Showing posts with label Holy Days of Obligation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holy Days of Obligation. Show all posts
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Feasts of Single vs. Double Precept

Saint Wenceslas and Saint Ludmila during the Mass is a painting by Frantisek Tkadlik

Sadly, few Catholics observe Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation as days not only of obligatory Mass attendance but also as days of abstinence from all servile works. What is servile work? Mowing the lawn, shopping, painting the house, and other manual works are forbidden on these days by virtue of the Third Commandment. Looking at the Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas, there are only four exceptions to the prohibition on servile work on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation:
“We ought to know, however, that servile work can be done on the Sabbath for four reasons. The first reason is necessity. Wherefore, the Lord excused the disciples plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath, as we read in St. Matthew (xii. 3-5). The second reason is when the work is done for the service of the Church; as we see in the same Gospel how the priests did all things necessary in the Temple on the Sabbath day. The third reason is for the good of our neighbor; for on the Sabbath the Saviour cured one having a withered hand, and He refuted the Jews who reprimanded Him, by citing the example of the sheep in a pit (“ibid.”). And the fourth reason is the authority of our superiors. Thus, God commanded the Jews to circumcise on the Sabbath.”
But, the Church's history on Holy Days of Obligation reveals an interesting distinction between full and half holy days, or feasts of double and single precept. In times past, Holy Days would often be referred to as days of single or double precept, with those of double precept requiring both hearing Mass and abstaining from servile works, whereas days of single precept would permit servile work.

The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a concise, high-level overview of Holy Days of Obligation from 1150 to 1791:
The Decree of Gratian (about 1150) mentions forty-one feasts besides the diocesan patronal celebrations; the Decretals of Gregory IX (about 1233) mention forty-five public feasts and Holy Days, which means eighty-five days when no work could be done and ninety-five days when no court sessions could be held. In many provinces eight days after Easter, in some also the week after Pentecost (or at least four days), had the sabbath rest. From the thirteenth to the eighteenth century there were dioceses in which the Holy Days and Sundays amounted to over one hundred, not counting the feasts of particular monasteries and churches. In the Byzantine empire there were sixty-six entire Holy Days (Constitution of Manuel Comnenus, in 1166), exclusive of Sundays, and twenty-seven half Holy Days. In the fifteenth century, Gerson, Nicolas de Clémanges and others protested against the multiplication of feasts, as an oppression of the poor, and proximate occasions of excesses. The long needed reduction of feast days was made by Urban VIII (Universa per orbem, 13 Sept., 1642). There remained thirty-six feasts or eighty-five days free from labour. Pope Urban limited the right of the bishops to establish new Holy Days; this right is now not abrogated, but antiquated. A reduction for Spain by Benedict XIII (1727) retained only seventeen feasts; and on the nineteen abrogated Holy Days only the hearing of Mass was obligatory. This reduction was extended (1748) to Sicily. For Austria (1745) the number had been reduced to fifteen full Holy Days; but since the hearing of Mass on the abrogated feasts, or half Holy Days, the fast on the vigils of the Apostles were poorly observed, Clement XIV ordered that sixteen full feasts should be observed; he did away with the half Holy Days, which however continued to be observed in the rural districts (peasant Holy Days, Bauernfeiertage). The parish priests have to say Mass for the people on all the abrogated feasts. The same reduction was introduced into Bavaria in 1775, and into Spain in 1791; finally Pius VI extended this provision to other countries and provinces.
The trend of removing this distinction between feasts of single and double precept accelerated under Pope Pius VI. As illustrated in the Irish Ecclesiastical Review, the reduction in Irish Holy Days, along with the distinction of double vs. single precept, led to a significant reduction in the rest that characterized Holy Days of Obligation. Days of Full Obligation were days of double precept:

Alas, this trend in the relaxation of discipline continued in America as well, ultimately leading to the 1911 changes under St. Pius X that reduced universal Holy Days to only 8, before they were increased to 10 under his successor. Gone was the distinction between feasts of single and double precept by the time of the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

If more priests could encourage their parishioners to observe former Holy Days of Obligation, even devotional, as feasts of single precept, this could go a long way to helping rediscover the Catholic liturgical life. And for those able to do so, the observance of both Mass attendance and the sabbath rest on these former holy days (see here for the full list), should be commendable.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Nativity of St. John the Baptist - A Former Holy Day of Obligation

Birth of St. John the Baptist: Giordano Luca (1670's), The Hermitage

Among the casualties of liturgical change and relaxation in discipline in the past few centuries has been the loss of importance for the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24th. In "Christian Feasts and Customs," Father Weiser writes of the importance of the Feast of St. John's Nativity:
"The Council of Agde, in 506, listed the Nativity of Saint John among the highest feasts of the year, a day on which all faithful had to attend Mass and abstain from servile work. Indeed, so great was the rank of this festival that, just as on Christmas, three Masses were celebrated, one during the vigil service, the second at dawn, the third in the morning. In 1022, a synod at Seligenstadt, Germany, prescribed a fourteen-day fast and abstinence in preparation for the Feast of the Baptist. This, however, was never accepted into universal practice by the Roman authorities."
By the time of the changes to the Holy Days of Obligation in 1642, Pope Urban VIII kept the Nativity of St. John the Baptist as a day of precept. Why the importance? Father Wiser explains:
"The days of all the Apostles were raised to the rank of public holydays in 932. The feasts of Saint Michael, Saint Stephen, Saint John the Baptist, and other saints of the early centuries were celebrated in the past as holydays among all Christian nations."
By the time of his writing in the 1950s, in regards to the feasts of saints, only St. Joseph, Ss. Peter and Paul, All Saints, and the Marian Feasts of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception remained as days of precept. And of these, Saint Joseph and Ss. Peter and Paul were exempt from obligation in the United States by dispensation from the Holy See.

In Ireland, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist remained as a day of full precept longer than many other days. When changes were made to the Irish holydays in 1755 under Pope Benedict XIV and in 1778 under Pope Pius VI, the Nativity of St. John remained as a day of double precept, even when the feasts of the apostles were reduced to single precept. It was not abolished as a day of precept until 1831 in Ireland

The southeastern Colonies in modern-day Florida and Lousiana kept the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist as a day of fasting for much longer than other places. Even today, the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is celebrated with bonfires in many Catholic nations. And St. John the Baptist's Nativity is a public holiday in Quebec and Puerto Rico and Catalonia (where Barcelona is).

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist is one of only three birthdays celebrated by the Church - the other two are of our Lord and our Lady. The uniqueness of the Nativity of St. John and its previous rank as one of the primary holydays should instill in us greater devotion to this festival day, and a greater desire to do penance in advance.

Dom Gueranger, writing on the great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord's Forerunner, relates the following:
On this day, therefore, let us too imitate the Church; let us avoid that forgetfulness which bespeaks ingratitude; let us hail, with thanksgiving and heartfelt gladness, the arrival of him who promises our Saviour to us. Already Christmas is announced. On the Lateran Piazza (or Square) the faithful Roman people will keep vigil to-night, awaiting the hour which will allow the eve's strict fast and abstinence to be broken, when they may give themselves up to innocent enjoyment, the prelude of those rejoicings wherewith, six months hence, they will be greeting the Emmanuel. 
St John's vigil is no longer of precept. Formerly, however, not one day’s fasting only, but an entire Lent was observed at the approach of the Nativity of the Precursor, resembling in its length and severity that of the Advent of our Lord. The more severe had been the holy exactions of the preparation, the more prized and the better appreciated would be the festival. After seeing the penance of St John's fast equalled to the austerity of that preceding Christmas, is it not surprising to behold the Church in her liturgy making the two Nativities closely resemble one another, to a degree that would be apt to stagger the limping faith of many nowadays? 
The Nativity of St John, like that of our Lord, was celebrated by three Masses: the first, in the dead of night, commemorated his title of Precursor; the second, at daybreak, honoured the baptism he conferred; the third, at the hour of Terce, hailed his sanctity. The preparation of the bride, the consecration of the Bridegroom, his own peerless holiness: a threefold triumph, which at once linked the servant to the Master, and deserved the homage of a triple sacrifice to God the Thrice-Holy, manifested to John in the plurality of his Persons, and revealed by him to the Church. In like manner, as there were formerly two Matins on Christmas night, so, in many places, a double Office was celebrated on the feast of St John, as Durandus of Mende, following Honorius of Autun, informs us.[41] The first Office began at the decline of day; it was without Alleluia, in order to signify the time of the Law and the Prophets which lasted up to St John. The second Office, begun in the middle of the night, terminated at dawn; this was sung with Alleluia, to denote the opening of the time of grace and of the kingdom of God.

