Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Liturgy Files: Why are some holy days moved to Sunday and others remain on their proper date?

Part of my job is to answer email. Some of these emails are simple Q&A. In these Liturgy Files, I'll share some of the most helpful Q&As.


Q: Why do we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on the actual weekday (August 15), instead of transferring the celebration to the following Saturday/Sunday celebration like we do for the Ascension? What are the parameters for other times when we do transfer a feast day celebration from weekday to Saturday/Sunday celebration?

A: The pertinent current legislation in the United States is as follows (warning: this is more information than you will ever want to know about this):


From the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1246

§1: Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church. Also to be observed are the day of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary Mother of God and her Immaculate Conception and Assumption, Saint Joseph, the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and finally, All Saints.

§2: However, the conference of bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See.

The United States Bishops’ Conference has taken three actions regarding this canon:

Action 1

In accord with canon 1246, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the holy days of obligation to be observed in the United States are:
  • the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God;

  • the Solemnity of the Ascension;

  • the Solemnity of the Assumption;

  • the Solemnity of All Saints;

  • the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception;

  • the Solemnity of Christmas.

  • The Solemnity of the Epiphany shall be transferred to the first Sunday following January 1;

  • the Solemnity of Corpus Christi shall be observed on the second Sunday following Pentecost.
Approved: November 1983
Promulgated: March 1984


Action 2

On December 13, 1991 the members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of American made the following general decree concerning holy days of obligation for Latin rite Catholics:

In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with canon 1246, are as follows:

  • January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

  • Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension

  • August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  • November 1, the solemnity of All Saints

  • December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

  • December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

  • 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.
Approved: July 1992
Promulgated: January 1993

Action 3

In accord with the provisions of canon 1246 §2 of the Code of Canon Law, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States decrees that the Ecclesiastical Provinces of the United States may transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the Seventh Sunday of Easter according to the following procedure.

The decision of each Ecclesiastical Province to transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension is to be made by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the bishops of the respective Ecclesiastical Province. The decision of the Ecclesiastical Province should be communicated to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and to the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Approved: July 1999
Promulgated: September 1999

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