A Holy Day of Obligation is a feast day in which all the faithful are obligated to celebrate the Eucharist as they are on all Sundays throughout the year. The Gloria is sung during Mass on Solemnities marking the festivity with a more formal praise and honor of God. Special readings are chosen for the mass highlighting the feast. (Currently as we deal with the threat of Covid-19, Bishop Matano has stated that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will remain suspended for all Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester until further notice.)
The other rankings of feast days on the liturgical calendar are called Feast, Obligatory Memorial, and Optional Memorial. This coming week we will be celebrating feast days in all three of those categories. Monday, August 10, is the Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. This is a major Feast Day. As we celebrate Mass on Feast days we sing the Gloria as we do on days that are Solemnities. The prayers for Mass: the Opening prayer, Prayer over the gifts, and the Prayer after Communion, are special prayers for the Feast. Likewise, the Lectionary readings are specific readings chosen for the Feast. These major Feasts are celebrated for the Apostles, for Mary and for other important events in the church. November 9th is my birthday; it is not a day on which we remember a saint, but rather the event of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the oldest church in Rome.
Tuesday, August 11 is the feast of the St. Clare, Virgin, and Friday August 14 is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr, both of which are Obligatory Memorials. When celebrating Mass on days that are Obligatory Memorials we are obligated to celebrate the feast in honor the Saint of the day. The prayers for the Mass for the Saint being remembered that day are used and often the readings from the lectionary are special readings chosen for the particular feast.
Two days this coming week are Optional Memorials, as the name implies we have the option to celebrate the Mass in memory of the Saint of the Day. The two Optional Memorials this week are August 12, the feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious and August 13, the feast of Saints Pontian, Pope and Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs. Usually when two or more saints are honored together there is a connection in their lives or in their deaths. On occasion there are two saints listed for the day that are Optional Memorials the Mass could be for one or the other or neither. If neither, then the Mass of the day would be celebrated, for instance, August 12 this year would be the Mass for Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
There are also some feasts that are moveable Feasts. Easter is the most important of these. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. Other moveable feasts are tied to when Easter is celebrated, two of them being The Ascension of the Lord and The Sacred Heart of Jesus. If a moveable feast falls on a date that is usually designated for a Feast Day of a Saint, it replaces it on the Liturgical Calendar. I remember one year when I was in the Seminary, I visited my home parish in Oneonta on June 13. I went to Mass at St. Mary’s church to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The pastor was amazed that so many people had come for this daily Mass, the Mass chapel was over full! He thought it so wonderful that so many came to celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was only later that he realized that most of the parishioners there that day, were of Italian decent, and they had come to celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony! They were not happy with their pastor!
Have a blessed week, Father Bill