O God, Who hast made this day worthy of honor by the birth of blessed John: grant to Thy people the grace of spiritual joys, and direct the minds of all the faithful into the way of eternal salvation. Through our Lord.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
A History of Holy Days of Obligation & Fasting for American Catholics: Part 2

Archbishop John Carroll, the first Bishop in the United States

Holy Days in Early America:

At America's birth, the holydays of obligation, in addition to every Sunday, were as follows: the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Ss. Peter and Paul, Assumption, and All Saints. The fasting days were the Ember Days of each of the seasons; the forty days Lent; Wednesdays and Fridays in Advent; and the vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, Ss Peter and Paul, and All Saints.

After the American Revolution, the Catholics in the 13 colonies that constituted the new United States of America were under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of the London District until the Diocese of Baltimore was established on November 6, 1789. This included the area of Maine that previously had been part of Quebec.

The history of holy days in the lands purchased in 1803 from France in the Louisiana Purchase is also interesting. Owing to the persecution of Catholics in France after the French Revolution, Pope Pius VII on April 5, 1802, reduced the holy days of obligation for Catholics in France to only Christmas, Ascension, Assumption, and the Feast of All Saints.

Spain, which was in possession of the Louisiana territory since 1763, agreed in 1801 to cede it back to Napoleon. Before even getting possession of the territory, he sold it to the United States in 1803. What is particularly interesting is that the Catholics of Louisiana - whose territory includes areas in modern-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska - adopted the reduced holy days granted to France in 1802.

A Divergence of Holy Days in the 1800s:

As America expanded, there was a divergence in the days of precept. When Florida was purchased by the United States in 1821, its old holy days were maintained. And the same likewise occurred of the Texas territory when it was acquired by the United States in 1845. And this trend continued as America expanded westward. As the American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 11 observes:
"In the Second Plenary Council [of Baltimore] in 1866 the feast of the Immaculate Conception was made of obligation as it had been in Oregon, where the feast of St Peter and St Paul had retained its place with the Monday after Easter and Whit Sunday, St John the Baptist, Candlemas, and St Stephen. Pope Gregory XVI in 1837 dispensed all the dioceses then in the United States from the obligation as to Easter Monday and Whitsun Monday and in 1840 from that of the feast of St Peter and St Paul and the same Sovereign Pontiff relieved the faithful from the fast on Wednesdays in Advent."
Uniformity of American Holy Days Established in 1885:

By the time of the Civil War, considerable changes had occurred to these holy days. It was not until the Third Plenary Council that uniformly was achieved, though at the cost of reducing the holy days observed by many Catholics in the New World. Quoting the same article:
"The effort to induce faithful to a more exact observance of holydays of obligation or least so far as hearing mass was concerned had not been successful. A general indifference prevailed. When zealous priests to give servants and mechanics every opportunity to fulfil the obligation Mass celebrated at an early hour to permit them to attend it proceeding to their usual work, it was found that almost the persons to avail themselves of the opportunity would be a pious old women while those of the very class for whose the Mass was thus offered were scarcely represented by a straggling individuals. 
"The Fathers of the Council renewed their petition to the See and His Holiness Pope Leo XIII on the 31st of December 1885 transferred the solemnization of Corpus Christi to the Sunday following the feast and made the holydays of obligation in all of the United States to be thenceforward: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, Christmas Day, the feast of Circumcision, Ascension Day, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the feast of All Saints."
Sts. Peter and Paul was no longer a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States.

American Fasting & Abstinence Wanes in the Mid 1800s:

As Holy Days were reduced, so were fasting days. The Third Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1837, with approval of Pope Gregory XVI, dispensed from fast and abstinence the Wednesdays of Advent, except for the Ember Wednesday in Advent.

At this time, complete abstinence was observed on all Saturdays of the year too but over the course of the 19th century, the dispensations from Saturday abstinence became universal. Mara Morrow, author of Sin in the Sixties, illustrates these changes:
"In 1840 the Fourth Provinicial Council of Baltimore asked for a perpetual renewal of an indult dispensing from abstinence on Saturdays, and this indult was renewed for twenty years by Pope Gregory XVI. In 1866, the Second Plenary Council asked that all dispensations granted to the diocese of Baltimore be extended to other American dioceses, but Pope Pius IX preferred individual requests from each bishop in the United States. In 1884, the U.S. bishops who were meeting at the Third Plenary Council decided it would be difficult to pass uniform legislation on the subject of fast and abstinence and hence left it to the authority of provincial councils to determine what was best for their territories. Leo XIII in 1886 granted U.S. bishops the authority to dispense each year from abstinence on Saturdays."
Similarly, Pope Gregory XVI in a rescript from June 28, 1831, granted a dispensation to all Catholics of Scotland from abstinence on Saturdays throughout the year, except on Saturdays that were also days of fasting. Dispensations were granted in many nations, illustrating a weakening in discipline not only in America.

With the growing number of Irish immigrants to America in the early 1800s, special attention was given to dispense from the law of abstinence when St. Patricks' Day fell on a Friday. This was done for the members of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1837 and would become customary in the United States.

Pope Leo XIII Continues the Relaxation of Discipline:

Throughout the centuries covered thus far, abstinence included not only abstinence from meat but also generally from eggs and dairy products, though exceptions were granted in various localities." Father Weiser in "Christian Feasts and Customs" clarifies: "Abstinence from lacticinia (milk foods), which included milk, butter, cheese, and eggs, was never strictly enforced in Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia because of the lack of oil and other substitute foods in those countries. The Church using common sense granted many dispensations in this matter in all countries of Europe. People who did eat the milk foods would often, when they could afford it, give alms for the building of churches or other pious endeavors."

The laws of abstinence also required abstinence from fish at the meals where meat was eaten on a fast day as well as on Sundays in Lent, as Pope Benedict XIV decreed. This too began to change. Anthony Ruff relates in his article "Fasting and Abstinence: The Story" the changes made by Pope Leo XIII in the document entitled Indultum quadragesimale:
"In 1886 Leo XIII allowed meat, eggs, and milk products on Sundays of Lent and at the main meal on every weekday [of Lent] except Wednesday and Friday in the [United States]. Holy Saturday was not included in the dispensation. A small piece of bread was permitted in the morning with coffee, tea, chocolate, or a similar beverage."
Fasting days were defined as days of one meal only until 817 AD when the monks of the Benedictine Order were granted permission to take a little drink and bread in the evening on account of the labors they performed. The practice of an evening collation on fasting days for all of the faithful was universal by the 14th century. The practice of an additional morning collation was introduced only in the 19th century as part of the gradual relaxation of discipline. Morrow in Sin in the Sixties expands on the concessions given by Leo XIII:
"It also allowed for the use of eggs and milk products at the evening collation daily during Lent and at the principal meal when meat was not allowed. [It] further allowed a small piece of bread in the morning with a beverage, the possibility of taking the principal meal at noon or in the evening, and the use of lard and meat drippings in the preparation of foods. Those exempt from the law of fasting were permitted to eat meat, eggs, and milk more than once a day." 
Consequently, the Baltimore Manual published by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 states: "Only one full meal is allowed, to be taken about noon or later. Besides this full meal, a collation of eight ounces is allowed. If the full meal is taken about the middle of the day, the collation will naturally be taken in the evening; if the full meal is taken late in the day, the collation may be taken at noon. Besides the full meal and collation, the general custom has made it lawful to take up to two ounces of bread (without butter) and a cup of some warm liquid - as coffee or tea - in the morning. This is important to observe, for by means of this many persons are enabled - and therefore obliged - the keep the fast who could not otherwise do so."

