What is the Liturgical Calendar?
The Liturgical Calendar begins every year during the month of November on the First Sunday of Advent and runs through to the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The "Lectionary," the Mass readings from the Holy Bible, follows a Sunday cycle and a weekday cycle. The Liturgical Calendar follows a three-year cycle, each year being represented by the letters, A, B, and C. During the year A cycle, the Gospel of Matthew is the primary Gospel that is used for the readings. In year B, Mark is the primary Gospel. In year C, Luke is the primary Gospel. The Gospel of John is proclaimed on particular Sundays in each of the years.
In each cycle of the Liturgical Calendar, you will find six Seasons:
- Ordinary Time
During the year, in addition to the Sunday worship, the Church also celebrates Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials, which may be on any day of the week. These occur during the year to commemorate special events or persons that are highly revered by the Catholic Church.
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Advent is the Season that includes four Sundays preceding Christmas. The Advent Season marks the beginning of the Liturgical Calendar. It always begins in late November or early December. On November 30th or on the Sunday that is the closest to this date, the Catholic Church begins the Liturgical Season of Advent. Advent ends on December 24th before the evening prayer of Christmas.View the Full Liturgical Calendar »
Christmas (December 25th)
Christmas is the season when Catholics and other Christian Churches give thanks to God the Father for the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. This Season lasts 12 days, beginning on Christmas Eve (December 24th) and continues to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1st)
The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast is a celebration of Mary's motherhood of Jesus.
Epiphany (January 6th)
Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. The feast commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
Baptism of the Lord
The Baptism of the Lord commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. The feast marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. On the following day the season of ordinary time begins.
Lent is a 40-day Liturgical Season that initiates the most sacred part of the Christian year. It begins on Ash Wednesday, covers six Sundays, and ends at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday. During Lent, Catholics are called to meditate with awe and thanksgiving on the great Paschal mystery, the salvation God offers to us sinners through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The season of Lent is a highlight in the Catholic calendar.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the 6 Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter and can fall as early as February 4th or as late as March 10th. According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.
Palm Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four Gospels. In many parishes, Palm Sunday includes a procession of the parishioners carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
Triduum is Latin for “Great Three Days.” The Easter Triduum recalls the events of the First Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. The liturgy held on the evening of Holy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. Good Friday is a widely-instituted legal holiday in many national governments around the world, including in most Western countries as well as in 12 U.S. states.
Holy Saturday is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus Christ's body lay in the tomb. On this day, the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows is assigned the title Our Lady of Solitude, referring to her solace and grief at the death of her son Jesus.
Easter is the greatest Feast of the liturgical year, the climax and center of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. It celebrates the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus at the Masses. The day of Easter, which varies from year to year, is celebrated on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the day in Spring when there is a 12-hour day and a 12-hour night (March 20). (The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325) Easter can be as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th. The Easter Season begins with the celebration of the Easter Vigil on Easter Sunday and ends 50 days later with Pentecost Sunday.
Ascension of the Lord
The Ascension of Our Lord, which occurs 40 days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter, celebrates the resurrected Jesus being taken up to Heaven in his resurrected body, in the presence of eleven of his apostles.
Pentecost is held on the seventh Sunday after Easter and celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after His Ascension, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost is sometimes described as the "Birthday of the Church."
Trinity Sunday is the Sunday after Pentecost. Trinity Sunday celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Sundays following Pentecost, until Advent, are numbered from this day.
Ordinary Time begins with the Monday that immediately follows the Baptism of the Lord. It ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. During this part of the Liturgical Calendar, all the Sundays are numbered consecutively. During this time frame, the Liturgy of the Word is devoted to the mysteries surrounding the life of Christ. Ordinary Time is the liturgical period outside of the other liturgical seasons, and runs 33 or 34 weeks.
Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd)
The Presentation of the Lord Jesus at the Temple falls on February 2nd and celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. The feast celebrates the presentation of Christ in the temple at Jerusalem on the 40th day after His birth.
Annunciation of the Lord (March 25th)
The Annunciation of the Lord celebrates the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. The Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord is celebrated on March 25th, nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus.
Corpus Christi Sunday
The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ), also known as Corpus Domini, celebrates the tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and his Real Presence in the Eucharist.
Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates Jesus Christ's physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century making it one of the most widely practiced and well-known Roman Catholic devotions.
Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29th)
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is a liturgical feast day in honor of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and is observed on June 29th. According to tradition, the date selected is believed to be either the anniversary of their death or of the translation of their relics.
Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6th)
The Transfiguration of the Lord is a feast that commemorates the transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, when He appeared in His divine glory before the Apostles Peter, James, and John.
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated every year on August 15th and commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin's passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts and a Holy Day of Obligation.
Triumph of the Cross (September 14th)
One symbol most often identified with Jesus Christ is the cross. The Triumph of the Cross is celebrated every year on September 14th and celebrates three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena; the dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius II. The feast also celebrates the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation.
Feast of St. Jude and St. Simon (October 28th)
The Church celebrates the feast of St. Jude and St. Simon on October 28th. St. Jude and St. Simon names’ occur together in the Canon of the Mass. They both preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and Persia where it is said they had both been sent, but we know nothing for certain about them beyond their roles as Apostles in the New Testament. St. Jude is the author of a short Epistle which forms part of the New Testament.
All Saints' Day (November 1st)
All Saints' Day is a solemnity celebrated on November 1st in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of October 31st and ends at the close of November 1st. All Saints' Day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. The liturgical color is white on All Saints' Day.
All Souls' Day (November 2nd)
All Souls' Day is a day of prayer for the dead, particularly one's relatives. The celebration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins and from attachment to mortal sins cannot immediately attain the beatific vision in heaven, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass. The official name of the celebration in the Roman Rite liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church is "The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed." Another popular name is Feast of All Souls'. In some other languages the celebration is known as Day of the Dead.
Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica (November 9th)
The feast celebrates the Dedication of the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, the oldest and highest ranking of the four major basilicas in Rome. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, the official ecclesiastical seat of the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome. The Basilica is also called the Church of Holy Savior or the Church of St. John Baptist. In ancient Rome this was the church where everyone was baptized. It is the oldest church in the West, built in the time of Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324.
Christ the King
Christ the King Sunday celebrates the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the cosmos. Officially called the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, it is celebrated on the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent. The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the western liturgical calendar, having been instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (December 8th)
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary's conception without sin. It is a uniquely Catholic celebration. It is universally celebrated on December 8th, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Mary, which is celebrated on September 8th. It is one of the most important Marian feasts celebrated in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Holy Family
The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the human family unit, as well as the ultimate family unit: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The feast, not a solemnity, is usually celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. If Christmas is a Sunday, then the feast is celebrated on December 30th. The Feast honors Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The primary purpose of this feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families.
St. Joseph (May 1st)
The Feast of St. Joseph honors the foster-father of Jesus. He is the patron saint of fathers, families, workers, and the Church. His main celebration falls on March 19th. St. Joseph the Worker is celebrated on May 1st.
St. Anthony of Padua (June 13th)
Saint Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, into a noble and religious family. Saint Anthony was a profound theologian. Many miracles have been attributed to Saint Anthony, most of them taking place in Padua. Saint Anthony of Padua is venerated today as one of the greatest Franciscan Saints. He is typically depicted with a book and the Infant Child Jesus, to whom He miraculously appeared, and is commonly referred to today as the "finder of lost articles."