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Friday, June 3, 2011

Can we please have some Holy Day of Obligation Uniformity?

As many of you know, yesterday was the Feast of the Ascension, a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Rite. The normal day of this feast day is Thursday, but in recent years, the USCCB (US Catholic Conference of Bishops) has allowed the feast of the Ascension (for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite) to be moved to the following Sunday instead of having it on the original day of Thursday. Furthermore, it is up to the local bishop to determine this, leaving much confusion with the laity as to when this is. This is normally made known before this day, but travelers are left out of the mix as a result of this "option". In order to be safe and avoid this mess, you could go to an Ordinary Form Mass on Ascension Thursday, go to an Extraordinary Form Mass on Ascension Thursday, or attend any Divine Liturgy (the name for Mass in the Eastern Rites) at any Eastern Rite church (in communion with Rome) on Ascension.

I have noticed that in recent years, there has been a decline in the handling of Holy Days of Obligation. For many feasts, they have become "optional" (you don't have to go, but it's highly recommended that you do go) or become "movable" (such as Ascension Thursday). This, I think, has partially to do with the busyness of society and how it views church. People have become too lazy or too busy to take time out to go to church on a day other than Sunday. In the Eastern Rites, there's not exactly Holy Days of Obligation, but there are days where the laity are expected to come to church to celebrate a particular event in the life of Christ and the Church. In some Catholic churches, if there's a holy day of obligation that's optional, the Mass schedule isn't changed to accommodate the feast day. Besides, those Holy Days of Obligation are only a handful of days out of the calendar year, so is it too hard to take some time out to go to Mass on those days?

We need to get back to viewing Holy Days of Obligation as days where you always go and be part of the Mass with joy. Those days that are "optional" still need to be promoted as days where you attend Mass. You always get something good and helpful out of the Mass, so why would you want to skip Mass on those days? If there's a feast day in the Church, make some effort to go to Mass.  Those Feasts are on those days for a (very good) reason, so why must we mess with their dates while confusing the laity at the same time? It would be nice to have the Holy Days of Obligation uniform throughout all the dioceses in the US so that you don't have to inquire which day this Holy Day of Obligation is actually on in this Diocese. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and all the Eastern Rites seem to not have this problem, so why does the Ordinary Form have it?

If you have any thoughts of your own on this, I would like to hear them (just put them in the comment box below). Feel free to tell me on Twitter as well (username is "rctechgeek", link to profile is in the "About Me" section).

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