By: Caitlin Bootsma
I know, I know. Not only do we have to get to Mass on Sunday this weekend, we also are obliged to attend on Saturday for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. If your family or your schedule is anything like mine, attending Mass twice may take some maneuvering. Of course, the Church must require us to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation for a reason, and it surely isn’t just to check a box off a list of virtuous actions to complete.
Holy Days of Obligation are part of what is known as the precepts of the faith. These are minimum requirements of the faithful and include such obligations as attending Mass each Sunday, going to Confession once a year and receiving the Eucharist at least during the Easter Season (See Catechism no. 2042). Obviously, many people receive Communion as well as attend daily Mass and/or Confession much more frequently.
These precepts are not meant to act like a rule book, but rather to help encourage the spiritual life of many of us who (little as we like to admit it) might not always remember to focus on our faith as much as is good for our souls and spiritual development. The Catechism says, “The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor” (2041).
In other words, the Church is a good mother – helping us along our way to spiritual maturity. This is particularly fitting since this Saturday’s feast is that of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. She is the patroness of our country, and since she was born without original sin (immaculately conceived) and always chose to love the Lord, she is the ultimate witness of the Christian life that we are striving to live. Also, she is not only the Lord’s mother, but our own. Saturday is the perfect opportunity (not just obligation) to pray for Mary’s intercession – that she protects us and ask her Son to bless us during this Advent season. As the best of mothers, she is sure to watch over us and guide us towards the good.
If you are looking for ways to go beyond the minimum obligations and really embrace your faith, I’d recommend this short video of testimonies from people who have grown in their relationship with Our Lady. You can also read the readings for Saturday ahead of time and pray this prayer to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception at any time.
This Saturday, recognizing the encouragement the Church gives us through these Holy Days of Obligation, I’ll be offering up the sacrifice it may take to get to Mass as a prayer, asking that Our Lady intercede for me and for my loved ones.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us!