Holy Day on Saturday

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I ran across this on a blog recently: In the event that Immaculate Conception falls on a Saturday,  “In the time frame, we are obligated to attend two separate Masses for two distinct obligations: We are obligated to attend one Mass, in order to fulfill our obligation for the Holy Day (The Immaculate Conception), as well as another Mass, in order to fulfill our Sunday obligation (The Second Sunday of Advent). Since these two obligations are distinct, they must be fulfilled by attending two separate Masses. One cannot fulfill both obligations, at once, by only attending one Mass.” But, if you attend Mass at, say, 7 p.m. on Saturday, does that not fulfill your obligation for Sunday? I thought that the obligation had to do with the day itself (the time frame), not the Mass celebrated (its texts). I’m not suggesting that’s an ideal strategy, but technically, is that not correct? Thank you.


A:  This is a canonical question, not a liturgical one, so I defer to canon lawyers, but I’ll share what I know:

A similar question came up last year when Christmas fell on a Monday. Many Catholics wanted to go to church once on December 24 and count it for both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and for Christmas Eve.

Here’s how we treated it in the pastoral bulletin from our diocese:

The Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 24 this year. Parishes are encouraged to make clear which masses pertain to the Fourth Sunday, and which to Christmas Eve. Logically, Christmas Eve masses start no earlier than the usual Saturday mass of anticipation in the same parish. Can a Catholic fulfill the obligations for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and for Christmas at the same mass on the evening of December 24? The USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship answered this in its February 2017 Newsletter: “The prevailing view among many canon lawyers is that each obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass.” However, it notes this minority opinion: “Some canonists suggest that, in the absence of a definitive interpretation by the Holy See, attendance at the evening Mass shared by the two holy days is indeed sufficient to fulfill both obligations, based on the principle that in cases of doubt, laws are to be interpreted broadly.” As the Newsletter says, it would be hoped that Catholics foster a love for the Mass and desire to celebrate the holydays as fully as possible.    

The same principle applies to the upcoming holyday.

Since the canonical viewpoint is divided, (and most of the canonists I know are on the side of “no double dipping,”) I urge people to cover their bases by going to both observances. I’d hate to stand before the throne of the Lamb of God on judgment day and hear, “You thought WHAT?”