The Catechism of Father Patrick Powers published in Ireland in 1905 mentions that abstinence includes flesh meat and "anything produced from animals, as milk, butter, cheese, eggs." However, Father Patrick notes, "In some countries, however, milk is allowed at collation." The United States was one of those nations whereas Ireland and others were not granted such dispensations. The use of eggs and milk during Lent was to drastically change in a few years with the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

On November 30, 1879, Pope Leo XIII added the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception to the Universal Church's calendar, increasing the number of liturgical vigils from 16 to 17, which not including Holy Saturday, consisted of "the eves of Christmas, the Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the eight feasts of the Apostles, St. John the Baptist, St. Laurence, and All Saints." At this time, the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception was not yet a fast day. These 17 vigils mentioned were still in place at the time of the writing of the Catholic Encyclopedia in 1909.

In 1895, the workingmen's privilege gave bishops in the United States the ability to permit meat in some circumstances where there was "difficulty in observing the common law of abstinence, excluding Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, and the Vigil of Christmas. This workingmen's privilege (or indult) allowed only for meat once a day during Lent, taken at the principal meal, and never taken in conjunction with fish. This particular indult was extended not only to the laborer but to his family, as well. The motivation of such an indult was no doubt to allow for enough sustenance such that the many Catholic immigrants to the United States who worked as manual laborers could perform their difficult, energy-demanding physical work without danger to their health" (Sin in the Sixties).

The Changes of St. Pius X to Holy Days of Obligation:

In the largest change to Holy Days in centuries, Pope St. Pius X in Supremi disciplinæ in 1911 drastically reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation in the Universal Church to 8:
  1. Christmas
  2. Circumcision
  3. Epiphany 
  4. Ascension
  5. Immaculate Conception
  6. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
  7. Sts. Peter and Paul 
  8. All Saints 
In only 269 years, the number of Holy Days on the Universal Calendar had been reduced from 36 under Urban VIII to 8 under Pius X. Shortly thereafter in 1917, Corpus Christi and St. Joseph were added back, bringing the total to 10. The 10 currently observed on the Universal Calendar are the same as from 1917.

As for the Holy Days observed in the United States, the Catholic Encyclopedia in referencing Supremi disciplinæ noted, "Where, however, any of the above feasts has been abolished or transferred, the new legislation is not effective. In the United States consequently the Epiphany and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul are not days of precept." On a similar note, Corpus Christi when added back as a Holy Day in the Universal Church in 1917 remained transferred to the following Sunday in the United States as a result of Pope Leo XIII's indult from 1885.

James Cardinal Gibbons

The Rapid Decline in Penance from the Early to Mid 1900s:

We see likewise with the fasting days.

The Catholic Encyclopedia from 1909 in describing that fast immediately before the changes to occur under St. Pius X enumerates them as follows: "In the United States of America all the days of Lent; the Fridays of Advent (generally); the Ember Days; the vigils of Christmas and Pentecost, as well as those (14 Aug.) of the Assumption; (31 Oct.) of All Saints, are now fasting days. In Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and Canada, the days just indicated, together with the Wednesdays of Advent and (28 June) the vigil of Saints Peter and Paul, are fasting days." In 1902, the Holy Father granted a special dispensation for Catholics in England from fasting on the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul in honor of the coronation of King Edward VII.

The days of obligatory fasting as listed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law were the forty days of Lent (including Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday until noon); the Ember Days; and the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, and Christmas. Partial abstinence, the eating of meat only at the principal meal, was obligatory on all weeks of Lent (Monday through Thursday). And of course, complete abstinence was required on all Fridays, including Fridays of Lent, except when a holy day of obligation fell on a Friday outside of Lent. Saturdays in Lent were likewise days of complete abstinence.

Fasting and abstinence were no longer observed should a vigil fall on a Sunday as stated in the code: "If a vigil that is a fast day falls on a Sunday the fast is not to be anticipated on Saturday, but is dropped altogether that year." Before 1917, the fast of a Vigil that fell on a Sunday was observed instead on the preceding Saturday.

Effective per the 1917 Code of Canon law, the Wednesdays and Fridays of Advent were no longer fast days for the Universal Church. Wednesdays of Advent had previously been abrogated as fast days in America in 1837. Now Fridays in Advent likewise ceased being required days of fast not only in America but universally. The Vigil of St. Peter and Paul also ceased as a fast day on the Universal Calendar, although it had already been abrogated in the United States. And eggs and milk (i.e. lacticinia) became universally permitted.

But additional changes quickly ensued. Mara Morrow, writing on the fasting days around this time, states, "In 1917 Pope Benedict XV granted the faithful of countries in World War I the privilege of transferring Saturday Lenten abstinence to any other day of the week, excepting Friday and Ash Wednesday. In 1919 Cardinal Gibbons was granted his request of transferring Saturday Lenten abstinence to Wednesday for all bishops’ dioceses in the U.S. This permission, as well as the workingmen’s privilege, were frequently renewed, but, after 1931, this permission was only on the basis of personal requests from individual bishops."

Further, in 1931 Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, addressed the following to the American Bishops: "The Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a letter dated 15 Oct 1931, informs me that, in view of the difficulties experienced by the faithful in observing the laws of fast and abstinence on civil holidays, His Holiness, Pius XI, in the audience of 5 Oct. 1931, granted to all the Ordinaries of the United States, ad quinquennium, the faculty to dispense their subjects from the laws in question whenever any of the civil holidays now observed occurs on a day of fast and abstinence, or of abstinence" (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 32-416; E.R., 86-65, 190).

Pope Pius XII accelerated the changes to fasting and abstinence as Father Ruff relates: "In 1941 Pope Pius XII allowed bishops worldwide to dispense entirely from fast and abstinence except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, provided that there was abstinence from meat every Friday, and fast and abstinence on these two days and the vigil of the Assumption and Christmas. Eggs and milk products were permitted at breakfast and in the evening."

On January 28, 1949, the United States bishops issued a modified the regulations on abstinence in America again after receiving a ruling from the Sacred Congregation of the Council. Partial abstinence replaced complete abstinence for Ember Wednesdays, Ember Saturdays, and the Vigil of Pentecost.

Samuel Cardinal Stritch

Reductions in Fasting Intensify in the 1950's under Pope Pius XII:

Before 1951, Bishops were able to dispense laborers and their family members from the laws of abstinence, if necessary, under the workingmen's privilege that was introduced in 1895. This privilege of eating meat though excluded Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, and the Vigil of Christmas. In 1951, the abstinence laws in America were again revised as Father Ruff summarizes:
"In 1951 the U.S. bishops standardized regulations calling for complete abstinence from meat on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, the vigils of Assumption and Christmas, and Holy Saturday morning for everyone over age seven. On the vigils of Pentecost and All Saints, meat could be taken at just one meal. Fast days, applying to everyone between 21 and 59, were the weekdays of Lent, Ember days, and the vigils of Pentecost, Assumption, All Saints, and Christmas. On these fast days only one full meal was allowed, with two other meatless meals permitted which together did not make up one full meal. Eating between meals was not permitted, with milk and fruit juice permitted. Health or ability to work exempted one." 
As a result, the Vigil of All Saints was reduced to partial abstinence for American Catholics only in 1951.

In 1954, Pope Pius XII issued a special decree granting bishops the permission to dispense from Friday abstinence for the Feast of St. Joseph which that year fell on a Friday. A March 26, 1954 article of the Guardian elaborates: "Bishops throughout the world have been granted the faculty to dispense their faithful from the law of abstinence on the Feast of St. Joseph, Friday, March 19. The power was granted in a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, which said it acted at the special mandate of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. The decree was published in L'Osservatore Romano made no mention of a dispensation from the Lenten fast."

1955 saw some of the most significant changes to the Church's liturgy since the Council of Trent. Pope Pius XII in "Cum nostra hac aetate" on March 23, 1955, abolished 15 Octaves in addition to the Octave for the Dedication of a Church, and particular octaves for patrons of various religious orders, countries, dioceses, etc. He also abolished roughly half of all vigils, leading to the removal of the liturgical vigils of the Immaculate Conception, Epiphany, All Saints, and All apostles except Ss. Peter and Paul. The total number of liturgical vigils was now reduced to 7.

Uncertainty existed on whether or not fasting was still required on October 31st, the Vigil of All Saints (commonly called Halloween). The US Bishops requested an official determination from Rome on whether the custom of fasting and abstinence on the suspended Vigil of All Saints had also been terminated. They received a pre-printed notice in a response dated March 15, 1957, stating: "The Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites...looks simply to the liturgical part of the day and does not touch the obligation of fast and abstinence that are a penitential preparation for the following feast day." The US Bishop thereafter dispensed both the fast and partial abstinence law for the Vigil of All Saints.

In 1956, Holy Saturday was commuted from complete to partial abstinence. Furthermore, the fast which previously ended at noon was extended to the midnight between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, on account of the Holy Week changes enacted by Pius XII. And on July 25, 1957, Pope Pius XII commuted the fast in the Universal Church from the Vigil of the Assumption to the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception on December 7, even though he had previously abrogated the Mass for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception.

On a separate note, in both 1953 and 1957 Pope Pius XII altered the more ancient Eucharistic Fast, and in 1957 introduced the practice of allowing Masses to be offered on Sunday evenings.

On October 9, 1958, Pope Pius XII died. John XXIII was elected and under him, as under his predecessor, changes to Church discipline continued. In 1959, John XXIII permitted the Christmas Eve fast and abstinence to be transferred to 23rd. While the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland kept the penance on December 24, other nations including Canada and the Philippines transferred it to December 23.

The Fasting Requirements of 1962:

By 1962, the laws of fasting and abstinence were as follows as described in "Moral Theology" by Rev. Heribert Jone and adapted by Rev. Urban Adelman for the "laws and customs of the United States of America" copyright 1961: "Complete abstinence is to be observed on all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday, the Vigils of Immaculate Conception and Christmas. Partial abstinence is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the Vigil of Pentecost. Days of fast are all the weekdays of Lent, Ember Days, and the Vigil of Pentecost." If a vigil falls on a Sunday, the law of abstinence and fasting is dispensed that year and is not transferred to the preceding day. Father Jone adds additional guidance for the Vigil of the Nativity fast: "General custom allows one who is fasting to take a double portion of food at the collation on Christmas Eve (jejunium gaudiosum)."

He further elaborates on the significance of the changes that had been made under Pope Pius XII: "There is no longer any question about the interpretation of workingmen since the new formula makes no difference between manual workers, stenographers, white collar workers, students, seminarians, religious, etc. All may make use of the same privileges. The purpose of these new regulations and important modifications is to enable those who are engaged in hard and exhaustive occupations, to keep the fast by enabling them to eat meat once on (partial) abstinence days. Furthermore, Catholics serving in the Armed Forces, while they are in actual service, and their families too, when eating with them, are dispensed from abstinence except on Ash Wednesdays, Good Fridays, Holy Saturday (the entire day) and the Vigil of Christmas. The Ordinaries of the United States may also dispense their subjects from the laws of fast and abstinence on civil holidays, but they are to exhort the faithful to make some offering, especially to the poor, by way of compensation. Bishops may dispense the entire diocese or any part of it (e.g. a town) for the special reason of a great concourse of people or for one of public health."

The Turkey Indult

It must be further clarified that no "turkey indult" exists in the form many believe, even though many Catholics attached to the 1962 Missal claim a dispensation from meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving, citing Pope Pius XII as the source of the dispensation. The dispensation from meat on the day after Thanksgiving was granted in 1957 in the form of quinquennial faculties given to local ordinaries to dispense from abstinence on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, as stated by Bouscaren in the Canon Law Digest. The quinquennial faculties last 5 years and must be renewed. In 1962 they were renewed but not afterward because there was no need to because of Paenitemini and more importantly because of the November 1966 decree by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), which made abstinence on all Fridays throughout the year "especially recommended" but not obligatory.

Before 1962, the Bishops in the United States did not generally dispense from Friday abstinence on the Friday after Thanksgiving. After the renewal in 1962, more Bishops began to exercise this. In 1963 the Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas made use of these privileges and dispensed the faithful from meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving:
"By reason of special faculties, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop, grants herewith the following dispensations: from the Law of Fast on the Feast of St. Joseph, Tuesday, March 19; from the Law of Abstinence on Friday, November 29, (day after Thanksgiving) and from the Laws of Fast and Abstinence on Saturday, December 7, Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception."
Such a dispensation from the law of abstinence was not permanently part of Church law by virtue of it being the Friday after Thanksgiving. While bishops or priests will today dispense from meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Pope Pius XII did not permanently dispense meat on that day as many allege. The research of Romanitas Press confirms this.

Nothing is Safe from Change Post-Vatican II:

Shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI issued an apostolic constitution on fasting and abstaining on February 17, 1966, called Paenitemini, whose principles were later incorporated into the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Paenitemini allowed the commutation of the Friday abstinence to an act of penance at the discretion of the local ordinaries and gave authority to the episcopal conferences on how the universal rules would be applied in their region. Abstinence which previously began at age 7 was modified to begin at age 14. Additionally, the obligation of fasting on the Ember Days and on the remaining Vigils was abolished. Paenitemini maintained the traditional practice that "abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation."

The NCCB issued a statement on November 18, 1966. Abstinence was made obligatory on all Fridays of Lent, except Solemnities (i.e. First Class Feasts), on Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday. Abstinence on all Fridays throughout the year was "especially recommended," and the faithful who did choose to eat meat were directed to perform an alternative penance on those Fridays outside of Lent, even though the US Bishops removed the long-establish precept of requiring Friday penance. The document stated in part: "Even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we ... hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to church law." And finally, fasting on all weekdays of Lent was "strongly recommended" but not made obligatory under penalty of sin.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law largely took Paul VI's apostolic constitution aside from the modification of the age at which fasting binds. Per the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the age of fast was changed to begin at 18 - previously it was 21 - and to still conclude at midnight when an individual completes his 59th birthday. Friday penance is required per these laws on all Fridays of the year except on Solemnities, a dramatic change from the previous exception being only on Holy Days of Obligation.

Per the 1983 Code of Canon Law, fasting and complete abstinence per these rules are required only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The notion of "partial abstinence," introduced under Pope Benedict XIV in 1741, was also removed. By this point, the days of obligatory fast had been reduced to merely two days.

For a chart comparing 1917 v. 1955 v. 1983 fasting and abstinence, please see Catholic Candle.

Holy Days Further Reduced in the 1990's:

Holy Days of Obligation, which had remained the same in the United States since 1917, were further modified in the latter part of the century.  On December 13, 1991, the United States Bishops issued a directive further abrogating New Years Day (the Circumcision), the Assumption, or All Saints in years when the feast falls on a Saturday or a Monday. And on March 23, 1992, in another reduction, the Bishop of Honolulu obtained an indult from the Holy See and approval from the United States episcopal conference to reduce the Holy Days of Obligation to only Christmas and the Immaculate Conception. With so many holy days reduced, and with priests largely not preaching on the necessity of attending Mass and of abstaining from servile works on them, the faithful have lost the sense of the sacred.

What We Have Lost:

Where has the rhythm and rhyme of the Catholic life gone? What have we gained from this slow erosion of the holy days and fasting days? The American Catholic Quarterly Review laments:
"The long line of festivals has been suppressed. Who has gained by it? The French Revolution seized and used all the property of the Church and the nobles. The poor were to be raised from their abject misery. By work and toil they were to acquire competence. After a century of trial the working class in France are desperate anarchists clamoring again for a seizure of property from those who hold it. Spain seized the Church property and has its discontented thousands. Italy did the same and drives her people into exile as immigrants to foreign lands. The gospel of work is now rejected by the poor. They have had too much of it. They clamor for fewer hours of work for more holydays for higher wages. The time and money they extort by combinations have no blessing both are spent in sensual indulgence. Their families do not gain by them but saloon keepers are enriched. These extorted holydays given by the nineteenth century do nothing to elevate or improve the masses. As a mere matter of political economy it may be asked whether the old time Catholic worker who had twenty religious holydays and spent much of them in ennobling and piety inspiring shrines was not happier in himself more prosperous in his home a more valuable element in the body politic than his modern representative."
Practical Considerations:

Consecration of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The day before a consecration used to be a required day of fasting. Father Dominic Prummer in "Moral Theology" published in 1949 states, "On the day previous to the consecration of a church both the Bishop and the people who ask for the church to be consecrated must fast. This is laid down in the Roman Pontifical."

While no authority in the Church may change or alter any established dogmas of the Faith, the discipline of both Holy Days of Obligation and fast days may change. The days of obligation and the days of penance are matters of discipline, not matters of dogma. Lawful authorities in the Church do have the power to change these practices.

