Monday, August 20, 2012

What are the Holy Days of Obligation in the Philippines?

Crowds of faithful at Lingayen Cathedral during the episcopal consecration of Msgr. Cesar Guerrero on May 24, 1929.  From a private collection. 

Every time a well-known Solemnity / First Class Feast comes around, I hear the inevitable question: "Is this day a Holy Day of Obligation"? I saw this question get asked on various Facebook pages on August 15 (the Assumption of Our Lady), just like in previous years. 

In this post I will present the legislation on this matter that is currently recognized by Rome and the CBCP, without in any way delving into the question of its wisdom, propriety and fidelity to the Tradition of the Church

In this regard, Filipino Catholics are "lucky" (or unfortunate, depending on who gets asked) that, under the Code of Canon Law currently recognized by the Holy See and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the Philippines has only three Holy Days of Obligation, namely, the Immaculate Conception (December 8) Christmas Day / Nativity of Our Lord (December 25), and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (January 1).

Three other days that are Holy Days of Obligation in the normative liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite, namely the solemnities / feasts of the Epiphany (January 6), Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter Sunday) and Corpus Christi Thursday (the Thursday after Trinity Sunday), have been moved by the Philippine hierarchy (with Rome's blessings) to Sundays. Epiphany is observed in the Philippines on the first Sunday after January 1, while Ascension and Corpus Christi are moved to the Sunday after their traditional dates.

The remaining four Holy Days of Obligation in the normative calendar of the Roman Rite -- St. Joseph (March 19), SS. Peter and Paul (June 29), the Assumption of the BVM (August 15) and All Saints (November 1) -- are not considered as such in the Philippines. 

The list of Holy Days of Obligation for the entire Roman Rite, as well as the authority of the local episcopal conferences to suppress or transfer some or all of these, are delineated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1246 §1 The Lord's Day, on which the paschal mystery is celebrated, is by apostolic tradition to be observed in the universal Church as the primary holyday of obligation. In the same way the following holydays are to be observed: the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension of Christ, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, the feast of St Joseph, the feast of the Apostles SS Peter and Paul, and the feast of All Saints. 
§2 However, the Episcopal Conference may, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See, suppress certain holydays of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.

On September 27, 1985, Pope John Paul II approved and confirmed the Norms Approved by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines for the Local Implementation of Some Provisions of the New Code of Canon Law. The entire text of this document can be found in CBCP Monitor, Vol. VI No. 6 (November - December 1985), pp. 32 - 43. To this very day this document has not been overturned or abolished. This document says the following regarding Holy Days of Obligation (pp. 39-40):

Can. 1246, 2: Holy Days of Obligation 
1. With reference to Canon 1246,2, the following feasts are holydays of obligation in the Philippines: 
a. January 1 - Motherhood of Mary (New Year)
b. December 8 - Immaculate Conception (Patroness of the Philippines)
c. December 25 - Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Note: The Feast of Corpus Christi is not recommended by the CBCP because it always falls on a Thursday which is a working day; for this reason the solemnity of the feast will not be fostered because only very few people can go to church and the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, instead of being enhanced, will be diminished. Why? Because the people who usually go to the church only on Sundays can no longer celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi because it is already observed on a Thursday and cannot join the procession.  
2. All other feasts mentioned in Canon 1246, 1, are transferred to the nearest Sunday, preceding or following the feast.  
Note: Three other feasts are celebrated on the nearest Sunday, namely: Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi. The reason why the Bishops do not want to change the present discipline is because, pastorally, they find it hard to have to explain to the people that it is again a mortal sin not to go to Mass on Epiphany or Ascension or Corpus Christi, when all these past years we have been preaching that it was not, because these feasts are no longer Holy Days of Obligation. 
3. The parish priest has the obligation to apply the Missa pro populo for his parishioners on Sundays and holydays as stated above, in accord with Canon 543, 2. 
Ironically, while December 8 (an official Holy Day of Obligation) is not an official holiday in the Philippines, November 1, All Saints' Day, which is not recognized by the Philippine hierarchy as a Holy Day of Obligation, is an official holiday. As a result many Filipinos go to church on November 1 in the belief that it is a Holy Day of Obligation. 


  1. Thanks so much for the clarification on the holy days of obligation in the Philippines. Hope you will continue your blogs. God bless!

  2. Hi, how can I get a copy of teh full text of the Norms Approved by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines for the Local Implementation of Some Provisions of the New Code of Canon Law.

  3. Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God will fall on a Monday in 2018. Is it still a Holy Day of Obligation?