QUAERITUR: Do I fulfill my 8 December Holy Day Mass obligation on Saturday and my Sunday obligation by going to Mass on Saturday evening?

Go HERE for an important follow-up post.


I am getting a lot of questions about fulfilling the Mass obligation on the upcoming Saturday afternoon, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

For example,

Would it fulfill my obligation for the Solemnity to attend vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon/evening even though the vigil is considered to replace Sunday Mass? In other words, could I attend vigil Mass Saturday evening to fulfill my obligation for the Solemnity and then attend Sunday morning Mass to fulfill my obligation for Sunday?

The Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church says:

can. 1248 1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

As I read this, yes, you fulfill the obligation for both by attending the one Mass on Saturday evening.  The law does not specify that you have to attend Mass according to a certain formulary to fulfill the obligation.  It says you have to attend Mass.  Period.  Given that we must interpret law in such a way that we favor people and give them more flexibility rather than less, I would say, yes, you fulfill the obligation.  First, you are attending Mass on the Holy Day, which is Saturday.  Second, since it is in the evening, the law says you fulfill your obligation for the Sunday.

That said, prevailing interpretation of canon law goes against my opinion.  I refer you to the great Prof. Ed Peters, for example, with whom – on this point – I disagree.  I think the USCCB goes with the prevailing opinion.  I disagree… but I will defer.

I believe the opinion that that one Mass on Saturday does not fulfill the obligation for both overcomplicatiplexifies the simple text of the canon.  Again, I defer to proper authority on this one.

That said… do not get me wrong… it is far better to go to Mass in the morning on Saturday, fulfill your obligation, and then go to Mass on Sunday morning and, thereby fulfill your obligation and keep your Sunday as Dies Domini.

I don’t happen to like the Saturday evening Mass being used regularly as the Mass of obligation.  The Church permits the obligation to be fulfilled on Saturday evening.  Fine.  Let it be so.  But it seems to me that it is better to let Saturday be Saturday and Sunday by Sunday.

His scriptis, I would, if I were you, plan to go to Mass on Saturday morning and again on Sunday.  Let us defer to those who are the better interpreters of canon law.

Finally… everyone…. GO TO CONFESSION!

There.  I got that off my chest.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mysticalrose says:

    I had always thought that a liturgical day concluded with sundown . Thus, one one could go to Mass on Friday evening for Saturday, and Saturday evening for Sunday, but not Saturday evening for Saturday. But now that parishes in my diocese started offering Sunday masses at 7:00pm this logic is confused and it would seem that a Saturday evening mass would fulfill the obligation for a Saturday feast day.

  2. Jacob says:

    My parish usually only has Mass on Saturday morning on the first Saturday of the month. This is the first time since I’ve been here that I can recall a Holy Day of Obligation falling on Saturday and being given its own Mass in the morning. Maybe I just haven’t paid attention?

    In any case, my parish having Mass at 8:30 on Saturday morning AND there will be a vigil Mass at 5:30 on Friday.

  3. jesusthroughmary says:

    A liturgical day is not the same as a canonical day. Canon Law does not impose an obligation to assist at a particular Mass, only that one assists at Mass on the day of obligation or on the evening before.

  4. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Alas, Fr. Z, now there are only TWO people on earth who are infallible. :( edp.

    [ o{];¬) ]

  5. poohbear says:

    @Jacob— that’s because the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast of the US and does not fall under the Saturday/Monday rule of being changed to a non-0obligation day.

  6. Our Vicar General sent out a notice stating the Immaculate Conception obligation was met by attending any Mass starting with the Vigil Friday evening until the 4 PM Saturday when the weekend vigils begin. How I look at it is the Sunday Mass prayers are for the Sunday Mass, and the Immaculate Conception Mass prayers are for the solemnity – simple; but then when is anything simple when people are involved?

  7. asperges says:

    My aunt’s funeral fell on the Assumption some years ago and the priest (in East Anglia) was quite adamant that it was not necessary to go to Mass twice for these very reasons. What he failed to mention was that a funeral (in the form of Mass) is not allowed on a Solemnity, so it should never have taken place on that day anyway. My aunt was a somewhat contrary person and would have been delighted with the anomaly. For the few of the family who are still practising, it was very odd to have the Assumption Mass displaced in this way.

  8. mamajen says:

    Our priest told us that we must attend either Friday evening or Saturday morning, then again on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. We are planning to go tomorrow night, but I think it’s a little ridiculous that the only mass on the actual holy day that will “count” (according to our priest) is at 8 a.m. They’re telling people they must attend a mass dedicated solely to the holy day while not offering very many to choose from.

  9. mamajen says:

    My first comment is hung up in moderation for some reason, but after reading Dr. Peter’s piece, it seems that our priest (and others in my area) are incorrect in asserting that only certain masses on Saturday satisfy the obligation for the holy day. I’m sure they are simply repeating what they’ve heard from the USCCB.

