QUAERITUR: How to fulfill Holy Day obligation

I got a question via e-mail:

     What exactly is required for the fulfillment of a Holy Day?  I ask this because those who attend both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of Mass can get into ackward situations with the celebration of the Ascension on two different days in certain dioceses.  Are those who are not able to make it to the Ascension Thursday Mass in the EF obliged to attend the Ordinary Form the following Sunday? 

Also, can a cleric pray the Liturgy of Hours, with its calander, and attend the Extraordinary Form of Mass on these same days (Ascension Thursday and Ascension Sunday), or coversely pray the Roman Breviary and attend the Ordinary form on these days?

First, the local guidelines for your diocese should be observed for Holy Days.  However, if there is a Holy Day of Obligation, you should strive to fulfil it regardless of which Rite of Holy Mass you must attend.  Just because a fellow might prefer the TLM, that does not dispense him from his obligation if there is no TLM available (unless there are other serious circumstances… which in 99% of the times are aren’t).

Second, a cleric can do anything he wants in regard to the office now.



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  1. Joshua says:

    If I may clarify further, by transferring Ascension the bishops have essentially removed the obligation to attend Mass on Thursday. Obligation is tied to the day itself, not the actualy liturgy (hence a nuptial Mass at 9 PM Saturday fulfills your Sunday obligation).

    Further, the FSSP at least applies the same rule to Ascension where it is transferred as is applied to Corpus Christi in the EF. Leo XIII gave an indult to America whereby Corpus Christi was not a holyday, and the Mass of that Feast could be said on the following Sunday as an External Solemnity.

    An External Solemnity is a form of votive Mass. So Ascension and Corpus Christi are both said on their Thursdays, and the Office for Ascension and Corpus Christi hold for those days. But the Mass itself is said on the Sunday following, taking precedence over the Sunday Mass (though note there is not strict obligation to make use of an external Solemnity, so a particular congregation might find no reason to do so). The Office on Sunday remains that of the Sunday after Ascension, but the Mass is said of Ascension for the benefit of the people.

    The old rite allows many external solemnities as options btw. Hence, Candlemass can be said on the Sunday nearest Feb. 2 in addition to its proper day, as long as it is Sung and a procession happens prior to it.

  2. Br Gregory Pearson, OP says:

    I thought it should perhaps be pointed out that if, in a given diocese, the feasts of the Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi are transferred to the nearest Sunday in the Ordinary Form, this is because they are not Holy Days of Obligation in that diocese.

    Basically, the modern Roman calendar assigns these feasts to their traditional days, but then directs that ‘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.’ (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, art. 7). So when the Bishops’ Conference “transfers” these feasts to Sundays, what they are actually doing is removing them (with the Vatican’s permission) from the list of Holy Days of Obligation for their territory. The modern calendar then automatically transfers their celebration to the Sunday.

    The old Roman calendar has no such provision, and so in the Extraordinary Form, the feasts are always celebrated on the same day, regardless of whether or not they are of obligation in any particular territory.

    Where these feasts are not Holy Days of Obligation (i.e. where the Ordinary Form celebrates them on Sunday), the only obligation is the ordinary Sunday one, which can be fulfilled by hearing Mass in any Catholic rite. In theory, that means you could end up not celebrating these feasts at all (if you only went to an EF Sunday Mass – or, for that matter, Mass in an Eastern rite that doesn’t transfer the feast), but as the law stands, that’s permissible.

    I hope that helps clear it up a bit!

  3. Mathew Lu says:

    I believe this is exactly a case when St. Ambrose’s “when in Rome…” applies; you’re bound by the norms of where you are, not where you’re from. One annoying thing about the contemporary practice of transferring is coming up in my case. In this diocese it is transferred, but I happen to be travelling the day after Ascension Thursday to a diocese where it is not. So basically our plan is to go to Mass (OF, unfortunately) on Thursday where we will not get the Mass of Ascension, but when we go on Sunday in the other diocese we will also not get the Mass of Ascension (because it’s not transferred there). So no Ascension for us. I take it we cannot be faulted for missing the Holy Day since we’re doing the best we can do, but it’s rather a ridiculous situation. If the silly American bishops would stop transferring we wouldn’t run into such problems. Heaven forbid that we should actually require American Catholics to make extremely minor sacrifices for the practice of the Faith.

  4. elizabeth mckernan says:

    There is confusion too in my diocese here in Southern England regarding the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Bishop moved the feast day to the following Sunday a year or two ago but the Cathedral still celebrates it on the Thursday! Mass is celebrated followed by a beautiful procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the Cathedral to the local Castle grounds where Bediction takes place. People come by the coach load from miles around and loud speakers attached to the Castle walls help to keep the singing together.

    I must remember to check which day Corpus Christi falls on this year there.

  5. Rob F. says:

    elizabeth mckernan:

    Don’t let yourself get confused! It is quite licet to celebrate the same festal mass twice (or even thrice) in a week. According to my OF ordo (#4, citing “Normae de anno liturgico et calendario” #8), “on Sundays in Ordinary Time, it is licet for the good of the faithful to keep a celebration which occurs within the week (and which is acceptable to the piety of the faithful) as long as it is of higher liturgical rank than the Sunday it replaces. All masses with the people said that Sunday may be from these celebrations.” (My very rough translation)

    As I understand it, you could go to mass the Sunday before September 14 and assist the mass of the Holy Cross, and then you could go to mass again on September 14 and assist the mass of the Holy Cross, and then you could go to mass on the Sunday after September 14 and (only if it’s a different parish, presumably) hear it again.

    I have never seen this option exercised, however.

  6. But father, but father! If he attends EF Sunday mass, and Ascension on his diocese is on Sunday, isn’t he fulfilling the obligation? Must he attend to a OF mass, just to get Ascension liturgy?

    This reminds me of the question of Saturdays. AFAIK, Saturday post-vespers mass fulfills the Sunday obligation, being it Saturday or Sunday liturgy.

  7. Volpius says:

    Go on a Thursday, you still have to go to Mass on a Sunday anyway. The Bishops should never have stolen these Holy Day’s from our Lord, just because they don’t keep them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

  8. Carolina Geo says:

    I have never met ANYBODY – with the notable exception of bishops – who have had anything positive to say about bishops transfering feast days to a Sunday to avoid making people go to Mass. In fact, it’s been my observation that the faithful think that it’s a moronic practice. I think it’s a case of, once again, the bishops being out of touch with the faithful and with the faith.

    Incidentally, last year I was at a Novus Ordo Mass on Ascension Thursday and the traditional Mass on the following Saturday. Hence, I did not celebrate the Feast of the Ascension last year, despite having been at Mass on both days. Stupid, stupid, stupid…

  9. Rob F. says:

    I haven’t been to an Ascension mass in years. We usually are on vacation in the mountains (Province of Baltimore, no Ascension on Thursday) during the 6th week of Easter. We return home to the Province of Philadelphia Sunday morning and assist at the mass of the 7th Sunday of Easter. This Thursday will be the first time I’ll have been at an Ascension mass in some time.

    All is not lost, however. We pray Vespers as a family, and we observe both 1st and 2nd Vespers of Ascension on vacation.

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