Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This rambling rant of mine

I don't often visit Father Zuhlsdorf's blog, but I happened to be over there yesterday, and I found myself annoyed with a post that is only a couple of sentences long--asking readers if they had made a plan (emphasis Fr. Z's) to get to Mass tomorrow for the Dec. 8 Feast Day.

Now, I'm not really annoyed with Fr. Z. No doubt where he lives there are numerous and generously-provided Holy Day Masses (I grew up in the Midwest, so I remember). But here in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas in the year of our Lord 2010, the scheduling of Holy Day Masses is, and I speak frankly, a joke.

Parishes which have hundreds of families and four, five, or even more Sunday Masses schedule two (or possibly three, in the biggest parishes) Masses for the Holy Day. This year, for some unknown reason, many parishes have dropped their vigil Mass altogether--and they haven't replaced it with an extra Mass on the day, either.

To give an example, the parish we used to attend always has four Sunday Masses--a Saturday vigil, two morning Sunday Masses in English, and a Mass at noon in Spanish. When our former pastor was there, this parish had at least three Holy Day Masses as well (vigil, 8 a.m., and 7 p.m.). However, when we checked the current schedule we found that there would be no vigil Mass, an 8 a.m. Mass--and the evening Mass has been moved to 6 p.m., way too early for people who work a good distance away from the church.

How does a parish which has four Sunday Masses, all of them rather full, accommodate its parishioners by having only two Masses on a Holy Day?

The answer, sadly, I believe, is that they don't really expect people to come. Sure, they stress the word obligation when they announce the schedule, and sure, they'll teach that missing Mass on a Holy Day is just like missing Mass on a Sunday (a grave sin, possibly mortal under the usual conditions)--but actually offer enough Masses at enough different times that people who work for a living might possibly be able to attend? Gosh, why bother, when nobody comes anyway?

At least the diocesan Cathedral offers Masses at times when those who work downtown can make it: 7 a.m., 12:05 p.m., and 7 p.m., all on the Holy Day itself (shift workers may be out of luck, depending on their schedules). But the Cathedral ordinarily has five Sunday Masses, most of them full--so where are the other two Masses?

The point I'm trying to make in this rambling rant of mine is that if Holy Days are just as important and special and obligatory as Sundays are, and if all Catholics under pain of sin must attend one unless excused by illness or some other just reason, then how do so many parishes in our diocese get away with scheduling anywhere from 30% to 50% fewer Masses for a Holy Day than they do for a Sunday?

Yes, Fr. Z., we have a plan to get to Mass. Our one-car family will, as soon as Thad arrives home from work a whole two to three hours earlier than he has been lately (he's been working till 9 or even 10 most nights as the end of the year approaches), dash off for a forty-five minute drive through rush-hour traffic to get to the only church within an hour's drive that is actually having a vigil Mass, thus ensuring that we won't end up missing Mass altogether (as is always possible when we go on the night of the feast day, because all it takes is one last-minute emergency work-related phone call, and we're stuck). And plenty of two-car families are in the same boat, as they review the dwindling Mass times and their work or school schedules in this decidedly non-Catholic country and realize that 8 a.m. is too late for the gainfully employed, and 6 p.m. too early...


Lindsey said...

Diocese of Galveston-Houston, here. I hear what you're saying, though it hasn't really caused me any trouble since I homeschool. My parish has a 9am Mass, as well as a Vigil mass and a 5:00pm. You're right, though--that's 2 masses fewer than a typical Sunday schedule.

I'm assuming that many people who work in the city go to a different parish for Mass on HDOs, closer to their work, on their work route, etc. I know that a few downtown parishes here have 11 or 12pm masses.

When my daughter was in public school, I would just take her in late after the 9am Mass. I didn't really care what they said--they did look at me funny a couple times as I explained the reason for the late arrival, and I did tell the teacher the day before in a note--I figure if that's the only time I can take my kids without serious melt downs, then that's when we're going.

God bless.

eulogos said...

My Eastern rite parish had the "Conception of St. Anne" on the 7th this year???? and had only two daytime liturgies which were impossible with my work schedule.
I have to look at the local Latin rite churches and see what is possible. I think my priest has been told by all the elderly that they don't like to come out at night in the cold. But there are working people still in the parish....does he really want to have nothing but the elderly..grrr, I am annoyed.

Archaeology cat said...

Here Holy Days are just more likely to get moved to Sunday. :-( Today isn't even a Holy Day of Obligation here (England), actually. I admit that I always get annoyed with the "but they won't come anyway" line because the parishes are always absolutely packed on Ash Wednesday, and that isn't a Holy Day of Obligation. Many parishes only have one Mass that day, and it's still packed.

Jennifer said...

