January 1 is a holy day again in San Francisco

In San Francisco, Archbishop Cordileone has restored January 1 – Mary, Mother of God and also World Day of Peace – as a holy day of obligation. Good for him. The explanation is well done too.



  1. Thumbs up, but not at all a burden for Catholics who do not work on that holiday.

    The real test of restoring holy days will be with the means a parish employs to make it a true festival. Not just an opportunity for a few extra pews to warm adding to those occupied by daily Massgoers.

  2. In the rest of the US (as far as I know) 1 January is, and has been, a holy day when it falls on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. No dispensations were ever given in the diocese where I live now and in the diocese (my native diocese) where I worship (a mile away).

    What I find perplexing is that many parishes provide very few extra Masses on holy days, Christmas excepted. This year I and several family members (all in different parishes and dioceses) found it hard to find convenient Masses for the Immaculate Conception, which like Christmas is always a holy day in the US, no matter on what day of the week it falls. And this year it was a Saturday. (The Mass I attended at noon on a university campus had a congregation of, at best, thirty-five.)

    The parish I belong to had ten Christmas Masses, seven on 24 December. For 1 January there will be three. One on the evening before. (There is always a daily evening Mass on weekdays at 5:30, but on 31 December it will be the Vigil Mass and will be moved from the chapel to the church.) On 1 January, there will be only two Masses, 8 and 10 in the morning. And there will be no evening Mass. I get the impression that not many people are expected to show up.

    Perhaps I haven’t been clear, but the reality is a bit of a tangle.

  3. The Byzantine tradition observes the day after Christmas (December 26th) rather than the Octave Day as the feast of Mary. Last year I went to the Divine Liturgy on that day. The snow storm cancelled my plans for this year.

    A couple of decades ago when the bishops were debating holy days, I lived in Toledo and wrote Bishop Hoffman a suggestion that we observe Martin Luther King day as our World Peace day and give people the option of fulfilling their “obligation” on either January 1st or Martin Luther King day.

    Not much is done about January 1st as world peace day in my experience; I would be much more likely to attend Mass that day if it were. We have a lot of Marian feasts. We really need to pray for peace.

    For the year 2000 my local parish had a midnight Mass preceded by the Office of Readings. I asked the pastor to continue the idea, but he didn’t think that enough people were interested.

    One idea that I got from the year 2000 celebrations was to welcome in the New Year as a World Day of Peace beginning with the entry of the Day on Christmas Island, etc. You can figure out all this for your time zone here.


    For the Eastern Standard Time Zone my World Day of Prayer for Peace begins at the not very convenient time of 5a.m. (Sorry Christmas Island, I pray for you with New Zealand at 6 am) and ends at 6a.m on New Years Day.

    I suspect that at least in the USA observing World Peace Day in this manner might become a popular celebration, given the popularity of the late afternoon Masses on Christmas Eve. Why not let any Masses for Peace on this “global day” count for the “obligation.” Many communities with substantial immigrants from some areas of the world might like to coincide their World Day of Peace Mass with the beginning of the New Year in that part of the world.

    One of the nice things about the Eastern Time Zone is that 5pm Masses start when Jerusalem welcomes the New Year, and end (6pm) when Rome welcomes the New Year. So you could ring the bells and set off fireworks before and after Mass to celebrate the New Year. .

  4. Same experience in Texas – but would you believe that Dallas posted that attendance at the vigil masses on December 8th (Saturday) would count for both Immaculate Conception and the 2nd Sunday of Advent?

    Nearby parish had five masses on Dec. 24th – one on Christmas morning.

    They will only have one vigil on Dec. 31st and two masses on Jan. 1st (but are considering only one in the future.

    Suggested that they offer mass on Monday, Dec. 31st and let it count for both Sunday, Dec. 30th and Jan. 1st.

  5. Bill,

    When the priest shortage really hits in the coming decades, any mass within a week will satisfy the “obligation.” as long as you also put money in the collection basket or have an automatic bank transfer.

    It is getting hard to find holy day Masses around here too. Priests are just not adding unneeded Masses to their schedule.

  6. Personally, I’d rather ditch the 1/1 preceptual holyday in favor of un-transferring Epiphany and keeping it on 1/6 as a preceptual holyday….

    As for Immaculate Conception, if the USA had actually developed the kind of patron saint culture that obtained in largely Catholic or formerly largely Catholic lands, it would make more sense for that to be treated as it is today. But we haven’t, and I see zero effort towards such development. The preceptual obligation is not a fruitful foundation towards that end. Of the three Marian preceptual holydays in the US, I believe Assumption is the only one that ever developed some cultural teeth, but mostly in ethnic pockets in the USA.

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #6:

      I would be very much in favor of your suggestion if we remade our Epiphany celebration into the Byzantine Theophany of Christ’s Baptism with its magnificent vigil of 15 lessons (a better understanding of baptism than our Easter Vigil) and the magnificent Blessing of Waters.

      But a holy day for the Magi, it does not compete with the Annunciation for example which we neglect because it occurs during Lent.

  7. And pastors seem uninterested in attaching non-liturgical festivities to the day, so I think we’re still going to circle the drain, obligatorily speaking, that is.

    Agreement with Liam. August 15th has a ghost of a chance of attracting a parish festival, meal, and all. It has a lot of space around it, insulation from the craziness of the Christmas shopping season and post-Christmas crash.

