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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Obligated to Obligations

Got a question for you, sister. We just moved to the states from Canada and expected to have Jan. 1st as a Holy Day of Obligation. Well, we were surprised to find out our bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah "abrogated the requirement as a holy day of obligation". We thought that was weird. My sister, who has recently come back into the Catholic Church after many, many years and is struggling with accepting some of the teachings of the church questioned me as to how it could be this way. Where she lives in California, it is a H.D.o.O. but not where I live? She said, "So. If I don't go to Mass it is a mortal sin, but not if you don't go?" I stumbled over that one. It is bothering me. I didn't know the answer for her. I just told her that the Church was divinely instituted but humanly run and humans can make mistakes. (Which is what I think our bishop did - and went to Mass anyways this morning.) 

I think you might be mistaken about Jan. 1st being abrogated by the Bishop. But let's back this truck up and see just what goes on with Holy Days of Obligation altogether. That beeping sound you hear is us backing up.

Holy Days of Obligation are special days set aside by the Church that are to be treated like a Sunday. Mass is the "obligation" part and you're supposed to take the day off and put your feet up or putter in the garden or read a good book.

In Europe, there were no less than 34 Holy Days of Obligation throughout the Liturgical year (which begins with Advent). Eventually, they were whittled down to 11.  But when all the immigrants flooded into the United States in the 18th century, it was very difficult for Catholics to make it to all 11 due to persecution and the distance folks had to travel to get to church and such.  So in the US, the Holy Days of Obligation were whittled down to 10 and then to 6. Two were moved to a Sunday, when you're in church anyhow and two were removed altogether.

They are:
Jan. 1st Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven
Aug. 15th The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
Nov.1st  All Saints Day
Dec. 8th The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
Dec. 25th Christmas

As simple as this seems, it's not so simple. The Ascension, for one, is not on the same day every year as it lands 40 days after Easter, which is a movable feast. On top of that, in many places, it has been moved to whatever Sunday is after the 40 day mark.

Which also happens with any other Holy Day of Obligation that lands on a Saturday or a Monday.

So my question to you is: did the Bishop of Utah really abrogate Jan. 1st for this year? He has done it in other years because it landed on a Monday or a Saturday, but you may have read an old posting of some sort because, since it's today, it should still be a Holy Day of Obligation.

Did you commit a mortal sin by not going to Mass? No.  Will your sister commit a mortal sin by not going to Mass? Yes.

Which brings us to your initial question: How on earth does that work? In a word, "obedience".  We have to follow the laws of the Church and the Bishop and the Cardinals and the Pope decide what those laws are. Like the meat of Friday thing.  Many people were told if they ate meat on Friday they would go to Hell. (I was never told that. I was told that was a venial sin, not a mortal sin, but I am in a minority.) It would be a fine how do you do to find yourself in Hell for eating meat on Friday and then get the news that that's not even any kind of sin anymore.  I don't worry about it. God can do whatever He wants.  The Bishops and the Pope and the Cardinals determine what that is.

They don't just make things up willy nilly.  They have your soul's best interest at heart and fuss and argue and read and pray and ponder to figure out the best way to drag you to Heaven. It's their whole job. It's my whole job.

I'm glad you gave yourself and the Bishop the benefit of the doubt and hopped off to Mass. We did that and had one of our favorite dinners, sauerkraut and perogi mixed up together.  We'll soon be fat as toads.  Good thing Lent is up next.


Anonymous said...

from the website of the Diocese of Salt Lake City at http://www.icatholic.org/article/solemnity-of-mary-1724998

"Jan. 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. While this remains a holy day, as has been the custom in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Bishop John C. Wester has dispensed from the obligation of attending Mass."

I also live in a predominately non-Catholic area not unlike Utah, with widespread parish territories and few priests (My parish church is over 13+ miles away, and I live in an urban area), yet my bishop never dispenses with obligation to attend mass on a holy day, let alone dispensing the obligation as a custom. I don't get it. Sure, some people may be in extremely rural areas but surely not all parishioners in the diocese. What's up with this bishop? Please touch on abrogating the entire holy day versus dispensing an obligation of that day.

Muffie said...

Saint = St. Genevieve. [There was a song to her in the play/movie Camelot]

In the East, Ascension Thursday is still on a Thursday. (We're a bit more conservative than the rest of the country, and it hasn't been moved to a Sunday.)

Anonymous said...

According to Canon 1246 #1 of Canon Law, the following are designated as holydays:

Christmas; Epiphany; Ascension; Corpus Christi; Mary, Mother of God (Jan 1); the Immaculate Conception; the Assumption; St.Joseph; Saints Peter & Paul; and All Saints - a total of 10.

#2 states "However, the Episcopal Congerence may, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See, suppress certain holydays of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.

Here in Trinidad, West Indies, Ascension and Epiphany are transferred to Sunday. The holydays that are of obligation are: Christmas, Jan 1 - Mary Mother of God; and Corpus Christi we have public holidays for all three.


janina said...

In Canada most of these dates are celebrated on the Sunday as well. The only two not on a Sunday are Christmas Day and the Solemnity of Mary on Jan 1

Anonymous said...

I can hardley believe what I just read about dragging a person to heaven. God doesn't drag a soul. And no one can earn their salvation by works or by keeping your so-called holy days of obligation. You may like to take a look at Amos5:21 where God says...I hate, I despise your feast days. It's by the wonderful amazing grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that one is accepted as one of his. Believe that Jesus Christ is the spotless perfect Lamb of God and His blood on Calvary covers my sin. All my works that I've accomplished, nor my goodness will I plead, but let the blood of Calvary speek for me.