Goffine’s Devout Instructions – Feasts and Holy-Days

What are feasts and holy-days?

Days on which the Church celebrates either certain mysteries of religion, or some passage in the life of Our Lord, or the memory of the saints.

Why has the Church established these holy-days?

She has instituted the feasts of Our Lord that we may be led to remember God’s love and mercy toward us; to meditate upon the mysteries, truths, and benefits of the Christian religion; and to contemplate Jesus as the perfect pattern of a Christian life. On the feasts of the saints our minds are directed to those heroes of Christianity, that we may keep in veneration the lives of the friends of God, and be encouraged to imitate their example.

Has the Church authority to establish holy-days?

Certainly; for the power which Jesus Christ gave to His apostles and their successors to bind and to loose upon earth includes the power to make laws and regulations for the salvation of the faithful. There is warrant for it, too, in the Old Law, for under that dispensation the Jews celebrated the Pasch, or Easter, to commemorate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage; Pentecost to thank God for the Ten Commandments of the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai; the feast of Tabernacles in commemoration of the forty years’ journeying through the wilderness.

Which are the holy-days of obligation?

The Circumcision of Our Lord, Ascension Day, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, All Saints’ Day, the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.

What are fast-days?

Those days on which we are allowed but one full meal, in order to present to God a sacrifice of mortification.

Which are fast-days and which days of abstinence?

Those days on which it is permitted to eat but one full meal are fast-days of obligation. Days on which we are forbidden to eat flesh-meat, but are allowed the usual number of meals, are days of abstinence.

Why has the Church appointed fast-days?

In order that her children should, by fasting, mortify the flesh, and overcome sensual inclinations; that by doing penance they should make satisfaction for sin and become reconciled to God; that they should become more fervent in prayer; that by conquering their lusts they should gain greater strength for God’s service; that by denying themselves they should have more for the poor; and that by despising worldly pleasures they should learn to desire only the things of heaven.

Which are the principal fast-days?

1. The forty days of Lent.
2. The ember-days.
3. The vigils or eves of festivals.
4. The Fridays of Advent.

What are the ember-days?

Days instituted to thank God, each season of the year, for the benefits received during that season, and to remind the faithful, each quarter of the year, of the duty of penance; also to pray to God for deserving priests, for on those days the ordination of priests usually takes place.

What are vigils?

The vigils are the days before the feasts. The name means watch, and is taken from the watch-night of the Christians of the first century, who used to pass the night before a feast in the church, with prayer, praise, and fasting. Later this preparation was carried on during the day, instead of the night, and the day was made a fast-day.

Why does the Church command us to abstain from fiesh-meat on Friday?

The Church commands us to abstain from flesh-meat on Friday in honor of the day on which Our Saviour died for us.

How does the Church sanctify week-days?

By commemorating on each week-day some divine benefit or the memory of some saint, and by providing for the offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, that whosoever can attend may do so. Every Catholic, therefore, ought each day meditate upon some divine truths; hear Mass, if in his power; and without fail say his morning and evening prayers devoutly, that he may be strengthened to perform his daily labors in a manner pleasing to God, and patiently suffer the trials of life, while through all he ascends from virtue to virtue.

– Goffine’s Devout Instructions