Days of Prayer and Special Observances
Although not exhaustive, the following list includes many common observances promoted by the Holy See and the USCCB. Dates given are those shared with the universal Church except as indicated, where the USCCB has approved alternate dates in the United States for a couple of the special observances.
- May 22 — National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea (USA)
- May 24 — World Day of Prayer for the Church in China
- Seventh Sunday of Easter (variable date in May or June) — World Communications Day
- entire month — Black Catholic History Month
- Thirty–Third Sunday in Ordinary Time — World Day of the Poor
- Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — Global Celebration of Youth and Young Adults (World Youth Day)
Since the Second Vatican Council, the celebration of ember and rogation days continue to exist as ways for the Church "to entreat the Lord for the various needs of humanity" (Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, no. 45), though the scheduling of such days was delegated to Conferences of Bishops. In the United States, that authority rests with each Diocesan Bishop (see General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], no. 373), as they are better able to discern what special intentions need to be prayed for in the respective dioceses and regions. Even as each diocese maintains its list of such special observances, the terminology of ember days and rogation days has shifted to that of "Days of Prayer." The Holy See has also recommended to the universal Church a number of such days, often termed "World Days of Prayer" and frequently promoted by Popes. The USCCB and its committees have offered additional special observances for the United States.
No liturgical texts or requirements are attached to these observances with the exception of the U.S. day of prayer each January 22. However, these important commemorations can certainly be noted in the homily and universal prayer at Mass, and through other community events. Optionally, some of the special observances can be emphasized by drawing from the Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions in the Roman Missal, but those that fall on Sundays of Ordinary Time would require the permission of the Diocesan Bishop for an appropriate Mass (see GIRM, no. 374). On days where an observance coincides with an Optional Memorial or a weekday in Ordinary Time, a celebrant would be free to select a fitting Mass (see GIRM, no. 377), although consideration must be given to the fact that many Days of Prayer are scheduled on days when the daily liturgy is quite appropriate (i.e., World Day of the Sick on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, etc.).