Did you know that this coming Saturday is a Holy Day of Obligation? So is Friday March 25th. March 19th is the Feast of St Joseph (also the patronal feast of the Archdiocese of Louisville.) The 25th (9 months before Christmas) is the Annunciation to Mary. The thing is in the dioceses of the United States, the obligation for those days has been permanently dispensed. So how many days of obligation are there? Let’s see.
The highest rank of feast on the church calendar is a solemnity. The quintessential examples of a solemnity are Christmas and Easter. But other feasts like Sts. Peter and Paul and the Birth of John the Baptist are solemnities as well. (For the record, St Patrick has the rank of optional memorial, the lowest rank.) All told there are 17 solemnities on the church calendar. Of these, 10 are also days of obligation. Of those 10, several are permanently dispensed in the US (Like Peter and Paul.) Others have been permanently transferred to Sunday (Ascension Thursday, Epiphany.)
So how many Holy Days of Obligation are there then? 62. 62???? you say. Yup. Sunday, being the day of the resurrection, is always a Holy Day of Obligation, always has the rank of a solemnity. The thing is, one of the marks of a solemnity is that it is always a day of feasting, not of fasting. (Many have traditional foods associated with them – Epiphany and King Cake for instance.) This is why the tradition that whatever you give up for Lent, Sundays don’t count. This is also why a Catholic calendar will not have a little fish on Friday the 25th this year. It’s not the fourth Friday of Lent, it’s the Solemnity of the Annunciation. And why many Italians (and people of Italian ancestry) will lay out a table crammed with pastries and desserts for their patron St Joseph on Saturday.
We mark our faith with all that we are. Which is how the word for a saint’s day became a word for eating. And how feasting can break out even in the middle of Lent. Saturday looks like a great day for pasta and red wine. Buona festa a tutti!