Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: Holy dates lead to twice the grace this weekend

Immaculate Conception Parish in Ira Township. With the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception falling on Saturday, Dec. 7, Catholics have two obligations to fulfill this weekend. (Archdiocese of Detroit archives)

DETROIT — What’s better than going to Mass this weekend?

Going to two Masses this weekend.

Of course, Catholics always have the opportunity to attend multiple Masses during any weekend. But Dec. 7-9, there is an obligation to do so.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is Saturday, Dec. 8, so the liturgical calendar presents a scheduling quirk with two obligations in a 48-hour period: One Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, and another Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent.

So, could one do a “two-fer” by attending Saturday evening Mass to fulfill both obligations?

Short answer: No.                                                  

“There are no ‘two-fers,’” said Dan McAfee, Director of the Office for Christian Worship of the Archdiocese of Detroit. “Two obligations, two Masses.”

McAfee explains that you can go to a vigil Mass on Friday, Dec. 7, in anticipation of the feast, or a Saturday Mass for the celebration of the feast. Either way, you should then go to Mass again on Saturday evening or Sunday morning to recognize the Second Sunday of Advent.

“So if you go Saturday evening, that can count for the feast, even though the readings are for that Sunday,” McAfee said. “But then you have to go to Mass on Sunday. Or, you could go to Mass on Saturday morning and Saturday evening to fulfill both obligations.”

Just remember: Two obligations, two Masses.

"We're fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate two very special Masses on the same day," said Msgr. Ron Browne, judicial vicar for the Metropolitan Tribunal for the Archdiocese of Detroit, who will be celebrating a Mass at St. Elizabeth Briarbank in Bloomfield Hills in the morning and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Beverly Hills in the evening. 

"The nice thing is for people to have the chance to receive Jesus Christ twice in the same day and receive the graces the Eucharist brings when they receive communion twice," Msgr. Browne said. "People get to hear two different Masses, one for the Immaculate Conception, another for the second Sunday of Advent. It's a great joy to twice celebrate this highest form of prayer." 

McAfee says the scheduling quirk stems from the fact that the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is an “immovable” feast day, as opposed to the Feast of the Assumption – Aug. 15 – and the Feast of All Saints – Nov. 1 – which are abrogated to Sunday when they fall on the preceding Saturday or following Monday.

“It’s different because it’s an older feast, going back to the 7th century, and under this title, “the Immaculate Conception,” Our Blessed Mother is the patroness of the United States of America; in this country it’s always an obligation,” McAfee said.

While the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception has been celebrated since the 7th century, Pope Clement XI established the feast day for the entire church in 1708, making it a holy day of obligation.

In most countries, the solemnity is moved to Sunday when it falls on a Saturday or Monday, but American Catholics always celebrate their national patroness on Dec. 8 –  with one exception.

“The most curious thing happens when Dec. 8 falls on a Sunday,” McAfee said. “The feast [Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception] is then moved to Monday and you don’t have to go to Mass that day. It gets very confusing, but [in that case], it’s not an obligation.”

Back to your planner for this weekend.

Yes, there are two obligations this weekend. And yes, you have to – or get to – go to Mass twice this weekend.