I have to agree here in the south as well. I too come from the midwest and enjoyed a very ample mass schedule. Here is disappointing to say the least. Thankfully we homeschool as well and are able to be more flexible.

Patrick said...

The 6pm Mass is really strange to me. People with "normal" work hours will be rushing to get there; people who work late won't be able to get there at all. I guess they figure that if you put it in "prime time", people will go home after work, change into casual clothes, and then skip Mass altogether rather than just come directly from work. It makes sense in a way: once people are home and relaxed, it is more difficult to get them out again (of course, people who skip Mass might re-examine their priorities.) Still: this problem is solved by keeping the 6pm for people coming directly from work and then adding a later time for people who work later or want to avoid "rush hour".

Finally, there is an issue of suburban sprawl here. If people want lots of land and space and big houses, they'll have to accept long drives to Church. The city is less affordable and you get less space; but you can always walk to Mass and are probably within walking distance of several Catholic Churches.

Red Cardigan said...

Patrick, I think the 6pm Mass is partly explained by the charming announcement made at a parish I used to attend by its assistant priest: they were adding a Wed. night daily Mass for working people! Mass would be at 5:30 pm...

I love all good, holy priests and know how hard they work. But somehow many of them (even some of the younger ones!) have picked up some very odd ideas about how families work or what family life involves in the 21st century.

Nowhere was this more clearly illustrated to me than in an online discussion wherein a priest blithely said that most families could indeed afford Catholic school tuition of 5 or 10K per year, if they stopped taking all those expensive vacations and filling their homes with the latest technological luxuries. It reminded me that when the most recent iphone came out, the only people on my Facebook friends list who were eagerly standing in line to buy one were various Catholic priests who had friended me (whom I didn't, personally, know). I ended up removing or hiding most of them; I don't need to know that Father has the latest phone--or that he thinks that our family must have at least two of them, and that's why we can't afford the $25,000/year tuition it would cost us to send our girls to Catholic schools here...

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, one other thing, Patrick: there aren't that many Catholic churches in the Fort Worth diocese anyway--certainly not enough for them to be in walking distance for those who live in the city (and there's very little in-city housing). These southern/southwestern cities tend to "sprawl," too.

Red Cardigan said...

And I just realized that in my first comment it was perhaps unclear that I was speaking of tuitions of 5 to ten thousand dollars per child; our grade schools charge at least 5K, while the only Catholic high school is 10K per year per student.

priest's wife said...

I hear you!...as frustrating as this is- you have an awesome husband to make Mass such a priority!

Patrick said...

"But somehow many of them (even some of the younger ones!) have picked up some very odd ideas about how families work or what family life involves in the 21st century."

The Church would rightly say that it is 21st Century work habits that are out of step rather than the Mass times. Better to plan life around Mass times than plan Mass times around life: especially a life overburdened by the too-much-Protestantism work habits (long hours, away from family, all focus on private profit regardless of whether the product is shoddily made/against the public good.)

That isn't to say the Church shouldn't *try* to make things convenient - and I'm surprised the parish committees don't tell the priest "5:30pm on a weekday, Father? Seriously?" It's just that the Mass is theoretically more important than the workaday world, and I'm glad the Church doesn't concede anything *in principle* to the 21st Century.

Red: I'm sure your kids are *much* better off with you as a teacher than with any alternative. But right: $25K a year is ridiculous for even the upper-middle class - which means the "indelible mark" doesn't give anyone amazing financial insight.

Dallas/Ft. Worth - yeah, they're sprawled cities that you can't walk around in. I had a layover in the D and asked a fellow if there was a bar within walking distance and he looked at me like I was a nut. Everything is so spread out. But that is what I mean: unless people are willing to pack themselves into cities with small houses, small yards and whatever, then a lot of their time is chewed up driving: and that isn't necessarily a problem with insensitive clergy: more a problem with people who want the big yard, the big house, the big everything (Texas!) and then are irritated by the commute it requires ever to go somewhere.

It's a dead issue, though, you're right. We'll never accept small houses, yards, and close neighbors - especially in Texas.

The Sicilian said...

The Masses at my parish are as follows: None on Monday, 5:30pm on Tuesday, 7am on Wednesday and
Thursday, and 8:30am on Friday (the last one accommodating the children at the parish school).

Since yesterday was the Vigil Mass, it moved from 5:30pm to 7pm. There are also three Masses today - one at 8:30am (moved from 7am to accommodate the children at the parish school), one at 6pm, and then one in Spanish at 7:30pm.

There are two other parishes within 5 miles or so of mine, so if someone can't make ours, I'm sure they can probably make it to one of the others, and in fact, Fr. usually lets the parishioners know of their options of Masses scheduled nearby.

