Thursday, August 14, 2014

My usual Holy Day rant

Tomorrow, as you no doubt already know, is the Feast of the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation.  Which means that you have the same obligation to attend Mass as you would on a Sunday--that is, you must attend Mass unless excused for a serious reason (such as illness or the care of children).

And it’s also time for my usual Holy Day Rant.

Here in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, the number of Masses scheduled for Holy Days of Obligation have been shrinking.  It used to be that the average in parishes near me was three Masses on a Holy Day--even if the parish had four, five, or more Masses on Sunday (including the Saturday vigil), there were three Masses for a Holy Day.  I don’t know why.

But then, something changed!  The vigil Masses were removed.  Most of the parishes near where I live no longer have a vigil Mass for any Holy Days of Obligation.

So the pastors must have decided to put all three Masses on the Holy Day itself, right?

Wrong!  (You silly person--that would have made some kind of sense!)  What the pastors apparently decided en masse to do is--wait for it--cut the number of Holy Day Masses down to two.  TWO.  2.  Dos, for my Spanish-speaking friends.

So, yes,  many parishes in my area that have three, four, five or more Sunday Masses each weekend now have two Masses for Holy Days.  And, to add insult to injury, the vast majority of those Masses are either at 8 a.m. or somewhere between 6:30 and 7 p.m.  No really early morning Masses, no noon Masses except for a couple near the downtown area (pretty impossible for workers 45 minutes in traffic to the north to make during the workday).  Of course, if you look at it seems like there are still vigil Masses and Masses other than 8 a.m. and 7 p.m, but I know from having called those parishes before that most of them don’t actually have those vigils or other Mass times available anymore.  It’s like a secret memo went out to the pastors of the Fort Worth diocese telling them to end the practice of having vigil Masses for feast days and also hinting that 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. would be the best times for workers in a tight job market and a global economy with 24/7 responsibilities, families with school-age children, and, well, everybody else to be able to get to Mass.

I have met plenty of Catholics who have no idea they’re supposed to attend Mass on Holy Days and that the obligation is just as serious as it is on a Sunday (e.g., grave sin, mortal under the usual conditions, to miss a Holy Day Mass without a good reason).  So perhaps our pastors have decided to give the vast majority of Fort Worth Catholics a perfectly legitimate reason to miss Holy Day Masses by scheduling so few of them, with one time--the 8 a.m. time--completely impossible for most people who work or go to school, and the other time just mostly impossible.  Or, and this may be more accurate, perhaps most pastors simply have no idea that the obligations of the laity make times like 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. somewhat difficult; I still remember the charming priest who said so sincerely that he really wanted a Mass for the working people, and was scheduling a daily Mass at 5:30 p.m. once a week for them.  The dear sweet actually thought working people were off by 5 p.m. and would have time to get halfway across town to a Mass by then!  One can only be patient with such a disconnect from the real world.

But I’m starting to lose my patience over the Holy Day of Obligation situation.  Reverend Fathers, if you truly want more Catholics to come to Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, then WE NEED MORE MASSES.  I know--there was that time you scheduled an extra Mass and nobody came.  Which might prove that Catholics need to be better catechized about their obligations to attend Holy Day Masses--or it might prove that a Mass at 2 p.m. on a workday/school day in a country that isn’t even remotely Catholic is not going to fill up much.  Shocker.

At least tomorrow night we can have meat for dinner (for those of my fellow Catholics who voluntarily abstain from meat on Fridays, be aware that even in the old days Solemnities that fell on Fridays were not meatless).  True, we won’t have dinner until around 8:30 p.m. by the time we get back from Mass (if we’re lucky!), but at least we can eat meat.

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