In the observance of the two precepts, namely attending Holy Mass on prescribed days and fasting and abstaining on commanded days, we obey them because the Church has the power by Christ to command such things. We do not abstain from meat on Fridays for instance because the meat is unclean or evil. It is the act of disobedience which is evil. As Fr. Michael Müller remarks in his Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine from 1874: "It is not the food, but the disobedience that defiles a man." To eat meat on a forbidden day unintentionally, for instance, is no sin. As the Scriptures affirm it is not what goes into one's mouth that defiles a man but that disobedience which comes from the soul (cf. Matthew 15:11).

On a similar note, bishops could lawfully abrogate the precept of hearing Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation. While no bishop may dispense the obligation of honoring the Holy Day, which is a matter of Divine Law ingrained in the Ten Commandments, matters of discipline may change. In the Church, there is a clear distinction between doctrine and discipline.

Yet, even with such a distinction, the Church has historically been wise to change disciplines only very slowly and carefully. As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once remarked, "It is a long-established principle of the Church never to completely drop from her public worship any ceremony, object or prayer which once occupied a place in that worship." The same may be said for matters concerning either Holy Days of Obligation or fast days. What our forefathers held sacred should remain sacred to us in an effort to preserve our catholicity not only with ourselves but with our ancestors who see God now in Heaven.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves and our own families what we can do, even if not mandated by Church law, to recover these former holy days of obligation and fasting days. Cultivating a devotion to honor the many former Holy Days of Obligation by additional prayer, leisure, and assisting at the Church's official liturgies is certainly to be commended, even if not strictly required by law. Likewise, fasting and/or abstaining from meat and animal products on the forty days of Lent, the days of Advent, the Vigils of feasts, Ember Days, Rogation Days, and Saturdays year-round would be commendable. In a similar manner, observing the Apostles Fast or the Assumption Fast, which are still kept in the Eastern Churches, would also be praiseworthy for a Roman Catholic.

The Church has over time reduced the requirements required under penalty sin but She still implores the Faithful to do more than the mere minimum. But in reality, are we? St. Francis de Sales remarked, “If you’re able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church.”

What days can you add? How can you better observe the feast days of the Apostles or the feasts of our Lord or our Lady? How can we fast better - both in terms of the number of days as well as by limiting the food we consume on fast days?

The 1962 Missal and fasting calendar is not the embodiment of Catholic Tradition. Even the practices in place in 1917 under St. Pius X are shadows of former times. To reclaim Catholic Tradition requires a radical return to the Faith of our ancestors and their observances. May those of forefathers and ancestors of ours who are in Heaven and who see the face of God pray for us and for the entire Church Militant to return to the happy days of eras past when the liturgical year was intricately tied to one's life.
Monday, June 1, 2020
Pentecost Monday & Pentecost Tuesday as Holy Days of Obligation

When writing about the rank of days in the Catholic Liturgical calendar, there are various ways to label them. In the modern Church, they will use the terms solemnity, feast, memorial, or optional memorial. In the 1962 Missal, we have First, Second, Third, or Fourth Class feastdays. But before the 1962 Missal up until the changes made by Pope Pius XII in 1955, there were from least to most important: Simples, Semidoubles, Lesser Doubles or also known as Doubles, Greater Doubles, Doubles of the second class, and lastly Doubles of the first class.
Using the traditional pre-1955 calendar, we notice something very interesting about Whit Monday and Whit Tuesday. Both of these days, like their counterparts in the Easter Octave, are doubles of the first class whereas the rest of the Pentecost Octave is of Double rank. The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the Pentecost Octave are Ember Days and days of fasting and abstinence

Why the special treatment for Monday and Tuesday in the Octave of Pentecost? 

It is because they were universal holy days of obligation for a very long time. In 1642, Pentecost Monday and Pentecost Tuesday were listed as Holy Days per Universa Per Orbem. In 1771, Pope Clement XIV abolished both Easter Tuesday and Pentecost Tuesday as days of refraining from servile work. By 1778, they ceased being days of obligatory Mass attendance. Pentecost Monday was dropped from the universal list in 1911 by Pope St. Pius X's significant reduction in Holy Days on the Universal Calendar.

The Monday after Pentecost is still a holiday in Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Austria, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, The British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montserrat, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Switzerland, Togo, and Ukraine. Until 1973, it was also a holiday in Ireland, and until 1967 it was a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. And Sweden also continued to observe it as a public holiday until 2004.

The Catholic Encyclopedia affirms:
The office of Pentecost has only one Nocturn during the entire week. At Terce the "Veni Creator" is sung instead of the usual hymn, because at the third hour the Holy Ghost descended. The Mass has a Sequence, "Veni Sancte Spiritus" the authorship of which by some is ascribed to King Robert of France. The colour of the vestments is red, symbolic of the love of the Holy Ghost or of the tongues of fire. Formerly the law courts did not sit during the entire week, and servile work was forbidden. A Council of Constance (1094) limited this prohibition to the first three days of the week. The Sabbath rest of Tuesday was abolished in 1771, and in many missionary territories also that of Monday; the latter was abrogated for the entire Church by Pius X in 1911. Still, as at Easter, the liturgical rank of Monday and Tuesday of Pentecost week is a Double of the First Class.
While the Octave of Pentecost may not be days of precept anymore, we can certainly in our own prayer lives observe the Octave of Pentecost, hear Mass these days, pray the Divine Office more regularly, observe the Ember Days, and strive to sanctify them so as to do more than the minimum required by Church Law.

Veni Sancte Spiritus!
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
A History of Holy Days of Obligation & Fasting for American Catholics: Part 1

Note: I would like to thank Tyler Gonzalez for helping considerably with the research for this article.

The American Catholic Quarterly (ACQ) Review, Volume 11 offers an insightful series of reflections on Holy Days with a call for us to observe these as our forefathers in the life gladly did:
"The Church by one of her positive commandments requires the faithful to sanctify certain holydays in the year by taking part in the offering of the great sacrifice of the Mass and by abstaining from servile works. To many, it has doubtless seemed strange that the holydays thus prescribed were not the same throughout the world fixed irrevocably and known by all in every country on the face of the earth. Still more strange has it seemed that in a republic like our own where the Church though the oldest of all the institutions existing can boast of little more than three centuries and a half of history there have been diversities before the recently held Third Plenary Council of Baltimore [in 1884] made a step towards absolute uniformity.
"In the days of faith and fervor not only were the great festivals prescribed by the Church, those associated with the life of our Lord and His Blessed Mother, those intimately connected with the work of redemption, and the feasts of the holy apostles by whose ministry the Church was established and the channels of grace led through the world - not only were these kept reverently but the patronal feast of each country, diocese, and church, the days of the most famous local saints were similarly honored. The devotion was general, and whoso refused to lay aside his implements of trade or traffic on their days was so condemned by public opinion that custom made the law."
Interestingly, because the Church enjoined on the Faithful both the obligation to hear Mass as well as to refrain from servile work, the number of holy days, which included Sundays, was significant. Some people began to revolt against the Church claiming that these practices only increased poverty. But as the Journal notes, an interesting phenomenon occurred:
"Protestantism therefore at once swept away all the holydays and Christmas remained almost alone to represent the Church calendar, and the Puritans even punished those who kept Christmas.With men working all the year round except on Sunday, wealth was to be general, the poor would thrive and prosper and be happy and contented, no longer lured from great and ennobling labor by being called away every week to idle some days in church and prayer. It was again unfortunate that this excellent theory did not work well. The poor seemed to grow actually poorer with all these days of labor than they had been before."
The first catalog of Holy Days comes from the Decretals of Gregory IX in 1234, which listed 45 Holy Days. In 1642, His Holiness Pope Urban VIII issued the papal bull "Universa Per Orbem" which altered the required Holy Days of Obligation for the Universal Church to consist of 35 such days as well as the principal patrons of one's one locality.
  1. Nativity of Our Lord
  2. Circumcision of Our Lord
  3. Epiphany of Our 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. Corpus Christi
  11. Finding of the Holy Cross (May 3)
  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. Dedication of St. Michael
  17. Nativity of St. John the Baptist
  18. SS. Peter and Paul
  19. St. Andrew
  20. St. James
  21. St. John (the December feast day)
  22. St. Thomas
  23. SS. Philip and James
  24. St. Bartholomew
  25. St. Matthew
  26. SS. Simon and Jude
  27. St. Matthias
  28. St. Stephen the First Martyr (the December feast day)
  29. The Holy Innocents
  30. St. Lawrence
  31. St. Sylvester
  32. St. Joseph
  33. St. Anne
  34. All Saints
  35. Principle Patrons of One’s Country, City, etc.
Some of the Holy Days of Obligation removed between 1234 and 1642 included Holy Monday through Holy Saturday in addition to Easter Wednesday through Easter Saturday.

