ASK FATHER: How long do I have to fulfill my Easter Duty?

From a reader…


One of the precepts of the Church states we are to receive Holy Communion at Easter. I always wondered if that meant Easter Mass or during the Easter season. My 1962 Missal say Easter (period) but I have seen it stated elsewhere as the Easter season.

Thanks for your consideration and have a great Holy Week!

Easter Duty is the obligation to receive Holy Communion at least at Easter time.  This “time” used to vary according to the country. Communion was to be received at one’s parish, if possible. Otherwise, the parish was to be informed.  Old parish registers had a column for notations about Easter Duty.  Also, I have used confessionals that still had a small slot through which a penitent could slide a card for the priest to sign about Easter Duty.  Easter Duty, while mainly focused on Communion, usually and reasonably also included one’s annual confession at the the same time.

In the 1983 Code for the Latin Church, the law for the Easter Duty (can. 920) says that it must be fulfilled during the Easter season “unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during the year.”

The 1917 Code specified that the period for the fulfillment of this duty ran from Palm Sunday to the 2nd Sunday of Easter.  As mentioned before, the “time” varied by place. In Great Britain, it was between Ash Wednesday and Low Sunday, but in Westminster the 4th Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday; in Ireland, Ash Wednesday and the Octave of Ss. Peter and Paul, etc.   The current Code does not specify what the Easter season is for purposes of this precept, and so it seems to run from Holy Saturday through to Pentecost.

However, an indult once given for these United States permitted the fulfillment of this obligation anytime between the 1st Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday, inclusive. It has not been revoked and so – I supposed – may still be in force.  That said, the time from the beginning of Lent through Pentecost is pretty long.



And remember: It is NOT obligatory to go to Communion just because you go to Mass.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Went to Confession today around lunch time. Deo gratias and thank you, Father, for your prompting.

    There were 40 penitents in line split among 2 priests at the downtown parish; when I arrived at 11am (the priest wasn’t even in the confessional yet), there were already 20 people ahead of me. By 11:15am another 20 had arrived after me.

    I’ve noticed that parishes with regular and frequently available confession times (i.e., not just for 15 minutes at 4:45PM Saturday or by appointment), draw large numbers of penitents.

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “It has not been revoked and so – I supposed – may still be in force.” I’d say it has been rendered obsolete by the modified language in the new law.

    [“Pickled pepper-faced Christian!” “Inquisitorial beater!” “Fundamentalist!”


  3. Nicolas Bellord says:

    I never knew that it was a general custom to keep registers of who had fulfilled their Easter duties. This however explains what happened in Mallorca as described by Bernanos in “Les Grands Cimetieres sous la Lune” when those who had not done so were assumed to be communists and taken down to the beach and shot by the fascists. One can see what a shock Mit Brennender Sorge was to Franco’s lot and why he banned its distribution. A terrible episode.

    More cheerfully Westminster Cathedral had 4 priests hearing confessions on Monday so a long queue (London is a very sinful place it seems) was dealt with very swiftly.

  4. Imrahil says:

    I had Confession the day before yesterday, after Mass.

    I interpret the law in such a way that the CIC-1917 frame is certainly included in the CIC-1983 frame, and therefore have planned to fulfil the Easter duty this evening, at my home parish, in the Holy Thursday mass.

    If I should be wrong, well I think I’ll communicate some other time during the Easter season, too.

  5. Absit invidia says:

    And remember: It is NOT obligatory to go to Communion just because you go to Mass.

    . . . I’m just double checking, as this has also been a source for me for many years as well (and scruples) but is the Easter Duty about receiving Holy Communion (and presumably Confession), or about attending mass?

    [Easter Duty is the obligation to receive Holy Communion at least at Easter time, as I wrote in the top entry.]

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