    Overall, I’d say that the Wednesday after Mardi Gras is still kicking the ash of other holy days, Christmas excepted.

  8. This was news to me. Does anyone know of any other diocese (except Honolulu) that wasn’t observing a certain holy day of obligation?

    January 1 has always been the least attended of Holy Days in my experience. Maybe a toss-up with December 8th.

    I did have one success: when I started working at an urban African American parish in Seattle, I switched the only (gasp!) Mass on January 1 at 9 am to a vigil Mass on the 31st at 5 pm. I asked a gospel choir to sing, instead of just a pianist and cantor. Soon, someone suggested a party in our parish hall. Attendance went from about 20 to 150. It helped this parish had no daily morning Mass, and evening weekday Masses. There is no sense fighting the cultural norms of being up past midnight until x:00 am.

    (Last thought: even today when I suggest vigil Masses for holy days in the Seattle Archdiocese, people look at me like I’m crazy or breaking some church rules. Very different than growing up in a farming community in rural Minnesota just 16 west of Collegeville. Then and now, the Benedictine pastors from St. John’s Abbey still gladly accommodate farmers’ schedules and vigil Masses is just one way of doing so.)

    1. @Chuck Middendorf – comment #9:

      When I was the director of liturgy for the DIocese of Salt Lake we also didn’t celebrate Jan. 1 as a holy day. For me it was rather unusual, but because the diocese is in the province of San Francisco we followed their general liturgical calendar. I am curious if the diocese will change now or if other diocese in the province were following the calendar.

  9. Jack

    You forget that Hispanic Catholics celebrate January 6th in a big way; as they become the most cultural vibrant form of Catholicism in the USA, that is something not to neglect…

  10. “This year, we are keeping the day as obligatory for all the faithful to attend Mass, and in particular to pray for peace. Many people object to the word ‘obligation’ and say they do not like to be “required” or “forced” to attend an ‘extra’ Mass. However, if instead it is thought of as a “duty” as Catholics to mark a special day and a ‘responsibility’ as people of faith to celebrate the nature of Christ, the Queenship of Mary and the importance of peace, it is not so burdensome.” (from the SF archdiocesan website)

    It seems to me better to speak of days when the Church asks you to go to Mass if you reasonably can.

  11. I ended up attending three different Mary Mother of God masses in two different parishes over the span of the evening of 12/31 and the morning of 1/1. I have to say, I was surprised at how well-attended the feast was. In my opinion, it’s *more* well-attended than either the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption usually are. (Or, for that matter, All Saints Day).

    I believe one of the reasons for the high attendance is that 1/1 is a secular holiday, and there are a lot of folks who like to mark secular holidays by attending mass (cf Thanksgiving Day).

    Speaking as a parent: I am always conflicted about dragging my children to mass on holy days of obligation. This year, I ended up doing it, because something told me I really should, and honestly, they were just flopping around in their pajamas like so many beached sea turtles on the morning of 1/1, playing electronic games. But the number of parents in our area who unilaterally dispense their children from the obligation is very high, i.e. there aren’t many children at these masses. (Our parish doesn’t have a school, so there isn’t an all-school mass to relieve the parents of this parental responsibility on holy days of obligation, and at any rate schools in the US aren’t in session on 1/1.)

  12. Several years back (more than six, but I’m not sure exactly when), all the Bishops of Region XI dispensed the faithful from the Jan. 1 holy day. As the bishops have changed in different dioceses, this has continued in some of the dioceses and not in others. This year the Dioceses of Oakland and Stockton both dispensed with the holy day. I’m not sure of all the others.

    Part of the thinking on this is that while Ash Wednesday is perhaps even better attended than Christmas around here, December 12 in honor of Mary is a very, very close contender. Holy Days on Dec. 8, 12 and Jan. 1 for Mary start to become a lot. But at least in the Diocese of Stockton more than sixty percent of the people are of Hispanic/Latin@ background and do celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe. If holy days were ever meant to respond to the devotion of the faithful rather than direct that devotion, then allowing Dec. 12 to be the major Marian feast of the area is at least a consideration.

  13. In my predominantly Hispanic parish, Immaculate-Guadalupe-Mother-of-God makes for an intensely festive Marian season for most of Advent until the Epiphany. Not exactly occluding the Nativity, but…

  14. Shouldn’t we be rigorously honest and admit that the very notion of holy day is lost on most people in our culture. How many people have much of a grasp on what keeping the Lord’s day holy means. For churchgoers it means going to church and little more. The clericalists propose that the priests just make it crystal clear that missing mass on Sundays and Holydays is a mortal sin and that we’ll go to hell as a result. Good luck with that. I think we need to reimagine the liturgical year for parish Catholics. It could be built around the days that truly are special to most people. Thanksgiving Day and July 4th come to mind. The latter could feature a Mass to honor Mary as Our Lady of Liberty. Labor Day would be a great day to honor St. Joseph the Worker. Memorial Day would be All Souls Day. MLK Day could be designated as a day to celebrate God’s people as a chosen race. Christmas would continue to draw hordes of people. But let’s make The Triduum Holy Days since a strong core group of Catholics already regards them as such. Ash wedneday would be on the list, of course. Transfer Assumption to nearest Sunday. Combine IC with third Sunday of Advent or move it to Dec. 12th. It’s the same Blessed Mother.
    A configuration like this would mean more people at more Masses than just Sundays. We’ll call them Holy Days of Opportunity.

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