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Practicing Catholic?

 Sure, When It’s Convenient

Father X POSTED: 8/5/11

Why Are Muslims Winning?

Try getting these guys to switch Ashura

to a more convenient day of the week!

The headline of a local newspaper published earlier this summer read, “Church Switches Sunday Services to Wednesdays.” Turns out it is a Protestant church that is rescheduling its Sunday services in order to accommodate much of its congregation which prefers vacationing and sleeping in on Sundays rather than honoring the Day of the Lord. For just a moment, though, as I read the headline I wondered if it might be yet another time accommodation for convenience on the part of a local Catholic church or even some new indult granted to the NCCB (National Conference of Catholic Bishops) as a national policy for Catholics in America. Far fetched, you say. Perhaps not! Consider the following accommodations to time that have been made the past fifty years in our own institutional Catholic Church for the sake of convenience.

We can start with measure-of-time modifications which are not as extreme as the Sunday-to-Wednesday shift but pave the way toward that end. Most egregious is the allowance that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and Holy Days may be satisfied by attending a Mass of Anticipation the previous day, as early as 4:00 pm. Wait a minute, I thought there were only twenty-four hours in a day, at least by the design of Almighty God in the original order of creation. But ever since 1967—oh those troublesome sixties—there has been a new order of creation, one feature of which is the thirty-two hour day that spans from 4:00 pm one day until midnight the next. I recall when Masses of anticipation were first introduced; pastors were instructed to inform the faithful that this was not to be a Mass of convenience but rather it was an accommodation for those who had no choice but to work on Sundays: nurses, firefighters, policemen, etc. Yeah, right. When I survey my congregation on any given Saturday evening I see seniors and singles, couples and kids, but very few emergency personnel. A better solution would have been to remind Catholics that if they have a compelling reason for missing Mass they may be dispensed from the obligation and should make a spiritual communion with Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.

One area of collateral damage occasioned by anticipatory Masses is the loss of Saturday morning Masses in many parishes, since a solitary parish priest is unlikely to offer three Masses on Saturdays, as is the case when funerals and weddings are factored in. Another even more serious casualty caused by anticipatory Masses is the general loss of the sense of the sacredness of Sundays and Holy Days. The worship of God has always been the very core of observing the Sabbath commandment; with Mass the previous day it becomes easy to view Sunday as just another day for secular pursuits. While we are on the subject of time, another gross modification is the more recent allowance to shift the celebration of Ascension Thursday to the following Sunday. Imagine that, one of the few feasts for which we have temporal exactitude relative to another feast, Easter, shifted for the sake of convenience. If only our Lord had waited until the 43rd day after His resurrection to ascend! Ascension Thursday is now Ascension Sunday, at least in much of the Novus Ordo world.

Another accommodation by the institutional Church which is both troubling and inconsistent is the lifting of the Mass obligation on certain Holy Days when they fall on a Saturday or a Monday. Such is the case, for instance, for the Feast of the Assumption this year. We pastors annually get countless calls from confused Catholics asking whether or not certain feasts are obligatory or optional. Who knows, from year to year, and who can blame Catholics who miss a Holy Day of obligation due to ignorance? What message does the Church signal to the faithful regarding the intrinsic dignity of a Holy Day when the obligation to attend Mass can be imposed or abrogated year to year? As it is the obligation may not be binding for those who have no choice but to work but what is the rationale for universally suspending the obligation on weekends? Could it be that we now have no choice but to recreate on Saturdays? Or is it more a matter that we cannot expect the faithful to attend Holy Mass two days in a row, except when Christmas and New Years fall back to back with Sundays. Reminds me of a liberal liturgist who refused to attend weekday Masses: he could not “peak more than once a week!

Has all of this accommodation to time advanced the spiritual and religious life of Catholics or has it been to our individual and collective detriment? I believe that the readers of The Remnant know the answer to that!

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