  10. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, although I understand and appreciate your suggestion that regularly substituting Saturday evening Mass for Sunday morning is not the best plan, I submit that at our parish, it offers a happier prospect. The Saturday evening Mass is often celebrated sans music, and when music is there, it is almost always just a pianist and a single singer. The Sunday morning Mass, on the other hand, is replete with choir, piano, three guitars, and drums! Drums! A more offensive instrument at Mass is difficult to imagine.

  11. kat says:

    I still love my dad’s (may he rest in peace) response to his friends when the vigil Mass became the norm for them: “Do you eat your dinner for Sunday on Saturday too?”

    Just because something is legal and/or acceptable, doesn’t always make it right…
    God made the law to keep holy the Sabbath; barring those who go to Saturday vigil Mass because they have to go to their jobs on Sunday, how is it keeping the Sabbath holy by going to Mass the night before in order to be able to sleep in on Sunday, or go grocery shopping, or go to the lake?
    Doesn’t make any sense to me…

  12. Jerry says:

    Jacob — in the United States, the Immaculate Conception is the only Holy Day other than Christmas that retains the obligation when it falls on a Saturday or Monday. Even the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (the Octave of Christmas) has the obligation waived on these days.

  13. jkm210 says:

    I have two little kids and my husband is out of town for work. Wrangling them at Mass is always difficult, so I am going to attend a vigil for Immaculate Conception on Friday night to give myself a “breather” before Sunday Mass. For people that would have a hard time attending on Saturday for whatever reason, this would be another option.

  14. Carolina Geo says:

    Actually, I’m a little surprised (pleasantly) that the bishops have decided to make Saturday a holy day of obligation. After all, it falls within 4 days of a Sunday, which lately seems to have been the episcopal criterion for determining that it’s not obligatory to go to Mass for a particular feast. Kudos to the bishops for doing what is right.

  15. Cathy says:

    Last Sunday, in my parish, we were specifically told, no twofers – we are to fulfill the obligation for each. That being said, the Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception can be fulfilled either with the vigil Mass on Friday evening, or one of four offered Saturday morning. I believe this is wise because this is a Feast day that cannot be deferred to Sunday, it stands alone. Trust me, if this were offered that the obligation could be fulfilled for both Saturday and Sunday at the Saturday vigil, the Mass times offered on Saturday morning would probably be low in attendance, with the Saturday evening Mass times being packed which would create a logistical problem in terms of space and parking availability.

  16. acardnal says:

    Fr. Z said, “I don’t happen to like the Saturday evening Mass being used regularly as the Mass of obligation. The Church permits the obligation to be fulfilled on Saturday evening. Fine. Let it be so. But it seems to me that it is better to let Saturday be Saturday and Sunday by Sunday.”

    I concur. Seems to me the intention of the Church for Saturday Vigil Masses was for those who could not attend Sunday Mass due to legitimate obligations to the contrary such as work, for example but not limited to: health and safety, defense and intelligence, necessary travel, farming, hiking in the wilderness of Alaska and so on. Because someone likes to sleep late or has a golf or soccer match is not sufficient reason IMHO. Sunday is for God – that’s why they call it “the Lord’s day” not “acardnal’s day”.

    I plan to attend a TLM/EF Missa Contata at 11 A.M. on Saturday to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and Sunday morning Mass, too. I love Holy Mass and don’t look for excuses or reasons not to attend but rather reasons to attend as often as possible.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    The liturgical day is vespers to vespers, is it not, so how does that law work? Seems sloppy to me. I would never do “two for one”on a holy day and Sunday. What is the point? The liturgies are different for different reasons. This weekend, we honor Mary in her purity, and have the Second Sunday of Advent. I hate this watering down of the Faith. It proves my point I made on my blog that legalism leads to minimalism and Pharisaism.


  18. Wayward Lamb says:

    Our priest told us we have two Mass obligations this weekend. He explained that a solemnity for the Blessed Virgin is of lower rank liturgically than a Sunday during Advent. Thus Evening I is celebrated this Saturday evening and the Saturday evening Mass is the usual vigil for the Sunday obligation. Hence our parish has a vigil mass Friday night and two masses Saturday morning to celebrate the Immaculate Conception.

  19. Agapitus says:

    With all due respect and deference to the USCCB and the inestimable Dr. Peters, I have a follow up question. Since, according to their interpretation two feast days create two obligations hence the need to attend two Masses, does this mean that next year when Dec 8 falls on a Sunday we will be obliged to attend two Masses?? [No.] If not, why not? [Because when there is a coincidence like that, one liturgy feast will have precedent over the other.] While I will be attending Mass on both Sat. and Sun. mornings I cannot grasp the logic of their position.

  20. DetJohn says:

    Dr. Ed Peters, Cannon Lawyer, has a diffrent opinion on this matter than Fr. Z.

