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Holy Days of Obligation

There are six Holy Days of Obligation where Catholics are expected to observe these days by attendance at Mass.

Please note - Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the obligation to attend Mass is lifted.

 

Solemnity of Mary, January 1
Ascension of Christ, 40 days after Easter
Assumption of the Blessed Mother, August 15
All Saints' Day, November 1
Immaculate Conception of Mary, December 8
Christmas, December 25

 

Solemnity of Mary, January 1

This feast, closely connected to the feast of Christmas, is the most important and oldest of the major feasts of Mary. Mary's Divine Maternity became a universal feast in 1931. Liturgical reform initiated by Vatican II placed it on January 1 in 1969. Prior to this, this feast celebrated on January 1 was the circumcision of Jesus.

As a conference, the U.S. bishops decided, with Vatican approval given July 4, 1992, that when the solemnities of Mary, the Mother of God (January 1), the Assumption (August 15) or All Saints (November 1) fall on a Saturday or Monday, it is not an obligation to attend Mass for these feasts.

Although the obligation to attend when these three holy days fall on a Saturday or Monday is abolished, parishes are to continue to observe these Holy Days by scheduling one or more Masses at a convenient time so that people who wish to participate are able to do so.

Ascension of Christ, 40 days after Easter

This feast is celebrated the fortieth day after Easter Sunday and commemorates the elevation of Jesus into heaven by his own power in the presence of his disciples. It is narrated in Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, and in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

In March 2000, the Catholic bishops of the Wisconsin province transferred the Feast of the Ascension to the seventh Sunday of Easter, one week before Pentecost Sunday. The Vatican, at the request of the bishops of the United States, granted permission for the date change, giving ecclesiastical provinces in the United States the authority to make the transfer. Observing the Ascension on the seventh Sunday of Easter allows for heightened celebration and an increased opportunity to education people about the meaning of the feast.

Assumption of the Blessed Mother, August 15

This is the principal feast of Mary. It has a double purpose: first, the happy departure of Mary from this life and second, the assumption of her body into heaven.

Little for certain is known about the day, year and manner of Mary's death. The dates assigned for it vary between three and fifteen years after Jesus' Ascension.

All Saints' Day, November 1

This feast honors all the saints, known and unknown.

This feast was first celebrated on May 13, 610, when Pope Boniface IV proclaimed the day Feast of All Holy Martyrs in Rome. The intent was to honor all martyrs who were not included in local records. In 835, Pope Gregory IV changed the date and name to November 1 and Feast of All Saints. A fall date allowed people to celebrate with food from the fall harvest.

Immaculate Conception of Mary, December 8

The Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the belief that God preserved Mary from any inclination to sin, the inheritance of original sin passed on to all mankind from Adam and Eve.

The feast of the Conception of Mary appeared in the Roman calendar in 1476. After the dogmatic definition by Pope Pius IX in 1854, it became the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Christmas, December 25

This feast, one of the two major feast of the liturgical year, celebrates the birth of Jesus.

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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee

3501 South Lake Drive
PO Box 070912
Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912

Phone:  (414) 769-3300
Toll-Free: (800) 769-9373
Fax:  (414)  769-3408