Dear Friends in Christ,
1. This Friday, 15 August, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation, and there will be three Masses: 7 am, 12 noon, and 7 pm.
2. A holy day of obligation is a day on which Catholics are obliged to attend Mass, and unless one is impeded by unavoidable work or serious illness, not to attend Mass on that day is a grave sin. Every Sunday of the year is a holy day of obligation by divine precept, and several other days of the year are holy days of obligation by ecclesiastical precept — meaning that the Church is exercising the binding part of the power of binding and loosing given to the Apostles by the Lord Jesus. In the United States, these days of obligation are: 1 January, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption; 1 November, the Solemnity of All Saints; 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and 25 December, the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord Jesus. By decision of the Bishops of the United States, the obligation to attend Mass on three of these five holy days is remitted if in a given year the feast falls on a Monday or Saturday, and the three are 1 January, 15 August, and 1 November. The Solemnity of the Ascension is also a holy day of obligation, but in the United States that observance is now transferred from 40 days after Easter to the following Sunday, so it is not necessary to count it separately.
3. All of the above means that in a year when none of the holy days falls on a Sunday, Catholics are expected to attend Mass a minimum of 59 times. Even if you allow an hour of travel time for each Mass, that comes to about 120 hours each year for us to be at Mass or traveling to and from Mass. Most studies show that Americans spend an average of 1500 to 1800 hours each year watching television, and the Church asks us for 120 hours each year to worship the living God in spirit and truth. When we so easily give ourselves to 15 hours of television for each hour spent in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist, how is it possible that so many Catholics simply don’t bother to accept the invitation of the Lord Jesus to “do this in memory of me”?
4. Resolve now to come to Mass this Friday to celebrate Mary’s joyful Assumption, and make every effort in the coming year to attend Mass each Sunday and holy day and help a faltering Catholic return to regular practice of the faith in the same way. And when someone misses Mass on a Sunday or holy day (unless unavoidable work or serious illness is the reason), then please remember that it is necessary to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion at the next Mass attended. In all of these ways, we give ourselves ever more completely to the love of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.