Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

( Latin for "free day").

A day on which the people, especially the slaves, were not obliged to work, and on which there were no court sessions. In ancient Roman times the feriae publicae , legal holidays, were either stativae , recurring regularly (e.g. the Saturnalia), conceptivae , i.e. movable, or imperativae , i.e. appointed for special occasions. When Christianity spread, the feriae were ordered for religious rest, to celebrate the feasts instituted for worship by the Church. The faithful were obliged on those days to attend Mass in their parish church; such assemblies gradually led to mercantile enterprise, partly from necessity and partly for the sake of convenience. This custom in time introduced those market gatherings which the Germans call Messen , and the English call fairs. They were fixed on saints' days (e.g. St. Barr's fair, St. Germanus's fair, St. Wenn's fair, etc.)

Today the term feria is used to denote the days of the week with the exception of Sunday and Saturday. Various reasons are given for this terminology. The Roman Breviary , in the sixth lesson for 31 Dec., says that Pope St. Silvester ordered the continuance of the already existing custom "that the clergy, daily abstaining from earthly cares, would be free to serve God alone". Others believe that the Church simply Christianized a Jewish practice. The Jews frequently counted the days from their Sabbath, and so we find in the Gospels such expressions as una Sabbati and prima Sabbati , the first from the Sabbath. The early Christians reckoned the days after Easter in this fashion, but, since all the days of Easter week were holy days, they called Easter Monday, not the first day after Easter, but the second feria or feast day ; and since every Sunday is the dies Dominica , a lesser Easter day, the custom prevailed to call each Monday a feria secunda , and so on for the rest of the week.

The ecclesiastical style of naming the week days was adopted by no nation except the Portuguese who alone use the terms Segunda Feria etc. The old use of the word feria , for feast day , is lost, except in the derivative feriatio , which is equivalent to our of obligation. Today those days are called ferial upon which no feast is celebrated. Feriae are either major or minor . The major, which must have at least a commemoration, even on the highest feasts, are the feriae of Advent and Lent, the Ember days, and the Monday of Rogation week; the others are called minor. Of the major feriae Ash Wednesday and the days of Holy Week are privileged so that their office must be taken, no matter what feast may occur.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Samuel 1:24-28
24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, ... Read More

Psalm, First Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8
1 Hannah then prayed as follows: My heart exults in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:46-56
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Chaeromon
December 22: Bishop of Nilopolis, in Egypt. When the persecution was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter