I understand that many other feast days were once holy days of obligation but currently are not so. I wonder why the Church has downgraded many feast days.
Can you name some? Maybe they were only feast days for the countries that made them feast days?
Feast of st Joseph as well as feast of st. Peter and Paul used to be holy days of obligation in the US. Feast of Ascension was moved to a Sunday. – that’s a big head scratcher. Why jot keep it on a Thursday!!! I believe there are other movable feast days such as solemnity of Mary (Jan 1)
The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul jolly well should be holy days of obligation. Can’t people petition there? Here in the U.K it is on a Sunday.
I would have thought The Ascension should be on a Sunday anyway to be honest. It fits.
Maybe they are trying to fit most days on Sundays so that more people can attend the special feast days as many people during the week work evening shifts?
I can’t speak for what happened before then but neither the Feast of St. Joseph nor the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul have been days of obligation in the United States since at least 1884. That’s when the current six Holy Days of Obligation (that would be counting the Ascension for those places where it is not transferred to Sunday) were established for the USA.
Thanks for this. My memories go back to the early 50’s, and I had no memory of the Feast of St. Joseph being a day of obligation, and was concerned that I had lost it. Where I grew up, on March 19th we were still recovering from what had gone on two days earlier…
Ah, my friend, in the early '50s I’ll bet the Italians in Boston were all wearing red and celebrating with a St. Joseph’s Table filled with wonderful Italian pasta, fish and pastries.
As a general comment, the Church has greatly simplified the hierarchy of feasts to simplify the calendar, from a rather complex system of feasts. By 1907 there were 280 feast days classed as:
Doubles, I Class
Doubles, II Class
Add to that things like Octaves, Ember Days, etc., and the calendar was indeed very complex. Now take that into the context of a religious community, say of monks, praying the Divine Office every day, 7 times a day. It had become so complex (especially with sung liturgies) that monks ended up divided into two classes: choir monks (who were ordained or en route to becoming ordained) and lay brothers (who did the actual physical work and usually had their own “little offices”). This was against both the spirit and the letter of the Rule of Saint Benedict.
The result was that the monks were, the vast majority of the time, singing festive offices, and very often from the festive psalms. The ordinary ferias were few and far between. The result is that while we nominally say that monks prayed the entire psalter in a week, this usually wasn’t the case for many, if not most, weeks. The joke among monks is that they had a very big devotion to St. Feria. An ordinary feria (ordinary weekday) was like a holiday for them with a simpler office. You get the idea: the feast became the tedium, and the non-feast became an occasion to celebrate. The notion of a “feast” should be something special, not something so regular that it loses all meaning. It would be like celebrating your birth hour every day instead of your birthday once a year.
The calendar is now much simpler and easy to follow, divided into:
There are fewer feasts, and most memorials are celebrated much like ferias except for hymns, gospel canticle antiphons, readings and responsories. This has eased the load on monks considerably. In the early 80s, the abbey I’m associated with eliminated the rank of Lay Brother, and all the Lay Brothers were admitted to the ranks of the fully professed. This also gave them a voice in Chapter (the ability to comment and vote on affairs of the abbey), a right they did not enjoy as lay brothers. They were truly “second-class monks” until the reforms. Now monks are either ordained, or non-ordained, but outside the service of the altar, they are of equal rank other than the offices of Prior and Abbot.
Don’t assume, either that simplification started with Vatican II. They started under Pius X who simplified the number of Octaves; Pius XII reduced the number of Octaves to Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, simplified many rubrics, and simplified the ranking of saints as well, removing the rank of “semi-double”.
John XXIII further simplified, by replacing “Doubles, Semidoubles, and Simples with I, II, and III class feasts and commemorations.” (source: Wikipedia).
After Vatican II the whole liturgical year underwent reform, and is what we know now.
The issue of holy days of obligation (which impact on the requirement for Mass attendance) is related more to modern sociological tendencies where, especially in multi-cultural/religious countries such as Canada and the US, it’s not realistic to expect employers to accommodate all of the religious holidays of Catholics or others, so most HDO have migrated to the nearest Sunday. However in many religious communities like the Benedictines, those feasts remain on their actual calendar day (such as the Ascension being celebrated on a Thursday instead of Sunday).
That is left to each bishop as to if they want to move it to Sunday. In my archdiocese, it’s still on Thrusday
Very interesting information
Thanks for saying this. I think that people are beginning to learn that they shouldn’t cry, “Vatican II!,” every time they don’t like something about the Church. But it still needs to be said.
Yes. There are some countries (mainly European) where the distinction between holidays and holy days is not that great. There is a certain presumption that Holy Days of Obligation will be like Sunday and be days of rest/celebration. In countries like the United States (and Canada?), attending Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation most likely means frantic planning and travel to find a Mass that fits in with work and/or school. In other words, attending Mass requires extra work.
Actually, it was left to the bishops together in each province.
The ascension is the Thursday in the Sixth week of Easter (40th Day after Easter.) However, since the Bishops Conference saw that nobody could go to church on that day (or maybe a few) they transferred it to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. All HDO’s are solemnities and the Nativity of the BVM is a feast. It was never an HDO.
Do you know if that’s the case anywhere outside the US?
Canon Law gives the National Conferences the right to decide which of the 10 Holy Days of Obligation they will observe/abrogate/move.
In 1992 the US National Conference decreed that the US would observe all but Epiphany, the Body and Blood of Christ, Saint Joseph, and Saint Peter & Saint Paul, with the caveat that if Mary, Mother of God, Assumption, or All Saints fell on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass was abrogated.
Seven years later it decreed that the bishops of each Ecclesiastical Province could vote to move Ascension to the Sunday.
In Canada such an option does not exist and our only two HDoO are Mary, Mother of God and Christmas. Epiphany, Ascension and Body and Blood of Christ were moved to Sunday and the rest abrogated.
I do not know.
the Dormition of the Holy Mary Mother of God
feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
these are holy days of obligation to syromalabar catholics. but, we have lent before marys nativity
Interestingly, the Vatican celebrates the Ascension on Thursday, but the rest of Italy celebrates it on the Sunday.
Some are regional, like St. Patrick. Hawaii has only two obligatory, besides Sundays. Canon law has, besides Sundays, 10 for the Latin Church and 5 for the eastern Catholic churches that are normal, but may be supressed or transferred: CIC 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.
§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.
CEO Canon 880
§1. Only the supreme authority of the Church can establish, transfer or suppress feast days and days of penance which are common to all of the Eastern Churches, with due regard for §3.
§2. The authority of a Church sui iuris which is competent to establish particular law can constitute, transfer or suppress feast days and days of penance for that Church sui iuris, however having sought the opinions of the other Churches sui iuris and with due regard for can. 40, §1.
§3. Holy days of obligation common to all the Eastern Churches, beyond Sundays, are the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Dormition of the Holy Mary Mother of God and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul except for the particular law of a Church sui iuris approved by the Apostolic See which suppresses a holy days of obligation or transfers them to a Sunday.