QUAERITUR: Immaculate Conception 2013 – Holy Day of Obligation… NOT

From a reader:

I know that the Immaculate Conception is transferred to December 9th this year. Is it obligatory to attend mass on that day?

This year, 2013, 8 December falls on a Sunday.  For this reason, according to the Ordinary Form calendar, the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception has been transferred to Monday 9 December.

In these USA, the Immaculate Conception is also our national patronal feast.

For good or for ill, the bishops conference usually waives obligations of Holy Days which are too close to a Sunday (which is always a day of Obligation).  We can’t have people arranging their oh so busy lives around something like Mass!  Imagine such a thing!  But I digress.

My understanding is that, barring particular law in some diocese, this year 9 December is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation in most dioceses.

Call your local chancery and ask, just to be sure.  I have seen some variations when cruising on diocesan pages looking for their liturgical calendars.  Feel free to report your findings in the combox.

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite Immaculate Conception is a 1st class feast that trumps the Sunday (which gets a commemoration).  In the EF we don’t transfer Immaculate Conception to Monday (which would be a ferial day in Advent).

In other words, in the EF we know exactly what to do this year.

However, had Monday 9 December been retained as a Holy Obligation then … and this is where I briefly open and then instantly close the rabbit hole … there is a disputed question about whether evening Mass on Sunday, 8 December would satisfy both the Sunday and the Monday obligation.   But this is NOT the case this year and we don’t have to worry about this, nor do we need to discuss it.  I bring it up here before someone else does.  Rabbit hole closed.

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  1. ASPM Sem says:

    If you’re in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, you should come to the episcopal ordination/consecration of Bishop Elect Andrew Cozzens on December 9th!

  2. dans0622 says:

    Right. The liturgical observance is transferred to Monday but the obligation to attend Mass is not. See here: http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/newsletter/upload/newsletter-2013-02.pdf
    I suppose a diocesan bishop could make it a day of obligation (c. 1244.2) but that would have to be done in a formal way, not just on some diocesan liturgy office’s website.


  3. Fr. Z: In both the OF and the EF, a solemnity(OF)=class 1 feast day(EF) “trumps” an ordinary Sunday–no difference between the two forms.

    However, from the Universal Norms on the Liturgical and the General Roman calendar (as quoted in the Christmas/Epiphany 2014 issue of Today’s Liturgy, page 4):

    Because of its special importance, the celebration of Sunday gives way only to solemnities anad feasts of the Lord: indeed, the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter have precedence over all Feasts of the Lord and over all solemnities. In fact the solemnities occurring on these Sundays are transferred to the following Monday.

    What can one cite to counter an interpretation that this “universal norm” applies equally to both forms of the Roman rite? (And hence that the Immaculate Conception this year is transferred to Monday in the EF as well as the OF.)

  4. Priam1184 says:

    Obliged or no, shouldn’t we just go anyways?

  5. pontiacprince says:

    There are just a few holy days of obligation in Canada. January 1st is still in effect.It ought to be changed as few people attend Mass on that day because of late partying Dec 31.I would suggest that the honour to Mary should be moved to Dec.8….The Sundays of the year are, of course, obligatory. I believe that at least one day of obligation must be given to Mary.

  6. pontiacprince says:

    Sorry…I forgot to mention that in Canada, Christmas Day is a holy day of obligation.I recall a few years ago Christmas fell on a Saturday.I won’t go there.

  7. James0235 says:

    @Henry Edwards

    What can one cite to counter an interpretation that this “universal norm” applies equally to both forms of the Roman rite? (And hence that the Immaculate Conception this year is transferred to Monday in the EF as well as the OF.)

    The 1960 General Rubrics, Chapter 11 The Precedence of Liturgical Days, #91 Table of Liturgical Days includes in part:

    1. Christmas day, Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday (1st class with octave).
    2. The sacred triduum.
    3. The feasts of the Epiphany and the Ascension of our Lord, of the Most Holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, of the Heart of Jesus and of Christ the King.
    4. The feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    5. The vigil and the octave day of Christmas.
    6. The Sundays of Advent, Lent and Passiontide, and Low Sunday.


    These are the rubrics that govern the Mass and Office according to the Liturgical Books in use in 1962 and they seem to indicate that the Immaculate Conception takes precedence over a Sunday in Advent so that would seem to settle it.

    But, what do I know? I’m still trying to figure out how in the Ordinary Form the Table of Liturgical Days can say that All Soul’s Day can have precedence over a Sunday in Ordinary Time but somehow that means that the Anticipated Mass of the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time takes precedence over All Soul’s Day. (The only answers I have gotten from priests on this are “just because”, “ALL Sundays ALWAYS take precedence over Feast Days”, and “I don’t know. It just does!”)