    In the December 3, 2012 edition of Dr. Peter’s Blog “In the light of the Law” http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/ Dr. Peter’s states “Two Mass obligations require two Mass satisfactions. Period.”

    Now, I am really confused.

    Since I need to be free on Sunday, I will attend a Saturday TLM at noon and a 6:15pm Maronite Mass.

  21. Will D. says:

    For reasons that mystify me, my parish’s usual Holy Day schedule (Mass at 07:30 and 19:00) is not being followed this Saturday. There’s a vigil Mass at 19:00 on Friday, and an 08:00 Mass on Saturday morning, then the usual Sunday anticipated Mass at 17:00.

    I don’t happen to like the Saturday evening Mass being used regularly as the Mass of obligation. The Church permits the obligation to be fulfilled on Saturday evening. Fine. Let it be so. But it seems to me that it is better to let Saturday be Saturday and Sunday by Sunday.


  22. terrigr says:

    Our parish has a evening Mass for the Immaculate Conception on Friday and then morning Masses for Saturday morning. Our priest said the evening Mass on Saturday counted for our Sunday obligation and made a point that the Saturday evening Mass did not fulfill the Holy Day of Obligation.

  23. terrigr says:

    Our parish has an evening Mass for the Immaculate Conception on Friday and then morning Masses for Saturday morning. Our priest said the evening Mass on Saturday counted for our Sunday obligation and made a point that the Saturday evening Mass did not fulfill the Holy Day of Obligation.

  24. rmshiffler says:

    The only Masses being offered Saturday at any of the parishes within an hour’s drive of us are vigils for Sunday. It smacks of defeatism; they say “no one will go, people don’t care about holy days of obligation,” and then they make it as hard as they can for people to attend, so that next week they can say “I told you so!” and add this precedent to their arsenal in favor of moving holy days of obligation to the nearest Sunday.

  25. The Sicilian Woman says:

    This is surprising. I would have thought that only the Masses from Friday evening to Saturday evening, not inclusive of the Saturday evening Mass, would have counted for the obligation, going by the sunset-to-sunset way of defining days and obligations. As it is, I’m doubling up on Saturday, Holy Day Mass in the morning and the Sunday obligation Mass in the evening.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    As usual, the local parishes have said absolutely nothing about the Holy Day. Not a single word. No announcements on the previous Sunday, nothing. And given the fact that it’s confusing this year, this is not even going to show up on most peoples’ radar.

    I have no idea why Holy Days are handled the way they are. It seems to me that either a) they’re important and so we’d ought to announce them and make a big deal of them, OR b) they’re not important so don’t announce them and make a big deal of them. But no….. What we have is something illogically in-between: “they’re important but we don’t announce them or make any kind of a deal over them.” I don’t get it. LOL.

  27. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Thought exercise.

    According to our contract, I owe you $ 100 every August 15th, and $ 100 every Sunday. We agree that if August 15th falls on a Sunday, I only owe you $ 100. I pay that way for many years, $ 100 every Sunday, and $ 100 every August 15th. Then, because doing Sunday business is inconvenient, we agree that I can pay the $ 100 I owe for Sunday on a Saturday evening, if I choose to.

    One year, August 15th falls on Saturday, and I present you with $ 100, claiming that my August 15th payment is made therby, simultaneously with tomorrow’s Sunday payment.

    Have I paid my debt? [Money? really? Let’s just stop interpreting the law by the maxim favoribilia ampliantur. What are the ramifications of that?]

  28. johnmann says:

    I attended a wedding this past Sunday. Though nobody seemed to agree on what was proper, I was of the opinion that regardless of the form the Mass took, it satisfied the Sunday obligation but nevertheless because it’s a Sunday of Advent, the day’s liturgy had to be used with the option of changing one of the readings. The Penitential Act and Creed are to be included and the Gloria omitted. Was I right?

  29. TNCath says:

    Kudos, Father Z., for deferring to the Church. In the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput, “If you’re Catholic and you disagree with your Church. What do you do? You change your mind.”

  30. Mrs. Bear says:

    Unless you are Canadian.
    Our town only has a first Saturday mass so no special mass on Saturday here. :(

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Mrs. Bear, December 8th is not a holy day of obligation in Canada.

  32. Mdepie says:

    I sent a quick email to our Bishops office and received the response from one of his assistants that out here in Wilmington Delaware you can not count the Mass on Saturday for both, you need 1 mass for the holiday and one for the Sunday. I would suspect this is the USCCB position as FR. Z mentioned.

  33. davedeuce says:

    It seems to me the real question should be, “Why are we trying to find ways to attend Holy Mass LESS often?”

    [We AREN’T. Go back and read what this is about.]

  34. AGA says:

    I’m participating in a 2 week military exercise currently and was happy to read Fr. Z’s opinion, because I was planning to attend the vigil tonight in fulfillment of both the Saturday and Sunday obligations! [See my other post about this.]

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