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Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church

Ten of the Most Important Feasts of the Year

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The Catholic Church currently has ten Holy Days of Obligation, which are listed in Canon 1246 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. These ten Holy Days of Obligation apply to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church; the Eastern Rites have their own Holy Days of Obligation. Holy Days of Obligation are days other than Sundays on which Catholics are required to participate in the Mass, our primary form of worship. (Any feast celebrated on a Sunday, such as Easter, falls under our normal Sunday Duty and thus isn't included in a list of Holy Days of Obligation.)

The following list includes all ten of the Holy Days of Obligation prescribed for the Latin Rite. In certain countries, the bishops' conference may have reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation, usually by transferring the celebration of a feast such as Epiphany, Ascension, or Corpus Christi to the nearest Sunday, or in some cases, as in the Solemnities of Saint Joseph and of Saints Peter and Paul, by removing the obligation altogether. Thus some lists of Holy Days of Obligation for particular countries may include fewer than ten Holy Days of Obligation. If in doubt, please click on "Is [name of holy day] a Holy Day of Obligation?" in the list below, or check with your parish or diocese.

You can also consult the following lists of Holy Days of Obligation for various countries:

1. Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Madonna of humility by Fra Angelico, c. 1430.
Public Domain

The Latin Rite of the Catholic Church begins the year by celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. On this day, we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Christ's Birth at Christmas, celebrated just a week before, was made possible by Mary's fiat: "Be it done unto me according to Thy word."

2. The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ

A Nativity scene with the Three Kings in a church in Rome, January 2008. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
(Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the oldest Christian feasts, though, throughout the centuries, it has celebrated a variety of things. Epiphany comes from a Greek verb meaning "to reveal," and all of the various events celebrated by the Feast of the Epiphany are revelations of Christ to man.

Dates of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ:

3. Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Statue of St. Joseph, Lourdes Grotto, St. Mary Oratory, Rockford, IL. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
(Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrates the life of the foster father of Jesus Christ.

Dates of Saint Joseph's Day:

4. The Ascension of Our Lord

© flickr user frted (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Ascension of Our Lord, which occurred 40 days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, is the final act of our redemption that Christ began on Good Friday. On this day, the risen Christ, in the sight of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven.

Dates of the Ascension:

5. Corpus Christi

Pope Benedict XVI offers benediction, October 15, 2005. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (as it is often called today), goes back to the 13th century, but it celebrates something far older: the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.

Dates of Corpus Christi:

6. Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

The Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul, Apostles (June 29), celebrates the two greatest apostles, whose martyrdom established the preeminence of the Church at Rome.

7. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.  (Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)
(Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very old feast of the Church, celebrated universally by the sixth century. It commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay—a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time.

Dates of the Assumption:

8. All Saints Day

Central Russian icon of selected saints. (Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)
(Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)

All Saints Day is a surprisingly old feast. It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored. The practice eventually spread to the universal Church.

Dates of All Saints Day:

9. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception, Most Blessed Sacrament Shrine, Hanceville, AL. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
(Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in its oldest form, goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, this feast celebrates, not the conception of Christ (a common misconception), but the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of Saint Anne; and nine months later, on September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dates of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:

10. Christmas

Nativity scene (2007) at the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, Rome. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
(Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The word Christmas derives from the combination of Christ and Mass; it is the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The last holy day of obligation in the year, Christmas is second in importance in the liturgical calendar only to Easter.

Dates of Christmas:

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