Holydays abolished

Yes, I know - they have not been abolished, just moved to Sunday. And in fact, not all of them have been moved: only the feasts of the Lord - Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi. Given the reasoning of the statement from Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, it is difficult to make sense of this distinction. Why should we need to celebrate the life of Our Lord more profoundly and not the mystery of the Assumption of Our Lady? Is it after all thought that the "hierarchy of truths" means that there is less need to celebrate the communion of Saints profoundly?

Many priests may be concerned at the diminishing observance of Holydays. My parish is probably typical in having about half the Mass attendance that we would have on an average Sunday. However, the people who do come value these days immensely. One parent spoke to me yesterday, concerned at reading in last week's Catholic Herald that the application was being made to Rome. The Holydays are one of those distinctive features of the life of practising Catholic families. They are a bit awkward sometimes, for priests and people alike, but they remind us of our Catholic identity.

The people who don't bother to come to Mass on Holydays will not be much affected by this change. It is the solid practising Catholic families who will be most disappointed.

Here is the Cardinal's statement:
Statement from the president of the Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor 20 July 2006

For some time the Bishops have been considering the celebration of Holy Days of Obligation in England and Wales. We have responded to requests from Diocesan Councils of Priests and many others, deeply concerned at the diminishing observance of these days.

In order to foster the celebration of the rhythm of the liturgical year and to celebrate more profoundly the mysteries of the life and mission of the Lord, the Bishops have decided to transfer to Sunday those Holy Days of Obligation which are Solemnities of the Lord (other than Christmas Day). This means that the Epiphany, the Ascension of the Lord and Corpus Christi will now be celebrated on Sunday.

The Bishops commend this as an opportunity for Catholics to deepen, through catechesis and celebration, their faith and understanding of these mysteries of the life of Christ.

The current practice is retained with regard to other Holy Days of Obligation. In other words, Christmas Day, the Apostles Peter and Paul, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Saints will continue to be celebrated as at present. With the exception of Christmas Day, the discipline in England and Wales is that when these days fall on a Saturday or Monday they are transferred to Sunday. The Bishops call on all Catholics to observe their celebration.

The Holy See approved these changes to the calendar on 13 July 2006 and they take effect on 3 December 2006, the First Sunday of Advent.

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