With respect to Erin's comment about priests being out of touch with family finances and work commitments, I agree (my sister, who struggled to afford Catholic school for her kids, minus expensive vacations and other luxuries), to a point. The other side of the shoe - particularly with all ways in which priests minister to their parishes - is how thinly stretched some priests are and I think they do the best they can. Certainly, our lone parish priest does in his service to 2000 (up from 1100 when he started here) in the parish, and that does not include his service to others in the county who request his services, including those Protestants in the hospital who ask for his prayers (and he obliges) when he's there in his role as Catholic chaplain.

Red Cardigan said...

Priest's wife: agreed! Thad is a wonderful Catholic husband who always helps with the "getting everyone to Mass" responsibility.

Patrick, like most families we have a choice: deal with the reality that employers expect 24/7 availability and insane hours, or become unemployed. We don't live in a Catholic country, sadly enough.

Oh, and my house is less than 2000 square feet on a postage-stamped-sized yard (but property taxes are 3K per year and rising); if my neighbors and I both have our kitchen windows open at the same time we can have a pleasant conversation without shouting, and can only just barely *not* hand each other a cup of sugar or something. :)

It's not all McMansions and luxury around here, you know. ;)

MightyMighty said...

Question for Patrick (or anyone who wants to answer it). I don't get this:
"life overburdened by the too-much-Protestantism work habits (long hours, away from family, all focus on private profit regardless of whether the product is shoddily made/against the public good.)"

How do Protestant work habits= long hours, away from family, all focus on profit, no ethics in production?

I've only ever heard that attributed to capitalism/America. Do Catholics run their businesses differently? (Obviously they should. Do they?)

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

God willing when I get ordained, the Sunday Schedule will also be the Holy Day schedule

Patrick said...

@ MightyMighty:

This would take many more words than are allowed in the comments section of a blog. I'll do my best to get at the idea - but honestly, this won't be the scholarly approach I would like to take. Surely you've heard of the "Protestant work ethic" though? Weber? That'd be where I'd start.

"I've only ever heard that attributed to capitalism/America."

Yeah; but "capitalism" and "America" are Protestant-heavy things. Capitalism was begun by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers and those people were a bunch of Calvinists. Calvinism denies free will in favor of predestination. And it degenerates into a one-man Magesterium where everyone determines their own course without reference to the "common good." In that case, you could see why you get rather quickly to private gain as very important and - given predestination - the idea that the wealthy are simply that way because God wants it so. And of course, since works don't matter at all (predestination), it isn't important to do your work as an offering to God - it's becomes only important to make a profit. That is a very unsubtle and not-quite-theologically-true summary, I know. But this isn't the best forum for this. Read Hilaire Belloc's "The Servile State" or "the Great Heresies" Protestant section to get a better idea.

Of course, America is also a Protestant-heavy place where people have the "Protestant work ethic".

Go to a Catholic country like Mexico and you'll see what I mean. People work fewer hours and have more festivals. They don't have as much disposable income, but they do have larger families and generally work with their family instead of commuting somewhere. You really won't see this in American Catholicism, which to me looks a lot like "Protestantism with Confession and Incense".

"Do Catholics run their businesses differently?"

I doubt it; at least not in America. In my opinion, American Catholicism looks a lot like a fancy version of Protestanism. I don't like it, but there it is. American Catholics have "integrated" and adopted Protestant habits, at least here. You hear a lot of Catholic talk about gay sex: but how much Catholic talk do you hear about usurious lending or the previous popes' encyclicals on the problems of capitalism? How often do you hear *anyone* criticize capitalism outside of a token Marxist professor on a college campus? Never. And so American Catholics have sadly adopted Protestant moral ordering - talking a great deal about sins of the flesh (which are, indeed, sinful) while never talking about avarice, envy, and the things that underpin the whole U.S. economy.

This is an unscholarly rant, and I would "flesh out" the ideas if I had either the space or the forum. I hope it helps get at the idea, though.

MightyMighty said...

Okay, I get it now. Thanks!

Alice said...

Joe of St. Therese,
I really hope you rethink that if you are ever ordained. It works when Mary the Mother of God is a holyday, but if you really think that an 8, 10, and 4:30 (the Sunday Mass schedule at the parish my family attends) is going to give working people a chance to fulfill their holyday obligation, you're a bit out of touch with the world.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Alice, not every parish has the same Sunday schedule, the parish that I attend has 6 Masses on Sunday, and that's what I'd do for Holy Days :)

Holy Days of Obligation are full Solemnities in the strictest sense. So they should be treated as a Sunday according to Church Law.

If a parish has only 3 Masses on a Sunday, obviously I'd add more to accommodate the situation. :)

Onepony2002 said...

When my parish has 5 masses on Sunday and one on a High Day of Obligation, it definitely shouts the message, "come if you feel like it". Adding masses would help, but it is going to take some re-education to convince people that attendance is important.