Catholic Holy Days of Obligation

The Catholic Holy Days of Obligation are our most important feast days.

They are the principal liturgical feasts that honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.

Rejoice! Catholics know that these are the most important days of the year. And of course the best way to celebrate them is to...

...celebrate Holy Mass with all the angels and saints!

The Calendar

Here's a simple chart showing the Catholic holy days of obligation. I've added information for the Universal Church (the Church as a whole), the U.S., and a few other English-speaking countries.

Write them on your calendar, so you'll know when to start celebrating!

Universal Church U.S.A. Australia Canada England & Wales Ireland
Jan. 1: Mary, Mother of God C      
Jan. 6: Epiphany B A A C
Mar. 17: St. Patrick          
March 19: St. Joseph          
Ascension B
Holy Body & Blood of Christ B B B
June 29: Sts. Peter & Paul   B   C  
Aug. 15: Assumption C C   C
Nov. 1: All Saints C C   C
Dec. 8: Immaculate Conception        
Dec. 25: Christmas

Key to Catholic Holy Days of Obligation:

A = Transferred to the Sunday between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8
B = Transferred to the following Sunday
C = If the date is on Saturday or Monday, there is *no* obligation for that year

(This nice chart is adapted from the one in the Handbook of Prayers, edited by James Socias and published by the Midwest Theological Forum. That's a great little book that contains a wealth of information about being Catholic, besides a large number of good Catholic prayers.)

But why are they obligations?

I know: the term "Catholic holy days of obligation" contains the word obligation. That's unfortunate.

Too many Catholics look on these wonderful feasts with a dreary sense of obligation.

They are so much more than that! We celebrate the most important feasts of our liturgical year on these days.

We call them obligations because the Precepts of the Catholic Church tell us that celebrating those feast days is a part of the minimum level of commitment to the Catholic faith.

(The first precept mentions the Catholic holy days of obligation — see item #2042 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Those who are devout in their love for the Lord will find that we celebrate some saint's feast day on nearly every day of the year!

This brief article on the Catholic holy days of obligation is just one of a series of articles about Catholic morality. There are also more articles for the beginning Catholic available from our home page.