The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven is Thursday, Aug. 15 and is a holy day of obligation
Aug 6, 2019
I made a mistake – a big mistake – recently when compiling the liturgical calendar for the print edition of the most recent Catholic Standard. Inadvertently relying on an old calendar, I wrote that this year’s Feast of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven falls on a Saturday and thus the obligation to attend Mass is transferred to the following Sunday.
That was incorrect, as several readers – and my editor! – have been quick to point out.
This year, the Aug. 15 Feast of the Assumption falls on a Thursday and, indeed, Catholics are obliged to attend Mass that day. Again, let me make clear that the feast is a holy day of obligation and falls on a Thursday, not a Saturday.
Like most people would be, I was not too happy being taken to task repeatedly for what was an accidental error on my part. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the readers – and my editor! – were worried on two points: faithful Catholics would fail to meet their obligation to attend Mass and Our Lady would not receive the honor due her on her feast day.
Holy days, like every Sunday of the year, are days in which Catholics must attend Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2181) tells us that “… the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants). Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”
I do not think a reporter’s error is “a serious reason … (to) fail in this obligation.” Maybe obligation is the wrong word. Attending Mass should never be seen as an obligation or a duty. It is a gift, a pleasure, an honor to spend time with Jesus and to honor His mother.
Which leads me to what I believe is the second concern caused by my mistake – that Mary will not be remembered for the very singular honor of her being assumed bodily into heaven.
It befits us to remember Our Lady, especially on her feast days, with prayers and hymns and gratitude for the graces and blessings that come from her maternal love and intercession for us.
The reality of Mary’s assumption into heaven – while widely believed and honored by Catholics for centuries and centuries – is a relatively new dogma. On Nov. 1, 1950, in his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII infallibly declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Calling it “a divinely revealed dogma,” the pope said, “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Since the beginning of the Church, Mary has been hailed and venerated for her unique role in God’s plan of salvation. It is right that we honor Our Lady, especially on her feast days.
During a Mass once in honor of Our Lady, Pope St. Paul VI prayed that “the image of Mary that all Christians must have within themselves be restored, renovated, and enriched.” When we look to Our Lady – especially on her feast day – then our faith and trust in God and His holy mother will indeed be “ restored, renovated, and enriched.”
I understand that. I believe that. And, it causes me consternation – and am very sorry – that my mistake may misdirect others from giving the Most Blessed Virgin Mary the honor and the love and the devotion that she deserves.