Get Thee to Mass Tomorrow! All Saints’ Is A Holy Day of Obligation

::This post was first featured on October 31, 2011::

A recent discussion in our group uncovered that one member’s church had advertised All Saint’s Day not as a Holy Day of Obligation, but rather some vague description called a “holy day of opportunity.” I just had to take the opportunity to 1) clarify what the Church teaches on Holy Days of Obligations and 2) if your church has done something similar, I want you to understand that this is not correct and you are entitled to the Truth of what our Faith teaches instead of vague descriptions that cause confusion and even mortal sins if you do not attend Mass due to the ambiguity.

The Church calls our basic obligations to the Faith, meaning the absolute bare minimum one can do to participate in their Faith, precepts. They can be found in the Catechism #2041-2043 and they outline five points. They are:

  • You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor. We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, “and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.”
  • You shall confess your sins at least once a year. We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
  • You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. This “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.”
  • You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. “The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” See below for more about fasting & abstinence.
  • You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. “The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”
As this constitutes the bare minimum, how can we view this with respect to how we are doing on a daily basis? Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. St. Paul says
24* Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.p25Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.q26Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.27No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
St. Paul knows well that the people in Corinth are very familiar with the ways of the world, particularly sports. We would reason, logically, that if we wanted to do well, or even excel in sports, we would have to commit to do what it takes to get the results we want. St. Paul points out that the reward for excelling is a perishable crown. These days we can win trophies and medals, plaques and accolades to mark our accomplishments – things that ultimately have no bearing on our salvation. Is this the legacy we want? To go the distance for the things that ultimately have no value in the next life? Or is St. Paul encouraging us to approach the Faith with the same zeal an athlete would? The answer is YES!
Think of these precepts as the bare minimum you can do to “get in the game” or bottom rung participation of the Faith. Is that truly what we want? Is that what God wants us to go for? The bottom rung? How often do you feed yourself? Would you expect to be malnourished if you fed yourself at minimum? How about feeding your faith? The same goes in that respect, too.
So…all this to say, get thee to Mass tomorrow. If you haven’t made time to attend Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation {HDO}, then tomorrow’s a good day to start!
God bless!

7 Replies to “Get Thee to Mass Tomorrow! All Saints’ Is A Holy Day of Obligation”

  1. While it is encouraged to attend Mass, the actual designation of Holy Days is left up to the Diocese. The Diocese of Honolulu actually only has two Holy Days of Obligation, Christmas and the Immaculate Conception, so it is therefore not a mortal sin for members of that Diocese to not attend mass on All Saints Day.

    I took this excerpt from the “Liturgical Calendar for the Diocese of the United States” published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
    “In a decree dated March 23, 1992, the bishop of Honolulu designated Christmas and the Immaculate Conception as the only two holy days of obligation for the State of Hawaii. This implements the indult received from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on May 26, 1990, and the subsequent nihil obstat from the USCCB allowing Hawaii to legislate on this matter in accord with the policies of the Conference of Bishops of the South Pacific (CEPAC).”

    1. Thank you for sharing this information with us, Barbara. I had no idea that one of our states was in conformity with another Conference of Bishops over the USCCB. While I understand it was probably to retain some of the island’s cultural similarities with other nations, I can’t get over the idea of encouraging less reverence by removing all but *two* Holy Days of Obligation. One has to wonder what the true underlying good would be of that. Certainly it can’t be cultural similarities…not if we’re talking about worshipping and glorifying God, you know?

      I had a friend point out two documents that are worth looking over. The first is directly from the Vatican that highlights canon law with respect to Holy Days.
      I’d also like to link up a good article written by Father Z and quote part of his post. It’s about Ascension Thursday, but fits the bill in this particular case as well.

      The bishops who did transfer the feast to Sunday were, I am sure, hoping to expose more people to the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord. Probably included in that calculation was also the notion that it is tooo haaard for people to go to Mass also on Thursday. “Mass twice in a week? Tooo haaard!”

      I am no doubt under the the influence of having read so much St. Augustine. My present view of humanity suggests that when Holy Mother Church lowers expectations regarding the liturgy, people get the hint and lower their own personal expectations of themselves. They get the hint that the feast just isn’t that important. As a matter of fact, maybe none of this Catholic stuff, with all these rules, is that important. This is what happened with lowering expectations about Friday abstinence (hardly anyone pays attention to it anymore), going to confession regularly and confession all mortal sins, the Eucharistic fast, dressing appropriately for Mass, etc. etc. etc. If you change how people pray (or tell them they don’t have to) you change the way people believe. There is a reciprocal relationship between our prayer and our belief. Lex ordandi – Lex credendi.

  2. I did not go to Mass yesterday because I had to work. I work 3-12 and 1-24/hour shifts, followed by 5-7 days off. I attend when I can and don’t worry too much about the days of the week or if it is a Holy Day of Obligation. I don’t think God is too worried about my work schedule interfering. Some of my best Masses have been at 7 am following a 24-hour shift. I wish we all spent more time trying to live as God wants us and less time counting the days and hours of “obligation.”

  3. Marlene: While you are correct that God is above rules and rituals, we as humans are not. God doesn’t *need* us to worship Him every Sunday, but He *wants* us to and He has instructed is to through His Commandments and through His Church. It is a grave matter to miss Mass on days of obligation, which includes all Sundays. I refer you to this article for more info:
    Hope that is helpful to you.

  4. Kerri, What exactly do you propose I do? Give up my job? I work in health care and have 12 or 24 hour shifts. That’s the way I support my family and enable my husband to stay home and take care of our children. So, no, that wasn’t really helpful to me. In a perfect world we could all go to Mass together as a family, but I have to make a living, too. Of course I go to Mass on Sunday when I’m not working.

  5. Marlene,

    I think one way to look at it is to explore and understand what the root of the rules are in the first place. The spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law, if that make sense. To expand on what Kerri writes, I’d like to point out that our obligations to attend Mass are beyond our comprehension of rules. They are rooted in God’s love for us. Think about *why* God wants us to attend Mass. Kerri is right that God doesn’t *need* us – He created us solely out of His love for us. The rules are for *us* and to help *us* keep the commandments that, in turn, keep us close to Him. It is also how we spiritually nourish ourselves by consuming Him in the Eucharist – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

    So…when we miss Mass, we aren’t hurting God – we’re hurting ourselves.

    As for your work schedule, there are times when we legitimately can not make Mass because of our work schedule. Those would not be considered mortal sins if you have made every effort to attend Mass, or talked with your employer about potentially getting a different work schedule to accommodate time to make it to Mass. As long as you aren’t using your work schedule to justify missing Mass {and I’m not saying you are}, then it is not a mortal sin. I know where I live {if I recall correctly} that employers are legally obligated to work with any religious obligations you’ve got. You might want to look into that.

    If you are working a full 24 hours from Saturday vigil to Sunday vigil, you might want to consider looking at attending the local college campus to attend Mass – sometimes they celebrate Mass well into Sunday evening {it’s not ideal, but it would work in a pinch}. If you are making every effort to attend Mass and simply can not do it, that is one thing. Here is a great website to scour some of your area Mass times.

    Good luck!

  6. This is from a couple years ago, but I would like to clarify why our Bishop states that the only two Holy Days of Obligation are the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas. There is a significant priest shortage on Hawaii. We cannot expect the faithful to attend Mass when there isn’t a priest available to them or they need to take off work to travel to a place where a priest would be available, something that the working poor (which is most of the kama’aina) would not be able to do.

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