I’m short on time today, but I wanted to put up a brief follow-up post to the Holy Day rant post that appears below this one.
We went to the 7 p.m. Mass in the main church of our parish. The church building itself is tiny and parking is sparse (there is a capital campaign well underway raising the funds for the new church, and the new building looks like it will be lovely). We went prepared to encounter crowds or even to sit in the “overflow” area which is sometimes used on Sundays, because the church is often too crowded on Sundays to hold everyone who comes to Mass.
Bear in mind that there are usually five Sunday Masses at this church (including the Saturday vigil). Even with that many Masses it is necessary to accommodate overflow crowds. But for the Holy Day there were only two Masses, one at 8 a.m., and this other one at 7.
We expected crowds. But hardly anyone came.
There were a sprinkling of elderly couples. There were a couple of families besides ours. There were a few people who dashed in, probably just barely getting away from work, after Mass had begun. But that was all.
There were plenty of empty benches. There was a lot of available seating. This church which never has enough space for its Sunday attendees was nearly empty.
Two Masses. And hardly anyone came.
I’m going to be thinking and writing about this a bit more in the future, but for now, I have this suspicion in mind.
My suspicion is that the priests see the emptiness of their churches on Holy Days and think: Why should I bother scheduling any more Masses? Hardly anyone comes to the Masses I do have on Holy Days. Why should I try to get another priest here, or get permission to say more than two Masses, or do anything else of that nature? No matter how hard I try, the lay people don’t take their Holy Day obligation seriously.
But the lay people look at the schedule--two Masses, one impossible for working people and the other merely mostly impossible for families with two working adults and kids in school or daycare (that is, the majority of Catholic families in America)--and think: Why should I bother trying to get to Mass on this Holy Day? If it were really important, there would be a Mass I could attend without being over an hour late to work in the morning, or without having to leave work an hour early in order to collect the kids from school/daycare/the sitter and still have time to get to church. (And that’s before we even consider that the mom who leaves work at 6 and gets to the sitter by 6:30 may have open revolt on her hands if she tells the kids they’re going to head straight to church and be there until 8 p.m. before any dinner will be possible.)
We don’t live in a Catholic country. Holy Days don’t get treated like Sundays here. In some Catholic countries stores and businesses close altogether or have “Sunday hours” on Holy Days. Catholics in America can’t even imagine what that must be like.
And because we don’t live in a Catholic country, because Holy Days aren’t treated like Sundays, most Catholics have to go to work or school as usual on Holy Days of Obligation. Children who attend Catholic schools will get the opportunity to go to Mass, but other Catholic children will not. Diocesan employees can likely get to Mass quite easily on Holy Days, but the vast majority of workers will not be so lucky.
Something about this needs to change.