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Holy Days of Obligation

Mary Mother of God – January 1
While this feast day is a relatively new addition to the calendar, the celebration and belief in Mary as the mother of God is not new. The Catholic Church has always believed in the divine motherhood of Mary, and when this was challenged in the 5th century, a council was convened to determine the issue. They declared definitively that it was a matter of faith that Mary was indeed the mother of God. This is a great feast day to reflect on Mary's mission and on her motherhood of all of us. Not only has she been blessed as the mother of God, but she is now our mother, given to us by Christ Himself. It is comforting to know that we have a mother in Heaven to intercede for us.

The Ascension – Thursday after the sixth week of Easter
The Ascension commemorates an event in the Bible, as related in the gospels, when Jesus, forty days after His resurrection, ascended to Heaven and left this earth until His second coming. This is an important feast in the Church's life because it foreshadows the end of each of our lives and where we want to go after life is over. After His death and resurrection, Christ returned to Heaven at the Ascension. This event gives us hope that if we live a good life, we too will reach Heaven along with Christ.

Assumption of Mary – August 15
The Assumption is a feast to celebrate Mary. It particularly celebrates the taking of her body and soul to Heaven. Although this was only declared to be a dogma in 1950, it has been believed for many, many centuries, particularly in the eastern church. The assumption is not spoken of in the Bible, but it has been handed down to us through Sacred Tradition and also makes a lot of sense. Mary was the temple of Jesus, carrying Him in her womb for nine months. Her body was sacred even more than the typical dignity and sacredness of every human body. Since her body had carried God, it makes sense that God would not want it to decay like our bodies, and so He brought it to Heaven and re-united her soul and body.

All Saints Day – November 1
All Saints Day is a special day to celebrate, remember and pray to all those who have reached Heaven already. Throughout the year, the Church celebrates various saints on each day, but the saints that are thus individually remembered are just a small portion of the entire number of persons in Heaven. There is no way we can know, on earth, the identity of every person in Heaven, so the Church sets aside this one day every year to remember all the saints. This feast day should be a great source of inspiration for us. Many of the unknown saints that are celebrated are common men and women who humbly lived their lives in accordance with God's will and who never were celebrated or noticed enough to be canonized. Even though we don't know the details of these lives, it should be encouragement to continue to live a good life, so that each one of us will also reach Heaven. Whether any person is officially recognized as a saint by the Church is not important; reaching Heaven is important.

Immaculate Conception – December 8
The Immaculate Conception is another celebration of Mary. It commemorates the fact that when she was conceived in the womb of her mother St. Anne, she was free from all sin, including original sin, and was full of grace. This was declared to be a dogma of the Church in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. This is not to say that Mary did not need to be redeemed by Christ. She did. Rather, God wanted no sin to ever have touched her soul because she was to be the mother of God, so he gave her grace on the basis of the future death and redemption of Christ on the cross. Once again there is no explicit mention of this fact in the Bible, but Sacred Tradition attests to its truth. The feast has been celebrated in various parts of the world for many hundreds of years.

Christmas – December 25
The feast of Christmas is widely known and celebrated, although it is not always celebrated for the correct reasons. On this feast we should concentrate on what it commemorates: the birth of Christ. This is such an important day because without His birth, redemption and the hope for salvation would not have happened. While giving gifts to others is a wonderful way to express our love for them, we should also try to give gifts to Christ, not physical things but a closer relationship to Him and trying to live a life pleasing to Him.