In 1708, Pope Clement XI added the Conception of the Blessed Virgin to the list in his papal bull Commissi Nobis Divinitus. Before the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, the feast was often referred to as the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the word "Immaculate."

Holy Days of Obligation in the Colonies:

Not long after the proclamation of this bull do we see changes occurring for those living in the colonies in the New World as American Catholic Review illustrates:
"The Diocesan Synod held in 1688 by Bishop Palacios of Santiago de Cuba fixed as holydays for that diocese in which Florida was then embraced and from 1776 to 1793 Louisiana also the following: All the Sundays of the year, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, St Mathias, St Joseph, the Annunciation, Sts Philip and James, the Finding of the Holy Cross, St John Baptist, Sts Peter and Paul, St James, St Anne, St Lawrence, the Assumption, St Bartholomew, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthew, St Michael, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, St Thomas, Christmas, St Stephen, St John, Holy Innocents, and St Sylvester, Easter Sunday and the two following days, Ascension, Whit Sunday and two following days, Corpus Christi. A bull of Pope Clement X added St Ferdinand, St Rose 'National Patroness of the Indies', and a bull of Innocent XI added St Augustine, August 28th."
Fasting & Abstinence Days in the South East Colonies:

The Church's Liturgical Year is a harmonious interplay of feasts and fasts interwoven in both the temporal and sanctoral cycles that define the rhythm and rhyme of Catholic life. Our ancestors in the New World in Florida and Louisiana would have known the following days of fast:
"The fasting days were all days in Lent; the Ember days; the of eves of Christmas, Candlemas, Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints, the feasts of the Apostles except St Philip and St James and St John, nativity of St John the Baptist; all Fridays except within twelve days of Christmas and between Easter and Ascension, and the eve of Ascension" (ACQ).
For abstinence from meat, they would have observed:
"All Sundays in Lent, all Saturdays throughout the year, Monday and Tuesday before Ascension, and St Mark's day were of abstinence from flesh meat" (ACQ).
It should be noted that in 1089 Pope Urban II granted a dispensation to Spain from abstinence on Fridays, in virtue of the Spanish efforts in the Crusades. After the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Pope St. Pius V expanded that privilege to all Spanish colonies. That dispensation remained in place in some places as late as 1951 when the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the last territory to invoke it, rescinded the privilege.

Fasting & Abstinence Days in the Western Colonies:

In Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California which were included in the ecclesiastical province of Mexico, the feasts and were regulated by the Third Council of Mexico in 1585, as American Catholic Quarterly Review states:
"In these parts besides those already [mentioned above for Florida], the faithful observed as holy days of obligation St Fabian and St Sebastian (January 20th), St Thomas Aquinas (March 7th), St Mark (April 25th), St Barnabas (June 1), the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin (July 2), St Mary Magdalene (July 22), St Dominic (Aug 4), the Transfiguration (Aug 6), St Francis (Oct 4), St Luke (Oct 18), St Catharine (Nov 25), the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin (Dec 18). 
"The fast days were all days in Lent except Sunday; eves of Christmas, Whit Sunday, St Mathias, St John the Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, St James, St Lawrence, Assumption, St Bartholomew, St Matthew, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, and St Thomas."
Holy Days & Fasting Days for Native Americans:

The papal bull "Altitudo Divini Concilii" of Pope Paul III in 1537 reduced the days of penance and those of hearing Mass for the Indians out of pastoral concern due to the physically demanding lifestyle that they lived and also largely due to the fact that they fasted so much already. As a result, the native were required to only hear Mass on a much smaller number of days: Sundays, Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, Annunciation, Sts Peter and Paul, Ascension, Corpus Christi, the Assumption, and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. And the only fasting days were the Fridays in Lent, Holy Saturday, and Christmas Eve.

Holy Days in Canada & the Midwest:

Bishop François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec, on December 3, 1667, set the required Holy Days for Canada in accord with the bull of Pope Urban VIII. To those he added St. Francis Xavier, and in 1687, he likewise added St. Louis IX. Bishop François de Laval was declared a saint by equipollent canonization in April 2014 and is known to us now as Saint Francis-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval.

Quoting from the archives of Quebec, the American Catholic Quarterly Review lists the Holy Days in place as 1694:
"The holy days of obligation as recognized officially in 1694 were Christmas, St Stephen, St John, the Evangelist, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, St Matthew, St Joseph "patron of the country," Annunciation, St Philip and St James, St John the Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, St James, St Anne, St Lawrence, Assumption, St Bartholomew, St Louis "titular of the Cathedral of Quebec," Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthew, St Michael, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, St Francis Xavier, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin "titular the Cathedral," St Thomas, Easter Monday and Tuesday, Ascension, Whitsun Monday and Tuesday, Corpus Christi, and the patronal feast of each parish."
These holy days were likewise in force in many current American states under Quebec's jurisdiction as the journal elaborates:
"These were the holydays observed in the French settlements in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as in Louisiana, Mobile, and the country west of the Mississippi till that district passing under the Spanish rule was reclaimed about 1776 as part of the diocese of Santiago de Cuba. East of the Mississippi they continued to be in force certainly till the Holy See detached those parts of its territory from the diocese of Quebec and annexed them to the newly erected diocese of Baltimore. 
Thus, we see that little more than 100 years after Universa Per Orbem the observance of various holy days and fast days in the life of Catholics in the New World was already significantly reduced from those observed in Rome.

Significant Changes Occur in the 1700s for the Universal Church:

In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV, who lamented the decline in the Lenten observance, issued Non Ambigimus on May 31, 1741, granting permission to eat meat on fasting days while explicitly forbidden the consumption of both fish and flesh meat at the same meal on all fasting days during the year in addition to the Sundays during Lent. The concept of partial abstinence was born even though the term would not appear until the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

Changes likewise occurred for Holy Days. In 1750, little more than one hundred years after "Universa Per Orbem," Pope Benedict XIV extended to the Spanish American colonies the indult previously granted to Catholic Spain reducing the days of obligation to all Sundays of the year, Christmas, St. Stephen, the Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, Easter Monday, Annunciation, Monday after Pentecost Sunday, Corpus Christi, Ascension, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Assumption, St. James, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the patron of each locality.

In 1771, Pope Clement XIV abolished both Pentecost Tuesday and Easter Tuesday as days of rest, according to Weiser's Christian Feasts and Customs. In 1778, the obligation to attend Mass on these two days was abrogated by Pope Pius VI, although they were not observed as Holy Days in most places, including in America.

Holy Days in Ireland

Table taken from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record

It must be stated that the gradual removal of Holy Days was not limited to the New World only. The Irish Ecclesiastical Record from 1882 describes a similar trend in Ireland:
"The full list of holidays of obligation as laid down in the Canon Law. This is the list drawn up by Urban VIII (Universa, September 13, 1642), with the addition of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, instituted by Clement XI in 1708. The holidays thus enumerated are 35 in number. I have of course included in the list the feast of St. Patrick, as holding in Ireland the place of the [patron] mentioned by Urban VIII in the constitution of 1642." 
There was a distinction between days of single or double precept. Days of double precept required hearing Mass and restraining from servile works, while days of half precept only required hearing Mass. Pope Benedict XIV in 1755 removed 18 feasts from double precept and reduced them to single precept. Shortly thereafter in 1778, Pope Pius VI reduced the number of holy days to 13. And as the Record states, "On this occasion, the obligation of hearing Mass was removed, as well as the obligation of abstaining from servile works."

Regarding fasting, we likewise see a reduction: "The number of those Vigils to which the obligation of fasting had been attached [as of 1778] was in fact but eight - these being the Vigils of the feast of St. Laurence the Martyr (August 9th), and of seven of the nine suppressed feasts of the Apostles." No fasting was observed beforehand on the Vigil of St. John on December 26 or the Vigil of Ss. Philip and James on account of them always falling in Christmas and Pascaltide respectively.

This reduction was likewise occurring in the British Colonies.

