In order to nourish the moral and liturgical life of the Body of Christ, Mother Church has established five positive laws, decreed by the pastoral authorities, which are meant to identify the minimum spiritual commitment required of the faithful. These five laws are known as The Precepts of the Church and are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, citations 2041-43.

  1. "You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor." The faithful are required to attend the celebration of the Eucharist every Lord's Day (Saturday vigil or Sunday Mass) and the holy days of obligation as established in the liturgical calendar, unless excused for a serious reason [i.e. illness or the care of infants]. CCC 1388-9, 2042, 2043, 2177, 2180, 2185; 2187-8; 2192-3.
  2. "You shall confess your sins at least once a year." CCC 1457; 2042
  3. "You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season." CCC 1389; 2042
  4. "You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church." CCC 2043; 2177
  5. "You help to provide for the needs of the Church, each according to his own ability." CCC 1351; 1387; 1438; 2043

CCC# 2177: The Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist is the heart of the Church's life. "Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church" [quotation from Canon Law: Codex Iuris Canonici, can.1246, art. 1].


A solemnity is the highest liturgical rank of a feast in the ecclesiastical calendar. In addition to the movable feasts like Easter and the Feast of Pentecost, fourteen solemnities are celebrated in the universal Roman Catholic Church. These fourteen solemnities include: Feast of the Mother of God (January 1st), Epiphany (January 6th), Feast of St. Joseph ( March 19th ), Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th), Trinity Sunday (first Sunday after Pentecost), Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord/ Corpus Christi (the Thursday after Trinity Sunday now moved in the USA to the next Sunday), Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost), Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24th), Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29th), Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (August 15th), Feast of All Saints (November 1st), Feast of Christ the King (last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year), Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (December 8th), and the Feast of the Nativity of the Savior/ the Christ Mass (December 25th). In addition to these solemnities of the universal Church, many Catholic parishes across the world now include the optional observance of the Feast of Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter as part of the local liturgical calendar.

The holy days of obligation are those feasts among the solemn feasts which are to be observed by the faithful by attendance at Mass and rest, as far as possible, from unnecessary work. The number and dates of the holy days of obligation vary among the different Catholic nations of the world. On these special solemnities every parish pastor is required to offer a special Mass for the parishioners in honor of the feast day (see CCC# 2043; 2177; 2180; 2185; 2187-8; 2192-3).

In addition to the Sunday obligation to worship on the Lord's Day (it is a mortal sin to purposely choose to neglect worshiping on the Lord's Day; see CCC# 2181), there are currently six annual holy days of obligation celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It is a serious sin to purposely neglect the celebration of any one of these feasts (see Precept #1 listed above).

1. CELEBRTION OF THE EUCHARIST ON THE LORD'S DAY Sunday is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church (CCC 2191)
2. FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION December 8th: The conception without original sin of Mary the Mother of God.
3. FEAST OF THE CHRIST MASS December 25th: Celebration of the birth of the Savior.
4. FEAST OF MARY MOTHER OF GOD January 1st: This feast celebrates Jesus' naming, circumcision, and entrance into the Old Covenant Church on the 8th day after His birth (Leviticus 12:1-4; Luke 2:21) and honors His Virgin Mother.
5. FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD 40 days from Easter Sunday as the ancients counted (Acts 1:3). In the US this feast may be celebrated on the next closest Sunday, according to the discretion of the local bishop.
6. FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD August 15th: The Virgin Mary assumed body and soul into heaven.
7. FEAST OF ALL SAINTS November 1st: Celebration our brothers and sisters who have already entered the beatific presence of the Most Holy Trinity.
Michal Hunt, Copyright 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

The conference of Bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See. Under these rules certain holy days observed in the United States have been moved to the next Sunday while others have been eliminated as required holy days.