Thursday, November 1, is All Saints’ Day. It is a Holy Day of Obligation. What does that term “Holy Day of Obligation” mean to us as Catholics? According to the The Code of Canon Law (It was most recently updated in 1983.) in Canon 1247 “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.”
Quite simply, every Sunday (the Vigil Mass on Saturday is also acceptable) is a holy day of obligation for us as Catholics. Up until 100 years ago, there were an additional 36 holy days of obligation. That has been reduced to 10 other holy days by Rome, but even those are left somewhat to the discretion of the Bishops of a particular area. In Florida, for example, there are five holy days — Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God — January 1; Assumption of the Virgin Mary — August 15; All Saints’ Day — November 1; Feast of the Immaculate Conception — December 8; and Christmas — December 25. The Solemnity of the Ascension is also a holy day of obligation celebrated on the 40th day after Easter Sunday (Ascension Thursday), though most U.S. dioceses have transferred this feast to the following Sunday.
In order to give people the opportunity to fulfill their “obligation,” most parishes have a vigil Mass the night before a holy day, as well as multiple Masses on the holy day itself.
It is interesting to note that the Bishops of a particular country can add other holy days if they so desire. In Ireland, the Feast of St. Patrick on March 17 is a holy day of obligation for Catholics. In Germany, the Feast of St. Stephen on December 26 is a holy day. In Poland, Epiphany, January 6, is a holy day.
Mass is a wonderful gift to us. Holy Days are even greater gifts. We as Catholics need to make the sacrifices necessary to fulfill our holy day obligation.