Holy days of Obligation are major feasts of the Church’s year on which – in addition to Sundays – Catholics are obliged to go to Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body (Code of Canon Law 1247).
The Church has retained a number of its feasts as Holy Days of Obligation. The major ones are known as Solemnities when those who are able are expected to attend Mass.
Holy Days in Ireland
Ã¢â‚¬¢ Immaculate Conception (8th December)
Ã¢â‚¬¢ Christmas Day (25th December)
Ã¢â‚¬¢ Epiphany (6th January )
Ã¢â‚¬¢ St Patrick (17th March)
Ã¢â‚¬¢ Assumption of Our Lady (15th August)
Ã¢â‚¬¢ All Saints (1st November)
The Episcopal Conference at its general meeting of March 2005 discussed the observance of Holy days of Obligation and the ethos of Catholic schools in Ireland today. It was agreed that Holy days of Obligation, which are days of special worship and celebration, are a valuable expression of the ethos of a Catholic school.
Consequently, it is desirable that all Catholic schools observe, as far as possible, the Holy days of Obligation as they are entitled to do in accordance with an agreement reached with the education partners in March 2004.(Circular 21/04)
The Bishops decided that the ultimate decision about whether or not a school will remain closed on Church Holy days be made at Board of Management level in consultation with the Trustees/Patron of the School. This decision should also be made in consultation with other Boards of Management in the area.
Should a Catholic school decide to open for the instruction of pupils on Church Holy days, the Bishops decided that the school community be encouraged to attend Mass within the school day where feasible. It was agreed that the opportunity should be availed of to provide good catechesis for the preparation and celebration of the feast. It was decided that the National Catechetical Office be requested to prepare age appropriate materials for parishes and school communities.
DES Circular 0034/2011 Standardisation of the School Year in respect of Primary & Post Primary Schools for the years 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2103/14 deals with this issue, as well as other school closures from 1 September 2011 to 31 August 2014.
Circular 0034/2011 states standardised school closures Ã¢â‚¬Å“are agreed without prejudice to closure on specific days, subject to the overall requirement of …….183 days at primary level, dictated by religious observance that is required in schools under the patronage of different denominations or faiths.Ã¢â‚¬
Provision is made in circular 0034/2011for the use of discretionary days. However Ã¢â‚¬Å“(t)he scheduling of such days must not be used to extend or modify the periods set out in this circular in respect of mid-term, Christmas or Easter breaks save where religious observance requirements of a school under a particular patronage make this necessary.Ã¢â‚¬
It is therefore possible to remain closed after the Christmas holiday until 7th January 2014 and remain within the requirements of Circular 0034/2011. In this regard Boards of Management should consult with the Patron/Trustees prior to making a decision on whether to open/close on 6th January 2014.