Catholics have dual Mass obligation weekend of Dec. 25-26, but not Jan. 1

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is pictured with a Nativity scene at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. With Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit will have two Mass obligations this weekend, Dec. 25-26. (Detroit Catholic file photo)

'Unusual' liturgical calendar has Christmas, New Year's falling on Saturdays; obligation dispensed for Jan. 1 solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

DETROIT — Catholics in the United States will have two obligations to attend Mass this coming weekend, Dec. 25-26, with Christmas falling on a Saturday this year.

However, the usual obligation for the faithful to attend Mass on Jan. 1 for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, will be lifted this year because of how the liturgical calendar is handled for U.S. Latin-rite dioceses.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, when the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ — Christmas — falls on either a Saturday or a Monday, the obligation for Catholics to attend Mass for the holy day does not change the faithful’s obligation to attend a separate Mass on Sunday also (or a vigil Mass on Saturday to fulfill one's Sunday obligation).

The Sunday immediately following Christmas — Dec. 26 this year — is also a feast day in its own right: the feast of the Holy Family.

According to norms issued by the U.S. bishops in 1991, Latin-rite Catholics in the United States typically observe six holy days of obligation throughout the year:

  • Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
  • Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension
  • Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Nov. 1, the solemnity of All Saints
  • Dec. 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
  • Dec. 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

While the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday remains when either Christmas or the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) falls on a Saturday or Monday, the obligation is lifted when this occurs on three of the other feast days: Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption; and Nov. 1, the solemnity of All Saints.

In most U.S. dioceses, the celebration of the solemnity of the Ascension is transferred to the following Sunday. Under her title of the Immaculate Conception, Mary is the patroness of the United States, which is why the obligation remains for U.S. Catholics on Dec. 8, as well as the high holy day of Christmas.

Because Jan. 1 falls on a Saturday in 2022, the faithful will not have an obligation to attend Mass that day, although parishes will still celebrate a separate Mass in honor of the feast day. Sunday, Jan. 2, is the solemnity of the Epiphany.

While Catholics won’t be required to attend Mass on Jan. 1 this year, Sr. Esther Mary Nickel, RSM, said she hopes people will view it as a privilege to attend Mass as often as one can.

“Because God loves us so much, He wants us to come because we love Him,” said Sr. Nickel, worship director for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “We have an obligation (to attend Mass on Sundays and most holy days) because of our baptism, but it’s actually a great privilege to return love and thanksgiving to God for all the many gifts He gives us.”

Sr. Nickel said the "unusual" liturgical calendar this year presents an opportunity for Catholics to grow closer to the Lord in prayer.

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, particular dispensations from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation remain in effect for people in certain circumstances because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19. To learn more about these dispensations, visit www.aod.org/emergencyresponse.

To find Mass times near you in the Archdiocese of Detroit, visit www.massfinder.org.



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