1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.
Scott P. Richert

How Many Holy Days of Obligation Are There?

By December 28, 2012

Follow me on:

Many Catholics in the United States are surprised when I tell them that, in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (the rite to which most of us belong), there are ten Holy Days of Obligation every year. But it's true: You can find all ten listed in Canon 1246 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

When you look at that list, however, you'll see four days that Catholics here in the United States do not not think of as Holy Days of Obligation (and I'm not even counting the Ascension of Our Lord, which is transferred, in most dioceses in the United States, to the Sunday following Ascension Thursday).

Each bishops' conference can, with the approval of the Vatican, transfer the celebration of certain Holy Days of Obligation to Sunday (when all Catholics are obliged to attend Mass anyway) or abolish the obligation altogether. The bishops of the United States have transferred two Holy Days of Obligation (in addition to Ascension) and abolished two.

You can find out which Holy Days of Obligation have been affected by comparing these two lists: Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and Holy Days of Obligation in the United States.

The bishops' conference of a country can also add Holy Days of Obligation to the calendar, not just subtract them. Can you guess some of the feasts that have been added as Holy Days of Obligation, and the countries in which they have been added? Leave your guesses in the comments below!

Connect With Scott: Twitter | Facebook | Newsletters
December 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm
(1) Gloria says:

I’m confused about Christmas Day vigil Mass (2010) and then attending Mass on Sunday (Dec 26 2010). The church in the next town over will not observe Jan 1 with a Mass and has told its parishioners they have a ‘pass’ on that day. What’s going on? My church hasn’t said we could forgo Mass on Jan 1 as a holy day….

December 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm
(2) Scott P. Richert says:

Gloria, I’m not sure I’m following the first sentence of your comment. If you can clarify, I’ll try to answer.

As for the question over January 1, you can find the answer in Is January 1 a Holy Day of Obligation? Long story short: The obligation is abrogated this year, because it falls on a Saturday.

December 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm
(3) lorraine Schwartz says:

I wish they would have left the original holy days as they were in my lifetime. I can understand how people get confused and then they use the excuse that they keep switching the days so it can’t be important.
I don’t know why they are not the same all over the world.

December 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm
(4) Patty Guasco says:

Really!!! When you pull up the Holy Days of Obligation it actually lists 2011 and 2012. Have they (the catholic church) changed then already or again????

What happend to the good ole’ days. Why all the changes????

December 30, 2011 at 10:08 pm
(5) Patty Guasco says:

I agreee!!!!

June 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm
(6) Helen says:

This article sends the wrong message. The first sentence should state the every Sunday is a holyday of obligation. There are 52 Sundays a year and then there are proximally 10 other holydays of obligation depending on if the holyday falls on a Saturday or Monday the obligation is moved to Sunday.

January 31, 2014 at 2:54 pm
(7) James says:

It would be much simpler if for everyone everywhere if all the holy days were just transferred to Sunday.

May 7, 2014 at 8:30 am
(8) Paul says:

Sure it would be much simpler if the days of obligation were transferred to Sundays, sure it would be simpler if we could also change this and change that to suit ourselves whenever we pleased, and before you know it we would no longer have a credible religion.
Once religion starts adapting to suit secular ways and demands, it has basically sold out and can no longer be taken seriously. (Just like how days of obligation have been moved to satisfy secularism in the Uk)
Do you see Jews adapting judaism, or Muslims adapting Islam to suit the demands of secularism? No you don’t, you are either a practising Jew or Muslim….or you are not, it’s that simple!
Surely the faithful should be wresting to ensure that they meet the spiritual demands of their faith and this includes attending the infrequent days of obligation.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.