Presanctified feasts in Poland, also referred to as obligatory feasts, are an essential element of the liturgy of the Catholic Church. In 2024, the list of obligatory feasts is regulated by the Code of Canon Law, which precisely defines the obligation of the faithful to attend Mass. The Polish bishops, as recommended by the Code of Canon Law, encourage active participation in the liturgy, which emphasises the unity and community of the Church.
For Catholics in Poland, attending Mass on the Lord's Day, especially during Christmas and the Easter holiday, is not only a religious obligation, but also an expression of deep faith and devotion to God. It is worth noting that Poles have an obligation to attend Mass not only on the day of the feast itself, but also on the evening preceding it. This obligation stems from the liturgical significance of the evening Mass, the attendance of which is an integral part of the preparations for the celebration of the feast.
What are prescribed holidays?
Prescribed feasts, otherwise known as obligatory feasts, are days established by the Catholic Church on which the faithful are obliged to attend Mass. In Poland, according to the Code of Canon Law, the list of these feasts is determined for a given year by the Polish bishops. It includes the most important feasts, such as Christmas, Easter, Ascension of the Lord, as well as other important liturgical celebrations.
Attending Mass on a feast day not only fulfils a religious imperative, but also integrates the community of the faithful. It is a time when the Catholic Church, through the liturgy, celebrates the most important mysteries of the Christian faith. Presanctified feasts fulfil not only a religious role, but also a social one, strengthening the bonds between the faithful and their ecclesial community. Participation is fulfilled by attending liturgy on these days as well, even if they are not Sundays. Apart from attending Mass and abstaining from non-essential work is sufficient for a Catholic.
Unbidden holidays in Poland - important church holidays
In addition to the obligatory feasts, there are also non-obligatory feasts which have a special significance in the life of the Catholic Church. In Poland, in addition to the obligatory ones, the faithful have the opportunity to participate in many other liturgical celebrations, such as the individual feasts of selected patron saints. It is during the non-mandatory feasts that attendance at Mass becomes more voluntary but still universal, strengthening the spirit of community and strengthening the faithful's bond with God. Church life in Poland is not just about the obligation to attend Mass and to abstain from non-essential work. It is to participate in the community out of a natural desire and to nurture relationships with one's neighbours.
What were the historic church holidays?
The history of church festivals dates back to ancient times, where liturgical celebrations had a deep religious and cultural context. Over time, many of these feasts have evolved and taken different forms, depending on the traditions and customs of individual Christian communities. One example is the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, which was originally celebrated on Thursday, 40 days after Easter. In Poland, in accordance with the decision of the Episcopal Conference, it was moved to Sunday to allow more of the faithful to participate in the liturgy.
The ecclesiastical festivals prescribed in 2024 follow a long tradition, taking into account both those of a universal character and those inscribed in the history of the Polish Catholic Church. It is through the celebration of these feasts that the modern Catholic community maintains a living link with the spiritual heritage handed down through the centuries.
Church Prescribed Holidays 2024 - calendar
|1 January (Monday)
|Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God
|6 January (Saturday)
|31 March (Sunday)
|Resurrection Sunday (Easter)
|12 May (Sunday)
|Ascension of the Lord
|19 May (Sunday)
|Solemnity of Pentecost
|30 May (Thursday)
|Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
|15 August (Thursday)
|Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
|1 November (Friday)
|Solemnity of All Saints
|25 December (Wednesday)
|Solemnity of the Nativity (Christmas)
Compulsory holidays - how they have changed over time
The obligatory feasts in Poland, although rooted in the long tradition of the Catholic Church, have not been without changes throughout history. Modifications have been introduced in relation to the needs of the contemporary faithful, as well as adaptations to current socio-religious realities. For example, the transfer of the Feast of the Ascension to Sunday enabled more people to attend this important liturgy.
These evolutions demonstrate the flexibility of the Catholic Church in adapting to the current needs of the faithful, while maintaining the integrity of the transmission of the faith and the liturgical calendar. This, in turn, highlights the dynamic nature of Church life, where tradition and modernity coexist, creating unity in diversity.
To go or not to go to church on Sunday - is it a grave sin?
The dilemma of attending Mass on Sunday often raises controversy and personal reflections among the faithful. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, refraining from attending Sunday Mass, without justifiable reasons, can be considered a grave sin. However, in order to understand this assessment, it is useful to pay attention to the historical context and the changing social and cultural challenges.
The modern Catholic, obliged to attend Mass on Sunday, should also pay attention to the quality of his or her spiritual commitment. The choice between going to church or staying at home should be based on a genuine desire to participate in the liturgy and not merely on an unreflective compliance with an injunction. The Catholic Church encourages a deep spiritual commitment, which can contribute to a fuller experience of the feast and a closer relationship with God.
The final decision whether to go to church on Sunday therefore becomes an individual choice for each believer, understood in the context of his or her relationship with faith, the Church and God.