  8. jbas says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand: the complimentary norm in the Latin USA says, “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 precept to attend Mass is abrogated”. The Immaculate Conception is not included in this Monday/Saturday exception, so why is this feast abrogated this year?

  9. Isn’t the US under the patronage of Our Lady’s Title Immaculate Conception?…Fortunately in Byzantium…The Conception of the Theotokos will be celebrated on her feast day proper :)

  10. Richard says:

    jbas – I believe the reason for this is that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception does not fall on a Monday, but on a Sunday. Then, since the 2nd Sunday of Advent takes precedence (Latin OF), the feast is transferred to Monday, but the obligation is not.

    Next year, when Dec 8 does fall on a Monday, it will be a Holy Day of Obligation.

  11. Nan says:

    What ASPM Sem said; Mass at 2:00.

  12. Richard is correct. When the obligation to attend Mass on Saturday and Monday holy days was removed for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Assumption, and All Saints’ Day, the bishops didn’t have the heart to include the Immaculate Conception, so it is always a day of obligation, unless it falls on a Sunday and thus is transferred to Monday. If December 8 is a Monday, the obligation remains. That detail probably predated the most recent relaxation of holy day observances, and yes, no matter how it all came about, it is confusing. It might be simpler to remove the detail that the obligation does not transfer with the solemnity, but then we might need to reconsider the other relaxations as well.

    N. B.: Many parish bulletins will get this wrong this year!

  13. iPadre says:

    Great thing about the Extraordinary Form, it is still celebrated on the 8th, superseding Sunday. I will have a Missa Cantata. They fulfill their Sunday obligation and have the benefit of the Immaculate Conception!

  14. iPadre says:

    Henry Edwards & James0235:

    The FSSP ordo states that December 8th indeed is the Immaculate Conception (1st class) with a commemoration of Advent.

  15. James Joseph says:

    I wonder what Msgr. George Agius, D.D., J.C.D. in his book ‘Tradition and the Church’ published on Her feast day by Thomas A. Nelson would say about this?

  16. Xmenno says:

    I think I’ll go to Mass on December 9, when the feast is celebrated, because I just really want to.

  17. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Great thing about the Extraordinary Form, it is still celebrated on the 8th, superseding Sunday.”

    There’s a lot of great things about the EF, but I don’t see how that is one of them. That any event in a saint’s life trumps the Sunday Resurrection, I just don’t see it.

    [The Mother of God is not just any saint.]

  18. cwillia1 says:

    Joe of Ste. Therese, interestingly the original date of the feast was December 9 and the Orthodox still celebrate the feast of the conception by Anna of Mary on that date. The Byzantine Ruthenian Church in the US transfers the date to December 8th to sync with the Roman Catholics. Other Eastern Catholics may do the same.

    We do not transfer feast days. Annunciation is celebrated on March 25 even if it coincides with Good Friday. It can get complicated.

    Also, in the Byzantine Rite this is a minor feast. We are not so interested as the West in how the doctrine of the sinless Theotokos is reconciled with the doctrine of original (or ancestral) sin. The focus of our feast is the physically miraculous conception of Mary in the womb of the sterile and aged Anna.

    So this year the Roman Catholics will celebrate the feast with the Orthodox on Dec 9 and Byzantine Catholics will celebrate on Dec 8.

  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear @pontiacprince,

    January 1 should be retained because if a HDO of the Universal Churcg falls on a secular holiday of a country, there is frankly no justification of lifting it.

    As for the partying… it is a beautiful tradition to have Thanksgiving Masses in the evening of December 31. That suffices. Also, one can just celebrate a Mass in the evening of January 1. It isn’t rocket science.

  20. JesusFreak84 says:

    If memory serves, the day is still a Holy Day of Obligation for Ukrainian-Greek Catholics in the US, at least. (The UGCC in the US uses the Gregorian calendar.)

  21. jbas says:

    Sometimes it seems as if the bishops hire consulting firms to help them make canonical obligations as confusing as possible, from days of penance to days of Mass obligation.

  22. James0235:
    Good answer, together with the fact that Summorum Pontificum specifies that the celebration of the EF is governed by the 1962 rubrics.

    Especially for any liturgniks with whom the FSSP ordo–which stimulated my original question–might carry no authority.

  23. acbprop says:

    Regarding next year’s conundrum (Mass on Sunday night for Sunday and the Monday Holy Day): Faced with a similar question about 35 years ago, a very wise priest told my class at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio: “God does not grant two-fers.”

