Let’s be honest—Catholics have their own vocabulary when it comes to certain things. “Holy Day of Obligation” is one of those terms we throw out that I think, unless you grew up Catholic (and maybe even then!), probably needs an explanation. A “holy day of obligation” (or “day of precept”) is a day in which the faithful are “to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship of God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body” (CCC 2185). In other words, they are days in the life of the Church in which we are called to celebrate a particular solemn occasion or feast in the Church by attending Mass and refraining from servile labor—not just “required to attend Mass.”

Interestingly enough, the number of days of obligation depends on where you are in the Church. First off, every Sunday is considered the “primordial holy day of obligation,” but often, we don’t even think of Sunday when we use the term. The universal Church has up to 10 additional days of precept, but in the US, there are typically only 8—a couple of which have been permanently transferred to Sunday for convenience sake (e.g. Corpus Christi and the Ascension). Thus, the traditional list is usually shorter. You’ll notice as well that usually, if a day of precept falls on a Saturday or Monday, the faithful are typically dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass, due to the proximity of the celebration to Sunday. [For example, All Saints and Mary, Mother of God fell on Monday and Saturday respectively, so neither are obligatory. However, Christmas this year is on a Saturday, but we are not dispensed from attending a Christmas Mass this year.]

December 8, the celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is just one such holy day of obligation. As a reminder, our Mass times for that day are:

  • Tuesday, December 7th (anticipatory Mass), 5:15 pm at St. Thomas
  • Wednesday, December 8th, 6:30 am at OLOL
  • Wednesday, December 8th, 2:00 pm at OLOL
  • Wednesday, December 8th, 5:15 pm at St. Thomas

Please plan on attending one of these Masses. If you are unable to attend (without sufficiently grave reason, of course), the Church asks that you please attend the Sacrament of Confession before presenting yourself for communion (which is not the same, of course, as simply attending Mass) so as to ensure we are receiving the Eucharist worthily.

As well, some of you may be wondering about the upcoming Christmas obligations, since Christmas falls on a Saturday of this year, immediately followed by a Sunday (Holy Family). The widely held understanding in the Church is that two days of precept require two Masses to be attended by each individual. In other words, the Church asks that you find one Christmas Mass time to attend (either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day) and one Sunday Mass time to attend (December 26). Note that we will NOT have an anticipatory Saturday evening Mass on Saturday night (December 25). The schedules for our parishes are as follows (note also that we’ve added a Midnight Mass, which I’m very excited for—spread the word!!):

Mass for Christmas

  • Friday, December 24th, 4:00 pm at OLOL
  • Friday, December 24th, 5:00 pm at St. Thomas
  • Friday, December 24th, 7:00 pm at OLOL – in Spanish
  • Saturday, December 25th, 12:00 am Midnight at OLOL
  • Saturday, December 25th, 7:30 am at OLOL
  • Saturday, December 25th, 9:30 am at OLOL
  • Saturday, December 25th, 10:00 am at St. Thomas

Mass for Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family

  • Sunday, December 26th, 7:30 am at OLOL
  • Sunday, December 26th, 9:30 am at OLOL
  • Sunday, December 26th, 10 am at St. Thomas
  • Sunday, December 26th, 11:30 am at OLOL – in Spanish

Keep spreading joy!

Fr. Friedel

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