Holy Days & Fasting Days in England and Her Colonies:
"The Catholics of the British Isles, after the reform of Pope Urban VIII kept as obligatory: Christmas, the feasts of St Stephen, St John, Holy Innocents, and St Sylvester, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, the feasts of St Mathias and St Joseph, Annunciation, Sts Philip and James, Finding of the Holy Cross, St John the Baptist, Sts Peter and Paul, St James, St Anne, St Lawrence, the Assumption, St Bartholomew, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthew, St Michael, Sts Simon and Jude, All Saints, St Andrew and St Thomas, and one of the principal patrons of the city, province, or kingdom. These were the holydays of obligation observed by the Catholics in Maryland Virginia and Pennsylvania."
Unfortunately, the practice of the Catholic Religion was illegal in England. Catholicism was made illegal in 1559 under Queen Elizabeth I, and for 232 years, except during the reign of the Catholic James II (1685-1688), the Catholic Mass was illegal until 1791. Yet most Catholics could not hold any public office and had few civil rights even after 1791. It took the Emancipation Act of 1829 to restore most civil rights to Catholics in England. To these souls, most were unable to observe the Holy Days. The penalty of observing the Catholic Faith was death as the English Martyrs bear witness to. Likewise, due to persecution from the protestants, concessions were made for Catholics under the yoke of Protestantism in the British Isles.

On March 9, 1777, Pope Pius VI "dispensed all Catholics in the kingdom of Great Britain from the precept of hearing Mass and abstaining from servile works on all holydays except the Sundays of the year, the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Whitsun Monday, Corpus Christi, St Peter and St Paul, Assumption, and All Saints." These were the holy days in place at the time of the American Revolution.

The fasting days were also reduced at the same time to consist of the Ember Days; the forty days Lent; Wednesdays and Fridays in Advent; and the vigils of Christmas, Whitsun Sunday (i.e. Pentecost), Sts Peter and Paul, and All Saints.

Part II will cover the history of holy days and fasting from America's foundation to the present. Click here to read Part 2.
Monday, April 20, 2020
Easter Monday & Easter Tuesday as Holy Days of Obligation

When writing about the rank of days in the Catholic Liturgical calendar, there are various ways to label them. In the modern Church, they will use the terms solemnity, feast, memorial, or optional memorial. In the 1962 Missal, we have First, Second, Third, or Fourth Class feastdays. But before the 1962 Missal up until the changes made by Pope Pius XII in 1955, there were from least to most important: Simples, Semidoubles, Lesser Doubles or also known as Doubles, Greater Doubles, Doubles of the second class, and lastly Doubles of the first class.
Using the traditional pre-1955 calendar, we notice something very interesting about Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday. Easter Monday and Tuesday are doubles of the first class whereas the rest of the Easter Octave is a semi-double.  Even with the variation in rank, the Easter Octave is privileged and no other feastday may occur in the Octave. 
But what's unique about Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday is that no other saints are commemorated those days in the Mass or the Divine Office.

Why the special treatment for Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday? It is because they were universal holy days of obligation for a very long time. Easter Tuesday was not dropped from the list until 1777; Easter Monday was dropped from the universal list at the beginning of the 20th century but is still a Holy Day of Obligation in many places to this very day. In Catholic European countries, it is still common to have Easter Monday off as a paid holiday.

The unequaled Dom Gueranger, in his seminal work, The Liturgical Year, writes:
So fervently did the faithful of those times appreciate and love the Liturgy, so lively was the interest they took in the newly made children of holy mother Church, that they joyfully went through the whole of the services of this week. Their hearts were filled with the joy of the Resurrection, and they thought it but right to devote their whole time to its celebration. Councils laid down canons, changing the pious custom into a formal law. The Council of Mâcon, in 585, thus words its decree: ‘It behoves us all fervently to celebrate the feast of the Pasch, in which our great High Priest was slain for our sins, and to honour it by carefully observing all it pre-scribes. Let no one, therefore, do any servile work during these six days (which followed the Sunday), but let all come together to sing the Easter hymns, and assist at the daily Sacrifice, and praise our Creator and Redeemer in the evening, morning, and mid-day.’ 
The Councils of Mayence (813) and Meaux (845) lay down similar rules. We find the same prescribed in Spain, in the seventh century, by the edicts of kings Receswind and Wamba. The Greek Church renewed them in her Council in Trullo; Charlemagne, Louis the Good, Charles the Bald, sanctioned them in their Capitularia; and the canonists of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Burchard, St Ivo of Chartres, Gratian, tell us they were in force in their time. Finally, Pope Gregory IX inserted them in one of his decretals in the thirteenth century. But their observance had then fallen into desuetude, at least in many places. The Council held at Constance, in 1094, reduced the solemnity of Easter to the Monday and Tuesday. 
The two great liturgists, John Beleth in the twelfth, and Durandus in the thirteenth century, inform us that, in their times, this was the practice in France. It gradually became the discipline of the whole of the western Church, and continued to be so, until relaxation crept still further on, and a dispensation was obtained by some countries, first for the Tuesday, and finally for the Monday. In order fully to understand the Liturgy of the whole Easter Octave (Low Sunday included), we must remember that the neophytes were formerly present, vested in their white garments, at the Mass and Divine Office of each day. Allusions to their Baptism are continually being made in the chants and Lessons of the entire week.
Friday, October 18, 2019
The Traditional Vigils and Feastdays of the Apostles

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. But the number of Holy Days in previous times was significantly larger.

In 1911, Pope St. Pius X reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation from 36 to 8, although which places observed the holy days were not uniform at all beforehand.  Shortly thereafter, the 1917 Code of Canon Law increased the number to 10 by adding back Corpus Christi and Ss. Joseph. 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. The feasts of the Apostles were raised to public holidays in 932 AD as Father Weiser relates (p. 279).

The 36 Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar back in 1642 under Pope Urban VIII included:

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. Dedication of St. Michael
17. Nativity of St. John Baptist
18. Ss. Peter and Paul
19. St. Andrew
20. St. James
21. St. John (the December feastday)
22. St. Thomas
23. Ss. Philip and James
24. St. Bartholomew
25. St. Matthew
26. Ss. Simon and Jude
27. St. Matthias
28. St. Stephen (the December feastday)
29. The Holy Innocents
30. St. Lawrence
31. St. Sylvester
32. St. Joseph
33. St. Anne
34. All Saints Day
35. The Principle Patrons of One’s Country, City, etc.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was added in 1708 so it not on 1642 list.

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. Sadly, the observance of fasting on the vigils of the apostles in many places disappeared back in the 1700s.

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.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
The De-Sanctification of Sunday

Picture an average Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon.  The temperature is warm or at least pleasant.  Sunshine fills the sky.  The morning's calmness is punctuated only by the transcendent and alluring Church bells which toll throughout the morning during the Consecration at the Holy Mass.  Holiness pervades the air and the day is characterized by Christian charitable works, meetings of apostolates, authentic family time, and other like activities - in one word, the day is set aside for leisure.

But this is how Sunday is in a Catholic nation.

Instead nowadays we find something far different - few if any Catholics go to Mass.  The bells no longer toll during the Consecration of the Mass.  In fact, few people even attend Mass and far, far fewer attend the reverent and beautiful Traditional Latin Mass.  Sacrilege takes place on a wide scale with Communion in the Hand.  Divine Justice is not offered an august and immaculate victim; rather, the Triune God is angered by the indifference, injustice, and impiety of a people who have fallen from the True Faith.

And all the while the day is characterized by the sounds of lawnmowers, power tools, and mundane machines.

It's not hard to find.  Any Sunday in the year you will find people mowing their lawns, painting their homes, repairing household items, cleaning their cars, and doing other mundane activities that we are explicitly forbidden to do by the Third Commandment.  A Christian commits a sin by so doing unless he receives explicit dispensation from a priest (e.g. to fix a leaking pipe, etc).

Has holiness gone from among men?  Does no one care any longer for the sanctity of Sunday?
"And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord his God in vain. Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. [9] Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" (Exodus 20:6-10).
Have we forgotten the words of Our Lady of La Salette?

Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud were two children from Corps, France, near the town of Grenoble in the southeastern part of France. When Melanie was 14, and Maximin was 11, they were watching cattle in a pasture when they saw a globe of light that "opened" to reveal a most beautiful woman, clad in long dress and apron, with a shawl that crossed in front and tied in back. Around her neck was a Crucifix that depicted the instruments of the Passion, and on her head were a cap and roses. She sat on a rock with her face in her hands weeping.   The Lady said that unless the people repented of working on Sundays and of blasphemy, she'd be forced to let go her Son's arm because it had grown so heavy. She said that crop blights and famine would follow if her wishes weren't heeded.

If we have forgotten the message of Our Lady of La Sallette, have we also forgotten the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Our Lady of the Willow Tree?

The following story is a powerful one.  It is quoted from the Society of St. Pius X's Canadian website:
Many years ago in the village of Plantees, France, there lived a farmer named Pierre Port-Combet, who used to work on Sundays and Feast Days. At one time he had been a Catholic, but he had fallen away from the truth Faith and joined a Protestant religion called Calvinism. He had a great dislike for Catholics and anything about the Catholic Faith. 
Pierre had married a devout Catholic woman named Jeanne. They had six children and Jeanne tried to raise them as good Catholics. But even though Pierre had made a vow to allow his wife to raise their children as Catholics, he gradually led their six children into the Calvinist religion! Jeanne was broken hearted about this because it meant that her husband and children were in great danger of loosing their souls. And since Pierre would not listen to her pleadings, the best she could do was to go to Mass, pray, and make sacrifices. 
This area of France was very Catholic at the time. There was a law that all people should not work on Sundays and on special Holy Days, so that they could go to Mass and spend the rest of the day in prayer and holy reading. But Pierre loved to break this law, especially on Our Lady's Feast Days, because he did not like the Catholic religion! 
On March 25, 1649, the Feast of the Annunciation, Pierre showed his dislike for the Catholic Church by working near a road where villagers could see him, as they traveled on their way to Mass. He pretended to work, by using his knife to cut into a willow tree, which grew beside the road. But as soon as he cut into the willow, the tree bled! Pierre was shocked as the blood flowed out of the tree and splashed onto his hands and arms. At first Pierre thought he was wounded, but finding that he was not injured, he stabbed the willow tree another time, and again the tree bled! 
Around this time, Pierre's wife passed by on her way to church. Seeing that her husband's arms were covered with blood, she rushed over to help him. While she was looking for the wound, Pierre tried to explain to his wife what had just taken place. Jeanne tried to calm her husband and cut the tree with his knife, but nothing happened. When Pierre noticed that no blood came from the tree, he grabbed the knife from his wife and cut off a willow branch. The blood came gushing out of the tree! 
By now Pierre was terribly frightened! He called to Louis, a neighbour who was just passing by, and begged him to come and see what happened. But when Louis took the knife and tried to cut the tree, no blood came out. As the other villagers passed by they began to realize that the blood from the tree was a warning from God to Pierre, so that he would come back to the Catholic Faith and not work on Sundays. 
Before long, Pierre was brought to court for working on this special Feast Day and he had to pay a fine. And when the Bishop heard about the miracle of the bleeding willow tree, he ordered some priests to look into the matter. Pierre and others who saw the miracle were questioned. In the end it was decided that this miracle was a stern warning from God to Pierre, so that he would mend his ways! 
Pierre had a change of heart and realizing that he was wrong, he would often go to pray near the willow tree. But when some of his Calvinist friends saw him, they threatened to hurt him if he left the Calvinist religion. Because of this Pierre refused to go back to the Catholic Church. 
Heaven was watching over Pierre and after seven years, on March 25, 1656, Our Lady appeared to him. On that day, Pierre was working in the field and saw a Lady standing far away on a little hill. The Lady wore a white dress, a blue mantle and had a black veil over her head, which partly covered her face. As the Lady came toward Pierre, she suddenly picked up speed and in a flash, she stood beside him. With her beautiful, sweet voice, the Lady spoke to Pierre, "God be with you my friend!" 
For a moment, Pierre stood in amazement. The Lady spoke again, "What is being said about this devotion? Do many people come?" 
Pierre replied, "Yes many people come," 
Then the Lady said, "Where does that heretic live who cut the willow tree? Does he not want to be converted?" 
Pierre mumbled an answer. The Lady became more serious, "Do you think that I do not know that you are the heretic? Realize that your end is at hand. If you do not return to the True Faith, you will be cast into Hell! But if you change your beliefs, I shall protect you before God. Tell people to pray that they may gain the good graces which, God in His mercy has offered to them."
Pierre was filled with sorrow and shame and moved away from the Lady. Suddenly realizing that he was being rude, Pierre stepped closer to her, but she had moved away and was already near the little hill. He ran after her begging, "Please stop and listen to me. I want to apologize to you and I want you to help me!" 
The Lady stopped and turned. By the time Pierre caught up to her, she was floating in the air and was already disappearing from sight. Suddenly, Pierre realized that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared to him! He fell to his knees and cried buckets of tears, "Jesus and Mary I promise you that I will change my life and become a good Catholic. I am sorry for what I have done and I beg you please, to help me change my life…" 
On August 14, 1656, Pierre became very sick. An Augustinian priest came to hear his confession and accepted him back into the Catholic Church. Pierre received Holy Communion the next day on the Feast of the Assumption. After Pierre returned to the Catholic Faith, many others followed him. His son and five daughters came back to the Catholic Church as well as many Calvinists and Protestants. Five weeks later on September 8, 1656, Pierre died and was buried under the miraculous willow tree, just as he had asked. 
Fr. Fais, the parish priest from the nearby town of Vinay, helped a lady to buy the field where Pierre had spoken to Our Lady. In time the chapel of Our Lady of Good Meeting was built on the spot where Our Lady had spoken to Pierre. Soon, a large church was built over the spot of the miraculous tree, and named in honour of Our Lady of the Willow. Some good person also carved a statue of Our Lady similar to the way Pierre had described the Blessed Virgin Mary. When this statue was placed in the church, many people came to honour Our Lady of the Willow. 
But alas, because of the sinfulness of man, this beautiful shrine did not last and was ruined by members of the horrible French Revolution. These wicked men took the statue of Our Lady of the Willow and chopped it to pieces! Oh, what a terrible way to treat Our Lady's image! 
However, all was not lost! A good lady gathered up the pieces of the statue and hid them until the French Revolution was over. A piece of the willow tree was also saved from the hands of these wicked men. 
After the horrible French Revolution, people came again to honour Our Lady of the Willow at this sacred spot. The statue of Our Lady was repaired and in time the shrine was placed in the hands of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Now some priests were caring for the shrine and could help the many people who came there. 
In 1856, two hundred years after the apparition of Our Lady to Pierre, Blessed Pope Pius IX decreed that the statue of Our Lady should be crowned on September 8 of that year. More than 30,000 people were present at the shrine for the crowning of Our Lady of the Willow, and at least four hundred priests were also present at the ceremony. And this same Pope ordered that another crowning should take place in 1873! 
On March 17, 1924, Pope Pius XI declared that Our Lady of the Willow Church was now a minor basilica. Here the statue of Our Lady of the Willow is venerated. A box containing a piece of the old willow tree lies under her altar and Pierre's grave is at the foot of the altar.
Many people come to honour Our Lady of the Willow at this shrine and many have left little plaques in thanksgiving to Our Lady, for some special grace which she has given them. Also more than a hundred miracles are reported to have taken place at this shrine. Thank-you Jesus and Mary for your great mercies. 
Our Lady of the Willow, Pray for Us! 
We have a moral obligation to stand against the onslaught of sin in this world.  Next time you see someone cutting the lawn, painting their home, etc on a Sunday remind them to stop.  It is a spiritual work of mercy to admonish sinners.  Doing so with prudence and charity is the key.  Standing against sin is necessary lest we too participate in their sin by our quiet acceptance of it.

If you have a concern about approaching the person or truly believe it would not bring about their conversion, at least take the time to leave them an anonymous note in their mailbox or print off a page such as this one ( and drop off the information in their box.

In the words of the Holy Father Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei: "How will those Christians not fear spiritual death whose rest on Sundays and feast days is not devoted to religion and piety, but given over to the allurements of the world! Sundays and holidays must be made holy by divine worship which gives homage to God and heavenly food to the soul...Our soul is filled with the greatest grief when we see how the Christian people profane the afternoon of feast days...."

As a final recommendation, considering reading The Land Without a Sunday by Maria Von Trapp.

O Lord, deliver us from evil!

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