The latest possible date for Ash Wednesday is March 10th and the earliest possible date for Pentecost is May 10th. Besides the movable feasts, is there any indication that the Catholic Church places those feasts inside of these seasons for specific reasons?

For instance, the Solemnity of St. Joseph is March 19th, this date is always in Lent (although the feast may be transferred to Easter), yet it is a Holy Day of Obligation in many places, (generally means it is equivalent with a Sunday in saying "you need to go to Church today"). Is it, and other feasts, placed inside Lent or Easter to further the purposes that their respective seasons seek to celebrate?

  • Just if what are placed in Lent or Eastertide? This seems to me (as a relative newbie here, admittedly) to be not constructive as too vague to answer, or can be answered by general reference. For example, the origin of St Joseph on 19 March is lost in antiquity -- apparently it first appeared c804. Other saints' days are generally their date of death, as I'm sure you're aware. What are you actually asking? Apr 18, 2012 at 19:23
  • Is there any relevance to whether a feast is a Holy Day of Obligation? For the particular one you mentioned, it's not a Day of Obligation in Canada and I can't find any mention of it being one in the US. e.g. beginningcatholic.com/catholic-holy-days-of-obligation.html and catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/tp/… Apr 18, 2012 at 19:34
  • @Andrew I was doing research for my most recent blog post and I got an inkling that there were more early church saints in Eastertide, but it didn't seem to make any sense. I'm specifically talking about the feast days of the old saints, like St. Joseph. But yeah, this is a bit vague. If there's no answer I can delete the question.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 18, 2012 at 20:07
  • @ward It's a day of obligation recognized in Spain and in the universal church. It's up to the local bishops to decide whether it'll be "suppressed" or not.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 18, 2012 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


It has to do with, as with the Orthodox, the position of Easter (Pascha) which is a reflection of the calculation of the Passover prior to Pentecost.

Given the common tradition in both Rome and the East on this, at least for Ash Wednesday and Pentecost, it has all to do with their positions vis a vis Easter. It says the 'last possible' or 'first possible' because - lets say Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday in the week seven weeks before Easter - since Easter cannot be earlier than a certain date, nor can Ash Wednesday. The same logic follows for Pentecost, which is - going back before Christ - the fifty-day after Passover celebration.

As for St. Joseph's solemnity I can't say, I don't know the history (this feast is not in Orthodoxy.) Generally the explanation for any fixed feast (which can either be fixed against the date of Easter or the date of the First of the Year) is entirely historical.

Inclusion of feasts specifically in Lent, as for instance in our tradition, The Sunday of Orthodoxy, or the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, has much to do with the catechetical, ascetical character of Lent itself and special lenten tide feasts reflect that.

Annunciation on the other hand, sometimes in the Old Calendar can occur ON EASTER. This is called Kyriepascha, and you can't move Annunciation or Pascha. So you DO ALL THE PRAYERS. Which means all the texts specific to each feast are done, and considering how strange Pascha is structured, it's a crazy service!

  • 1
    This doesn't happen in the Roman Church. If Easter is as early as possible, St Joseph can fall on Maundy Thursday and the Annunciation in Easter Week. Both are transferred, St Joseph to the second Monday in Eastertide and the Annunciation to the day after. Apr 19, 2012 at 16:38
  • It can't happen in the New Calendar either; it's just a feature of the Old Calendar. How old this feature is I'm not certain of, but I'd imagine it's not pre-first millennium. I
    – user304
    Apr 19, 2012 at 16:41
  • Thanks, yeah, you're 4th paragraph was what I was getting at and what I wanted to know (specifically for the Latin church, but that's OK). I didn't realize that St. Joseph's day might be in Easter, thanks Andrew.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 19, 2012 at 17:10

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