Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Holy Day NON-Rant post

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! I hope you were able to make it to Mass today (or will still be able to go tonight).

We went last night! Yes, our little mission parish has its vigil Mass back (at least, for this feast day).

I've ranted a lot in recent years about the loss of vigil Masses for Holy Days of Obligation. While I understand that priests have lots of obligations especially in places (such as Texas) where parishes are spread out and priests sometimes serve more than one church, I also have felt the frustration of looking at available Mass times in a thirty-mile radius of where I live and saying, "Impossible. Impossible. Impossible. Nearly impossible. Excruciatingly difficult. Impossible..." and then shooting for the "excruciatingly difficult" option, with the "nearly impossible" option on standby in case the excruciatingly difficult option falls through at the last minute.

Last night's vigil Mass was merely difficult (not excruciatingly so, let alone impossible). It meant some people leaving work a bit early and others rushing home to after classes etc., but it could be done, and we did it. We had a "plan B" in the form of tonight's Mass at our nearest church for some of us if we couldn't all make it together as a family last night, but since we ended up being able to make it as a family and to sing with our choir it made the Mass feel special to me--it has been a while since that has been possible for us on a Holy Day of Obligation.

And because I wasn't, for the first time in a while, either darting in at the last minute or anxiously watching the time so people could leave in time to get to work or school, I actually listened with something approaching attention to the readings and the Gospel, and I noticed for the first time the neat parallel between the first reading and that Gospel: our first parents sinned by disobeying and eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, and the fruit of their sin is Original Sin and death; Mary, the new Eve, pronounces her "Fiat" to God's will, and the fruit of her obedience (in a manner of speaking) is the Incarnation--and this "fruit of thy womb, Jesus," will negate the eternal consequences for us of the fruit of Adam and Eve's sin.  Hardly earthshaking, and you could probably shake a tree on the campus of any good Catholic college and find a few dozen first-year theology majors who could explain this better and much more clearly, but it was still a nice thing to sit and think about for a few minutes last night.

So I'm just grateful to have the vigil Mass for the Holy Day option back again (and at a time that is remotely possible--the other problem we've had with the occasional vigil Mass is that sometimes they are scheduled far too early. I've said it before, but I honestly think that some people who work in Catholic parishes are unaware that the vast majority of their working parishioners no longer leave work promptly at 5 p.m. each night). We had a bigger crowd last night than I remember in a while, too, so clearly we're not the only people who need this option.

How about you? Was it hard to find a Mass where you live? Can you go to Holy Day Masses as a family for the most part, or do you usually have to attend split Masses to make the obligation?


Deirdre Mundy said...

Because we homeschool, we were all able to make the 8 am Mass around the corner, my husband rushed out to work after.

But.... people with school kids had a choice between 6:30 last night (most activities in our town happen between 6-7) 8 am (school starts at 7:45 and they're nasty about letting kids come late, or 6:30 tonight (activity hour again.)

So most kids won't make it.

I'd love to see the addition of a 4pm Mass to catch kids after school but before dinner.....

Red Cardigan said...

Deirdre, that's a good point, and even if kids attending a public school aren't involved in activities or can skip one night there's still the problem that if both parents work they might not be able to get off from work, pick up the kids from a babysitter or daycare, and still get to Mass by 6:30.

I honestly think that lots of priests think that most Catholic kids go to Catholic school, most come from intact families with one stay-at-home parent who is always the mom, etc., and they schedule Holy Day Masses (and other things) accordingly. I don't know if there is a "parishioner's life survey" out there designed to collect data for pastors, but there should be if there isn't. Here are some things I think such a survey ought to measure:

1. How many registered parishioners or parish families are composed of a) unmarried people, b) married couples with children, c) married retired couples whose children no longer live at home, and d) the widowed or divorced? Of that last group, how many still have children at home?

2. How many children under 18 are in the parish registry? What does their household look like (e.g., two validly married Catholics raising their own children vs. one Catholic parent and one non-Catholic parent vs. a widowed or divorced Catholic parent vs. other situations, etc.?). In situations where at least one custodial parent is not Catholic, how regularly is the child being brought to Mass?

3. How many parishioners work outside the home? Are their jobs full-time, part-time, etc.? How many families with children include two parents working full-time outside the home? What are the number of hours each working parishioner works weekly? What does the weekly schedule look like for working parishioners?

4. What schools are attended by the school-aged parishioners? Is there a parish school, and if so, are most children in the parish able to attend it? If there is not a parish school or the school cannot accommodate most parish children, do children attend another local Catholic school, or do they attend local public schools? How many are home schooled?

That's just a beginning, but I think that if pastors had some concrete data about what a typical parishioner's life looks like these days it might help greatly when it comes to scheduling Masses and so on. I know that I'm always interested to find out what a pastor's typical day is like, because it helps me to appreciate how busy they are and how they use their time, and I think that if pastors learned the same things about their parishioners it could only help things.