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...