    I miss him. A lot.

  24. wolfeken says:

    Dr. Peters wrote:

    “There’s (sic) a lot of great things about the EF, but I don’t see how that is one of them. That any event in a saint’s life trumps the Sunday Resurrection, I just don’t see it.”

    “Any event”? Certainly not. For instance, the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary did not trump the 17th Sunday After Pentecost, and received a commemoration (2nd Collect, Secret and Postcommunion) this year in the traditional Latin Mass.

    The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, however, is a very high feast that should take precedence over merely one of four Prepare Ye Sundays, don’t you think?

    Moreover, why is it that the traditional Latin Mass (1962) calendar rarely causes the level of confusion that the novus ordo calendar has created with the transfers and the anticipation liturgies and the obligation waiving and the optional this-and-that? There is something to be said for making a good decision and sticking with it, as opposed to always scratching one’s head as to what the heck something means this time around.

  25. RCOkie says:

    In the Diocese of Tulsa, we were told Dec. 9 is not a day of obligation. My parish will have Mass on the 9th for the solemnity.

  26. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    Dr. Peters,

    I don’t believe that any event in a saint’s life ever “trumps” the Resurrection of OLJC…the Mass is still the Mass, and the sacrifice of the cross with the resurrection is always commemorated–much more so, of course. Furthermore, there can be no conflict between the Immaculate Conception and the cause of it. The advent focus gives way (but is still commemorated), not any focus in the Lord.

    Also, suppose the 9th was a day of precept because of the ‘transfer’ in the Modern calendar…would one who follows the Roman calendar be bound? Would Fraternity parishes have three Masses that day for the Monday, etc., of advent?

  27. Quanah says:

    @ Dr. Peters,

    Normally, I would agree with you; however, our Mother is not just any other saint. Because of the uniqueness of her relationship to our Lord and the unique way in which she participates in His saving work, I would argue that her conception is tied to the Resurrection in such a way as to make it worthy to be celebrated on Sunday when it falls on that day. I also can think of few things more appropriate in preparing for the coming of our Lord.

  28. Joe in Canada says:

    In the OF we get so many themed Sundays anyways – Mission Sunday, Vocations Sunday, World Communications Sunday – that we’ve ended up worse than where we started (not that it was bad).

  29. Lucas Whittaker says:

    It seems to me that December 8th is always a day of obligation–whether it has been transeferred or not. This understanding has been gained after reading what the USCCB website has to say about days of obligation.

    Besides, Bl. John Duns Scotus would never miss a Mass celebrating this great feast and so I intend to follow suit and get myself to Mass on December 9th. It seems to me that every Catholic in the US is also bound by way of obligation.

    How the divergence between the EF and OF figure into this is beyond my understanding, whoch leaves me with no comment about whether or not those who attend the “usus antiquitor” would then remain bound to return to attend Mass again on Monday this year.

    Bl. Scotus, please impart a kiss for us on Mary’s august mantle, so that by your means she will deign now and always to graciously guide us along the path of salvation.

  30. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, however, is a very high feast that should take precedence over merely one of four Prepare Ye Sundays, don’t you think?”

    No. I don’t.

    Look, we can’t settle this here, and your thoughts have not gone un-thunk in mine, but, for me, bottom line is: Sunday is His Day, and no one else is Him. I won’t even say, no one else is even close, because no one seriously thinks otherwise.

  31. Imrahil says:

    The plain fact is that
    1. a feast or similar occasion of sufficiently high rank can trump a Sunday (e.g. Ss. Peter and Paul),
    2. that none can trump an Advent, Lenten, or Paschal Sunday (not sure about the EF as to the latter), in the EF with the exception of the Vigil of Christmas.

    Without going into details, the EF and OF are at one in principle. Of course the wissom of that order can be disputed, but still this is how it is.

  32. wolfeken says:

    You are right, Dr. Peters, that we are not going to be able to settle this here, but I would note that even in the novus ordo, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul will “trump” Sunday 29 June 2014. And that solemnity is not even obligatory in the U.S. if on a weekday, which illustrates how illogical the novus ordo calendar is.

  33. wolfeken says:

    Imrahil — your second point is incorrect. The feast of the Immaculate Conception on the traditional Latin Mass (1962) calendar is a first class feast which takes precedence over a first class Advent Sunday (which receives a commemoration on Sunday 8 December).

    This is clearly spelled out in the rubrics. And, the fact that the novus ordo transfers the feast next month without obligation while the traditional Latin Mass keeps it on the 8th is kind of what several people here have been talking about above, including Father Z in his post.

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