that we do that, which today means attending Mass (as a start) is a rule of the Church, and it actually can be changed. Even today, in the Eastern Churches, the Sunday precept can be fulfilled by attending the Divine Praises (the Liturgy of the Hours) for some Churches sui iuris.

So, even though this might surprise you, the answer is actually “yes.” The Church could indeed change the laws to make attending Sunday Mass less than obligatory under pain of mortal sin.



Very interesting.

Not to try to hijack the thread, but will somebody please explain why we call the ‘holy days of obligation’? Or our ‘Sunday obligation’?

Every day is an opportunity to stand before the Lord and realize that the Holy Spirit descends on the altar at the consecration. Just like the Holy Spirit came up the Blessed Virgin at the Lord’s conception; and the apostles on Pentecost. Why is being in the presence of God, an obligation. Shouldn’t those days be called Holy Days of Opportunity?

OK, I know church laws say we have an obligation to attend. But wouldn’t the word, opportunity, encourage more to put themselves before the very real power and presence of God? I can think of no better place on earth.

Just sayin’ My:twocents:

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