ASK FATHER: When Holy Days of Obligation… aren’t

From a reader…


When a holy day such as the Assumption or All Saints Day falls on a Saturday or Monday and we are not required to attend mass, are the usual restrictions on work also lifted?

Yes. When the obligation is lifted from a Holy Day of Obligation, another effect is that all other restrictions are taken off the day as well (as well as the parish losing yet another collection… thanks). They are still celebrated, liturgically, as solemnities, but the obligation to refrain from servile labor or anything that would hinder the due relaxation of the body and the worship of God no longer applies.

One effect remains, however: the Holy Angels weep.

When bishops push these holy days off the calendar they are saying, “We don’t want to put additional stress on priests by making them offer extra Masses and preach.  Rather, we want lay people not to have a day off and to work their fingers to the bone.” Bishops can be mean.

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  1. TWF says:

    I find it depressing when a solemnity is celebrated as an ordinary weekday mass (with the addition of a recited, not sung, Gloria and Creed to meet the minimum requirements). The FSSP parish in town celebrates splendid sung masses every major feast, day of obligation or not, but most parishes can’t go the extra mile.

  2. APX says:


    What are you doing to help with these sung Masses you want? Do you sing in the choir or schola? If not, you are in no position to talk about parishes not going the extra mile.

    Sung Masses take work and extra practice time that volunteer choir/schola members just don’t have. Sometimes it’s difficult to have enough people available for a week day Sung Mass because they work, have other commitments, etc.

  3. When bishops push these holy days off the calendar they are saying, “We don’t want to put additional stress on priests by making them offer extra Masses and preach….”

    I am sorry to have to say I know a lot of priests who need to be relieved of the stress of preaching.

  4. michele421 says:

    I am sorry to have to say I know a lot of priests who need to be relieved of the stress of preaching.

    I’m afraid I agree with this. Years ago hearing a certain less-than-great homily at the worst possible time caused me a real crisis of faith, not in a good way.

    In this part of the US, if a feast day falls on a weekday people still have to go to work. So instead of resting and thinking of holy things, people may have to struggle to find a church with a Mass they can get to either before or after work, along with all their other weekday obligations. Doing this as an act of self-denial is certainly a good thing to do, and of course spending our time with the Lord at Mass is more than worth it, but restful or conducive to a spirit of prayer it’s not.

  5. kat says:

    It really is not hard to have TLM high Masses for any feast day. Once the choir (and even more helpful, the congregation) knows the Gregorian Kyriale, at least Mass 8 and Credo 3, but more if possible, and you have a few good servers trained, then the only thing special to be learned for a particular Mass are the Propers. One or two dedicated people with a Liber and Gregorian chant knowledge can sing those, even psalm-toning some if necessary. Then you grab processional and recessional hymns for all to sing, and the choir sings a simple hymn at Offertory and maybe some at Communion if possible. The Mass is the same so servers need no extra training. Holy Days and first class feasts are easily celebrated!

  6. Ages says:

    Certainly not everyone, but many people have ample vacation time or personal time that could be used to observe feast days. In many cases it’s just a question of priorities. What’s more important, taking a trip to Disneyland or feeding on the Bread of Life? “As for me and my household…”

    If Catholics put a greater emphasis on redeeming the time in this way, observing feast days properly, it would have an impact on the wider culture.

  7. un-ionized says:

    Is there someplace in the US where holy days of obligation are legal holidays or something? Am I missing something? If I want to not work on a holy day of obligation I put in for vacation time. Is this different in other regions/dioceses?

  8. sahn105 says:

    Awww snap!

  9. Father K says:

    ‘When bishops push these holy days off the calendar they are saying, “We don’t want to put additional stress on priests by making them offer extra Masses and preach. Rather, we want lay people not to have a day off and to work their fingers to the bone.” Bishops can be mean.’

    I really don’t agree with that. Firstly, bishops have absolutely no hesitation in forcing, yes forcing, priests to celebrate many Masses at the weekend. [‘What’s a weekend?’ as Lady Violet would say].

    Rather, it’s all about making things easier for everyone. But how shortsighted are they? Think of the extra collections that could be possible…ca..ching.

    And who seriously, expects anyone these days, that lay people will be allowed the day off.

  10. hilltop says:

    Here’s an idea for the Bishops:
    Keep the weekday Mass obligation for the Holy Day and dispense the requirement for no work on the Holy Day. Father offers 3 Masses -morning noon and night – (gets three collections he would not have) and the Faithful enjoy the sense of being Catholic AND productive!

  11. AttiaDS says:

    Dear Father,

    In this case, the bishops are being charitable. Having three part-time jobs, it is not always easy to get to Mass (I live in an area that is heavily populated by FSSP and SSPX Mass goers; besides that, I can get to two O.F. parishes within 10 minutes. This being said, even if there is a Mass when I am not at work, it may interfere with my sleep schedule, which is very practical. Yes, I could go (and I do), but, that’s just me; my body and work may suffer because of it.) I know Good Friday Service is not obligatory, which is why I didn’t feel the least bit of guilt sleeping in my bed that afternoon.

    Furthermore, though plenty of businesses around here are owned by Catholics, mostly those going to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, you might be surprised by how many of them remain open on HDoO. They may give you the option of staying at home, you may request the day off, but, business goes on as usual. It’s not the bishops who are being mean and forcing people to work. Again, a Good Friday example: a certain Catholic lawyer will take the day off, but his Catholic secretary is always made to work — deliveries will be made, people will call, somebody needs to be in the office.

    Which brings me to my last point, if I don’t go into work (this is just me personally), I do not get paid. Again, I work three jobs…because I NEED to work three jobs (in a few weeks, though, I should get down to two what with hours picking up at one). All part-time. I don’t have vacation time, I have don’t come into work, don’t get paid time. That is my option.

