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holy days of obligation
Question from Barry L. Lindsay on 1/13/2014:

Hello there Dr. Geraghty,

My name is Barry Lindsay. I live in Altoona, PA, and I am just wandering why I am not able to find an answer to this one question I have concerning holy days of obligation. The question is: Why isn't Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday each a Holy day of obligation since they are consideresd some of the most important days of the entire catholic church year especially just before Easter. I would appreciate your help with a good answer since I am never able to hear back from a busy Catholic priest. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME. I APPRECIATE IT!

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 1/14/2014:

Dear Barry,

Christ has given to the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, the power to set the Holy Days of Obligation, meaning the days that Catholics must go to mass to fulfill their obligation. These obligations are set up specifically in the precepts of the Church. As a matter of fact, these obligatory days are not the ones you listed. Why not, you ask. My guess is that the precepts list the minimum requirements. Of course the Church encourages the celebration of Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday But she has chosen not to make them obligatory. She has the power to do so. But she hasn't used it. Why not? My guess is that she is intent on laying out only the minimum requirements because the flock includes not only the holy but also the middling, indifferent and lax. The Church makes allowance for that by setting the bar low. Others are free to set a higher bar for themselves.

Dr. Geraghty

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