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Can a Catholic Funeral Be Held on a Holy Day of Obligation?

August 15 is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the commemoration of the end of the life of the Virgin Mary, in which she was bodily taken into heaven. Because it falls on a Wednesday this year, it’s a holy day of obligation. For a Catholic, the question might arise: does this affect Catholic funerals?

Let’s review the concept of holy days of obligation. The Catechism teaches us that on holy days of obligation, we focus on God. We can do this by attending Mass and refraining from work or activities that could hinder worship. Even legitimate excuses should be guarded to make sure they’re not leading to bad habits. Does this include funerals? And how many days in a year are affected by this rule?

In the United States, Catholics observe eight holy days of obligation. Holy days of obligation always require attendance at Mass unless they fall on Saturday or Monday.

  • Mary, the Holy Mother of God (Jan 1)
  • Epiphany of the Lord (1 st Sunday after Jan 1)
  • Ascension of the Lord (varies)
  • The Most Holy Blood and Body of Christ (2nd Sunday after Pentecost)
  • The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15)
  • All Saints (Nov 1)
  • Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8)
  • Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) (December 25)

Back to the original question, can you have a funeral on a holy day of obligation? The answer to this question requires a two-part explanation.

  • The first part is a firm no, but only to the Mass. You can’t have a funeral Mass on a holy day of obligation, because the solemnity of the holy day of obligation takes precedence.
  • On the other hand, yes, you can have a funeral. A Catholic funeral without a Mass is perfectly acceptable any day of the year, including holy days of obligation. Liturgy other than the Mass can be used, and the primary stipulation is that there can be no distribution of communion. If it’s important for you to have a Mass for your loved one, you can have the funeral now and celebrate a Memorial Mass at a later date.

Planning a Catholic funeral can be a little bit complicated, but it’s an important part of the Catholic faith. Especially for those who devoutly adhere to the tenets of Catholicism, it’s worth learning the rules so that you can plan accordingly. If you need help planning a Catholic funeral, call us at 833-428-0379.


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