Although Christmas Day this year falls on a Saturday, attending Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord does not satisfy the obligation to attend Mass on the following day, Sunday, Dec. 26.
“This year Christmas falls on a Saturday. There is no ‘two-for-one’ benefit of attending the Saturday night ‘vigil’ Mass to fulfill Sunday’s Mass obligation,” Father Daniel Carson, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, wrote in a recent letter to priests of the archdiocese.
He stressed that Christmas and Sunday “are two separate Mass obligations” that cannot be fulfilled with one Mass.
This year, the day after Christmas is also the Feast of the Holy Family, which is always observed on the Sunday between Christmas Day and Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.
Father Carson noted that “the Saturday night ‘vigil’ Mass can fulfill the Sunday obligation if one has already attended a Christmas Eve Mass on Friday night (Dec. 24) or a Christmas Mass earlier in the day on Saturday (Dec. 25).”
Therefore, after attending a Mass to satisfy the Christmas obligation – either a vigil Mass on Christmas Eve or a Mass on Christmas Day – a Catholic would have to attend Mass in the evening of Christmas Day or attend Mass on Sunday, Dec. 26 in order to satisfy the Sunday obligation.
“So, in making plans for Christmas, one must ask, ‘Which Mass will I attend for Christmas – a Mass on Christmas Eve, or on Christmas Day?’ Then one must ask, ‘Which Mass will I attend for Sunday – a Mass on Saturday evening (after I have attended Mass on Christmas Eve or earlier on Saturday), or on Sunday itself?’,” Father Carson said in his letter.
He also noted that “if one attends Christmas Mass earlier in the day on Saturday (Dec. 25) and then attends the ‘vigil’ Mass on Saturday evening to fulfill Sunday’s obligation, you may hear the prayers and readings for Christmas twice,” Father Carson said in his letter.
However, the case is somewhat different for the Jan. 1 Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Because it falls on a Saturday in 2022, it is not a holy day of obligation.
In 1992, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops eliminated the obligation to attend Mass when the solemnities of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1); the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin May (Aug. 15) and All Saints Day (Nov. 1) fall on a Saturday or a Monday. They continue to be holy days of obligation on the other days of the week.