Celebrating the Ascension

11 May

In conversation this past Monday with some of the staff at the retreat center, I learned that not everyone celebrates the Ascension on the same day.  I have grown up celebrating the Holy Dayof Obligation on Sunday.  Here, they were talking about how it is celebrated on Thursday.  This intrigued me and I sent a message to my dad to see what he knew about it.  In an e-mail reply, this is the information he found on it.

The Feast of the Ascension remains a Holy Day of Obligation throughout the United States. The day on which it is celebrated, however, varies. The 40th day after Easter Sunday is always a Thursday, and the feast has traditionally been celebrated on that Thursday. However, because attendance at Ascension Thursday Masses had been falling for years, the bishops of the United States, in accordance with canon law, petitioned the Vatican to allow the celebration to be transferred to the following Sunday.

The Vatican agreed. Today, only the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Omaha (the state of Nebraska) continue to celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord on Thursday. The faithful in those provinces (an ecclesiastical province is basically one large archdiocese and the dioceses that are historically associated with it) are required, under the Precepts of the Church, to attend Mass on Ascension Thursday.

In the rest of the dioceses of the United States, the celebration of the Ascension has been transferred to the following Sunday (the 43rd day after Easter). That does not mean, however, that the Ascension is no longer a Holy Day of Obligation in those dioceses. Under the Precepts of the Church, every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation.

My next step was to figure out what ecclesiastical province that I am currently in.  As it may be, I am in the ecclesiastical province of Newark, which covers the Diocese of Camden that the retreat center is in.  So now with this information, I must remember to get up early to go to mass with the brothers in our small chapel at the center!  I hope this information is insightful and interesting to you!


Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to “Celebrating the Ascension

  1. Sr. Colleen Clair, FMA

    May 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

    This was very insightful! In addition, this year, Thursday, May 13 is also the feast of our co-foundress, St. Mary Mazzarello…so happy feast day!

  2. Christian

    May 11, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I teach the Ascension in 6th Grade. I use the 40 days as a prelude. During that period, Jesus, now with his resurrected body, flits in and out of our sinful world…he’s already mostly in heaven, belongs there, but he occasionally lingers here long enough to get the Apostles oriented toward their future roles as founders of the visible church. When the 40 days are understood as a transition period for Jesus, the Ascension is more the logical conclusion of a process rather than an abrupt blip.

    • Ash

      May 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks for the comment! My goal basically was figuring out what day is the Holy Day of Obligation, as it is different where I am now compared to where I have lived my whole life. I never knew this thing with the church allowing the day it is celebrated on to be changed.

      • Christian

        May 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm

        Yes, moving the dates to a more ‘convenient’ Sunday is up to the local bishop(s), I believe.

        Re my comment, I’d prefer to say “abrupt departure.”


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