What to do with holy days that fall on a day other than Sunday? Some involve observances that lack a place in the broadest sense of the Christian imagination. Work and other obligations overwhelm a sense of celebrating, say, the Ascension or Corpus Christi on a Thursday. Do we move such observances to Sunday and convince ourselves we’ve sufficiently modeled–we’ve just moved the celebration to the weekend?
79. Sunday emerges therefore as the natural model for understanding and celebrating these feast-days of the Liturgical Year, which are of such value for the Christian life that the Church has chosen to emphasize their importance by making it obligatory for the faithful to attend Mass and to observe a time of rest, even though these feast-days may fall on variable days of the week. (Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1247; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 881, 1; 4) Their number has been changed from time to time, taking into account social and economic conditions, as also how firmly they are established in tradition, and how well they are supported by civil legislation. (By general law, the holy days of obligation in the Latin Church are the Feasts of the Nativity of the Lord, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Mary Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul and All Saints: cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1246. The holy days of obligation in all the Eastern Churches are the Feasts of the Nativity of the Lord, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Dormition of Mary Mother of God and Saints Peter and Paul: cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 880, 3.)
Every liturgist knows this list. And to be sure, even when they are not obligatory holy days, they still exist in the calendar. The question I often ponder when a person complains about holy days of obligation is, do you yourself attend Mass on such days anyway? Or is there a need to browbeat sleepy Catholics into attending before it is worth the while of the holy?
Anytime a feast day is moved or “demoted,” it is done with Vatican approval.
The present canonical and liturgical provisions allow each Episcopal Conference, because of particular circumstances in one country or another, to reduce the list of Holy Days of obligation. Any decision in this regard needs to receive the special approval of the Apostolic See, (Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1246, 2; for the Eastern Churches, cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 880, 3) and in such cases the celebration of a mystery of the Lord, such as the Epiphany, the Ascension or the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, must be transferred to Sunday, in accordance with liturgical norms, so that the faithful are not denied the chance to meditate upon the mystery. (Cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Normae Universales de Anno Liturgico et de Calendario (21 March 1969), 5, 7: Enchiridion Vaticanum 3, 895; 897) Pastors should also take care to encourage the faithful to attend Mass on other important feast-days celebrated during the week. (Cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum, ed. typica 1995, No. 230)
Do pastors encourage this? Next Tuesday, for example, is a Gloria feast. Is it worth “sweetening” the pot, as it were, and offering morning snacks after, say, an 8AM Mass? Hosting a picnic in the evening? Telling the parish staff to take a long lunch or go home early? Is it all about what goes on inside the walls of a house of worship? Shouldn’t the festivity and the recognition and celebration of Christ and his saints extend to other forms of merriment?