Friday, October 18, 2019
The Traditional Vigils and Feastdays of the Apostles
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The Feasts of the Apostles as Holy Days

For over 100 years, the Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar have remained largely the same. In 1911, Pope St. Pius X reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation from 36 to 8. Shortly thereafter in 1917, Pope Benedict XV increased the number to 10 by adding back Corpus Christi and Ss. Peter and Paul. Those ten on the Universal Calendar have remained the same ever since.

However, the Holy Days up until 1911 reveal something quite interesting as all of the feasts of the Apostles were Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar. While not all 36 days were required in all countries, the 36 Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar were:

1. Nativity of our Lord
2. Circumcision of our Lord
3. Epiphany of the Lord
4. Monday within the Octave of the Resurrection
5. Tuesday within the Octave of the Resurrection
6. Ascension
7. Monday within the Octave of Pentecost
8. Tuesday within the Octave of Pentecost
9. Most Holy Trinity
10. Most Holy Body of Christ
11. Finding of the Holy Cross
12. Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
13. Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
14. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
16. Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
17. Dedication of St. Michael
18. Nativity of St. John Baptist
19. Ss. Peter and Paul
20. St. Andrew
21. St. James
22. St. John (the December feastday)
23. St. Thomas
24. Ss. Philip and James
25. St. Bartholomew
26. St. Matthew
27. Ss. Simon and Jude
28. St. Matthias
29. St. Stephen (the December feastday)
30. The Holy Innocents
31. St. Lawrence
32. St. Sylvester
33. St. Joseph
34. St. Anne
35. All Saints Day
36. The Principle Patrons of One’s Country, City, etc.

The Church, by reducing the number of Holy Days of Obligation, removed the feasts of the Apostles. And this has diminished their importance in the lives of the average Catholic. How many Catholics can even name all 12 Apostles? How many know the name of the traitor or the name of the Apostle who took his place? Catechesis has failed the modern Catholic.

Make a special effort to observe the feast of all of the Apostles by Mass attendance, if possible, or at least by praying the Collect prayer for their feastdays. You can also try to pray the Divine Office on their feastdays. And you should at the very least remember to implore their intercession on their feastdays.

Observing the Vigil of the Apostles

The term “vigil” is used in several ways .  It may refer to an entire day before a major feast day (e.g. the Vigil of Christmas is all day on Dec 24th). This kind of vigil is a feast day in itself. Before the changes to the roman calendar in 1955, nearly all feasts of the apostles were preceded by a special Vigil Day. And the Church put those days in place to help us prepare for the importance of a feast of an apostle. Note: A Mass with the Sunday propers and fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation that is anticipated on a Saturday evening is sometimes, though incorrectly, called a vigil. This practice though is a novelty and not part of Catholic Tradition, so I always encourage Catholics to never attend such “vigil masses” on Saturday evenings.

We have lost the importance of the feast of the apostles, I believe, in part due to losing the vigils. We can change that by observing those in our own prayer lives. And the same is true for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception or the Vigil of All Saints (Halloween), traditional days when we would fast and abstain from meat, but which are neither found in the Novus Ordo calendar nor even in the 1962 Missal. You can easily find online listings of the pre-1955 Catholic liturgical calendar which include these unique vigil days of preparation.

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