    It is not the bishops being mean, they do not control The United States of America and our market-driven (capitalist?) society. The bishops of the USA are graced with the wisdom they need to make practical decisions.

    I offer one suggestion for you priests who do offer The Holy Sacrifice of The Mass on HDoO: please take up a collection for those who take the day off of work and will not get paid for doing so. Please distribute the money you collect among us so that it may be a little easier for us to get to Mass and provide for our temporal needs.

    Thank you.

  12. APX says:

    I have to agree with AttiaDS. If I don’t work, I also don’t get paid. While by law I’m entitled to 3/52 paid vacation time, my vacation is paid out on each cheque and goes towards paying my utilities. I haven’t taken vacation time since 2009, and even that was only a week. My time to stock up on rest used to the Triduum and Easter Monday, but since joining choir, I go back to work exhausted after the Triduum as well as on Mondays.

    Those of you who want sung Masses for every solemnity really have no clue of the time that has to go into that to make it a reality, and quite frankly, it’s really nice to get a break so that one can actually focus on Mass and making a good communion reception rather than spend your time thinking about singing.

    Even priests get four weeks, plus one week for retreat away from preaching and public Masses. Choirs and scholas don’t.

  13. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    Those who say, “Who gets holy days off of work anymore?” are being shortsighted. If we still kept Holy Days as they should be kept as a Church, and insisted, as a Church, that these are days with no work, just Church and family time, rather than caving to the contemporary secular culture, we could CHANGE the culture.

    Imagine if Wal-mart had to close for a day because every single Catholic employee AND customer refused to come in on the feast of the Assumption.

    Catholics in America have, for generations, lost our power to effect culture because, rather than standing strong on our faith, we cave and compromise. It doesn’t have to be this way!

  14. APX says:

    Fr. Timothy Ferguson

    I don’t know how it is where you live, but in Canada where I work, if everyone refused to work, Wal-Mart would just fire everyone and bring in temporary foreign workers from the Philipines. That’s what they do here.

    Furthermore, after a religion teacher in a Catholic high school in Alberta just got put on administrative leave after a lesbian couple’s child complained about the teacher teaching Catholic moral doctrine on homosexuality, as well as stating basic biological truths (homosexuals can’t reproduce with each other), I don’t expect any leeway to be given on the grounds of religion any time soon.

  15. Father K says:

    ‘If we still kept Holy Days as they should be kept as a Church, and insisted, as a Church, ‘ Insisted to whom? The President of USA or David Cameron or Malcolm Turnbull et alia…Are you serious?
    ‘ every single Catholic employee AND customer refused to come in on the feast of the Assumption,’ an ideal world, a good world, but not the world we live in. As you say and John Lennon said, ‘Imagine.’

  16. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    Father K, I think it’s the world we live in because we have allowed ourselves to live in it. The Jews seem to have no problem taking their holy days seriously. In Dearborn, the Moslems got football practiced switched to after sundown during Ramadan to accommodate their religious practices.

    Why can’t we do the same? Because we’ve allowed ourselves to be tricked into making accomodation

  17. robtbrown says:

    Fr K says,

    And who seriously, expects anyone these days, that lay people will be allowed the day off.

    Many places now have designated holidays.

  18. Clinton R. says:

    So we don’t celebrate Holy Days of Obligation, but yet the likes of Christoph Cardinal Schonborn can visit a Sikh temple and worship false deities?

    No wonder Europe is dying. Not a shot will need to be fired for the Mohammedans to take over and enslave a once Catholic continent. For goodness sakes, will some bishop have the fortitude to stand up for Christ and His Church?

  19. hwriggles4 says:

    Circa 1986, my brothers and I went to Mass on the Feast of the Assumption. The homily by the pastor (now deceased) included passages (no joke) that Holy Days were begun so the field workers back in the olden days could get a day off work. After that, I didn’t go to Mass on several Holy Days for years, until I began a “reversion story” as a retread college student (unexpectedly – want to make God laugh, tell him your plans) circa 1993. This is why I feel that it is extremely important for the priest to explain the significance of the Holy Day (i.e. the Immaculate Conception – Mary was conceived without sin, the Annunciation (March 25, the Angel Gabriel came to see Mary – which in many dioceses across the country is not considered a Holy Day anymore), the Feast of All Saints Day, the Solemnity on New Year’s Day, etc) of Obligation, because many Catholics don’t understand what they are for and why.

    I do like the idea Hilltop had. I live in a large city, and there are quite a few parishes on Holy Days that purposely do a 12:10 p.m. Mass, which allows workers to attend Mass on their lunch period. Quite frankly, my parish is close to several high rise buildings, and the 5:30 p.m. daily Mass is well attended, since many Catholics can come after work (it also gives them an excuse for the traffic to die down), and quite a few other parishes have an early Mass (between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.) so Catholics can attend before work, and others have a 7:00 p.m. Mass on Holy Days, so kids can go after school. Recall that Catholics do not always have to attend our registered parish, and if there is a closer parish to our office or school, (I have done this on Holy Days for years), we can attend Mass there instead.

    Another thing I have done is asked my boss (he was OK with this) if I can come into work at 9:00 a.m. on certain Holy Days, which allowed me to go to Mass before coming to work. Some bosses will allow workers to take an extended lunch period on these Holy Days, to allow going to Mass too. Anyway, I appreciate the Mass on Holy Days when the priest discusses the significance of the day, and doesn’t give a “status quo Mass”.

  20. redsaint says:

    Umm, why would they go to put the effort into a mass where the priest doesn’t want to put in the extra effort when they just stated their FSSP parish does? Attend a beautiful mass where the Holy day is observed or push uphill to garner support at a less appreciative parish? I’m going to assume you misread the dear author’s post.

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