The task of figuring out which Holy Days are “of Obligation” each year can be confusing and frustrating. One of them — Ascension — is transferred to Sunday in most parts of the country, except for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska. Others are days of obligation… except when they’re not. The rules are a bit complex. For your convenience, here are the upcoming Holy Days for 2019-2020, followed by some explanatory notes.
All Sundays of the Year, plus:
- Wednesday, December 25, 2019 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
- Wednesday, January 1, 2020 – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
- [in ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, and NE: Thursday, May 21, 2020 – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord — everywhere else, it’s transferred to Sunday, May 24, 2020]
- Sunday, November 1, 2020 – Solemnity of All Saints (you have to go on Sunday anyhow!)
- Tuesday, December 8, 2020 – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.
- Friday, December 25, 2020 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Some might wonder: Why not the Immaculate Conception in 2019? Why not the Assumption in 2020?
In 2019, Immaculate Conception falls on a Sunday. According to the liturgical norms, a Solemnity of Our Lady cannot supersede a Sunday of Advent. (There is a weighted ranking of “liturgical days” in the Roman Missal.) Therefore, the feast is displaced to the next day — Monday, December 9. And because it is displaced, according to present regulations, it is not a day of obligation — the obligation is attached to the date of December 8, not when it is transferred to another day. Again, that is just for 2019 for the Immaculate Conception.
In 2020, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary falls on a Saturday. There are a couple of Holy Days — this is one of them — for which, if they fall on a Saturday or on a Monday, the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated. But again, that’s not for all Holy Days. That’s why we need explanatory things like this. If you want to read the norms, CLICK HERE.
The bottom line is that there are either five or six Holy Days of Obligation on the calendar, depending upon where you live (check the lists of states above — if you live in one of those, you have six Holy Days). And there are 52 Sundays. So we technically have 57 or 58 days each year when we need to be at Mass. Of course, sometimes a Holy Day falls on a Sunday — as with All Saints in 2020. Sometimes one is abrogated because of other technicalities.
But it would be very fine if we all formed the habit of honoring these days every year, obligation or not. In fact, that’s the easiest way to deal with confusing rules: decide to go to Mass on those days each year no matter what. Then you don’t have to worry if you missed one or if that year didn’t apply or whatever. Many of you enjoy generous amounts of paid time off, personal days, or vacation days with your jobs. You should put in for these days every year so you can bear witness to the Catholic faith and take your families to Mass more easily (instead of having to go to a “red eye” before or after a long day of work…).
And in that vein, I encourage you to read my post on sanctifying Holy Days: HERE.