Monday, August 18, 2014

Hardly anyone came

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.


Heather Ricco said...

We're very lucky where we live. Our church community is large and young, and our pastor set the Holy Day mass time for 7:30pm (the other was at 8:00 in the morning). This meant that we had a lot of people at mass that evening (the parking lot was almost completely full). We've lived in places though, were the mass time was 5:00 or 5:30, so we know that kind of pain.

Jacque said...

Erin, I thik you have a good grasp on what's happening on HDO's . I would caution anyone who thinks that more seating will make mass times more friendly to working people, if aanything it's going to give less choices.
I will say this, just having someone anounce from the ambo that this date is a HDO will not bring the people to mass. The priest, and the people need to believe these days are important . It's going to take some renewal of love for our Holy Catholic faith before that will happen .
We have got to stop thinking of these days as obligation, and start viewing them as privilege. I'll bet those Christians in Iraq would consider it so. I'm one of the worst offenders here so dont think I am pointing fingers.

Deirdre Mundy said...

We were on the road and hit the noon Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. It was crowded, but not full to the brim. There were visitors from all over the world there, and the music was awesome since it was the EWTN Mass for the day.

My kids were impressed that Catholics from all over the country worked together in the 50s to raise money for the Shrine... and that the result was so wonderful.

I don't think we could do that today-- there's no longer a cohesive Catholic culture.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure what our Friday 7pm mass looked like. I know that our 7pm Thursday Vigil mass was supposed to be packed (we tend to have a very nice crowd at Holy Day masses, especially at anything Marian).

Likewise, both* of our daily masses on Friday morning, 6:45am and 9am, were full -- 9am was standing room only. I was lector at the 6:45am one and saw the tail end of the 9am, since the later Friday daily mass leads right into our Eucharistic Adoration, which I came back to attend the first hour of.

Mind you, this is a suburban upper-middle class "Neo-Catholic" parish too, so I imagine that it has to be a good sign of how to get folks in (the HDO was discussed from the ambo and chair announcements over the two weeks prior on nearly a daily basis so that no one would miss the details!)...

--Brian (NJ)

(*We have a large professional population of daily mass-goers at our parish, many of whom have long commutes, so we long ago started having two daily masses to make it easier for as many as possible to come -- both those who need to go before heading in and those parents and such who want a mass after buses bring kids to school. The other result is that we have a large number of Sunday regulars from other local parishes who are daily regulars are our due to the schedule.)

Abigail said...

I am so with you! I took 5 kids to Mass at 7 PM --and spent the night walking the outside church grounds with a crabby 2 and 4 year old (while being 8 months pregnant) because there was not another good option for Mass on a Holiday Day.

It's really hard. 7 PM is not a good time to take young kids to Mass. 7 PM is not a good time for Pregnant women with swollen ankles and tired bodies to be at Mass.

It's so hard. I feel like I'm doing my job in my vocation as a married women--but so often it feels like the priest and Church administration won't even meet me a quarter of the way!

The same thing for Confession. I want to go to Confession every two weeks. (I'm pregnant! I need to say "sorry to God" often for being short-tempered). Yet 4 PM on a Saturday is the worse time for me. That's right in the middle of "family time." 8 AM Sat confession after Mass would be great, or 9 PM after the kids are in bed.

In Washington DC, our Cardinal made all the churches open for Confession from 6:30 to 8:30 PM every Wednesday during Lent.It was awesome! Tons of people came out for Confession.

That's what I wish more priest would realized. I don't live in Spain! My husband doesn't have the day off for Holy Days of Obligation. I don't have a sweet mother who is happy to go to 6 AM Mass, and then watch my kids for free so I can go later.

Even as a stay-at-home Mom, it's is a project to get to Mass on a weekday--Even when it's required and even when I really, really want to go to show respect to Our Lady.

I could use some help. But --ugh--otherwise it's just part of the cross of living in modern American culture.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Even in the secular sense, I think there should be holidays when everything stops, when Wal-Mart and Walgreen's and the grocery stores don't get to mandate employees come to work because everyone gets to relax and spend the days with their family and if someone forgot to buy something to eat, too bad, or you can pay the prices at the corner store run by a family who work all day every day because they choose to.

But as far as religious obligations are concerned, I don't think it should be too difficult to legislate something akin to the school policy approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in Zorach v. Clauson. Basically, public schools may not promote religious observance, but may close or release students from class to accommodate it.

No reason commerce shouldn't do the same. The difficulty will be groups like Summum who step up and announce that the first Monday, second Tuesday, third Wednesday, fourth Thursday, and the fifth Friday of the month if there is one, are high holy days when they individually sit at home, or at the beach, meditating on the Seven Aphorims while enjoying prime rib.

I believe even federal district judges could understand a nuance like "...well established religious obligations practiced by a substantial body of adherents, which have been faithfully and consistently observed by a recognizable institution for a period of at least 150 years." (Two hundred years might exclude the Mormons).

This would make diversity in a local population popular, since Jews could work on Friday and Sunday, Christians on Friday and Saturday, Muslims on Saturday and Sunday, then divvy up the rest.