The Tablet Blog
Celebrating Holy Days on their proper dates could aid the new evangelisationChristopher Lamb
29 June 2012, 9:00
Today, the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, is one of those now rare moments in the liturgical calendar in England and Wales: a holy day of obligation.
Along with Christmas, the Assumption and All Saints', it is one of those feasts which is still celebrated on the correct day.
In 2006, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales decided to move Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi to the nearest Sunday.
But a consensus seems to be emerging that this was unwise.
Church leaders tell us that to be a Catholic today is to be counter-cultural. So what better way of witnessing to faith, in a secular world which has lost sight of the balance of feasting and fasting which the liturgical calendar provides, than by making the effort to go to Mass in the middle of the week?
The Bishops of England and Wales' decision to re-introduce meatless Fridays shows they are clearly keen to find ways to mark Catholic identity. How does moving the holy days fit into that? The bishops have announced a 'consultation and review' into putting the Holy Days back to their original place - but more than a year on, nothing has happened.
When they announced that they were moving the feasts, the bishops said they had made the decision on advice of the clergy. Presumably priests had said no one was coming to Mass for the Holy Days.
But take a look at when Mass is offered during Holy Days. How accommodating are they to working people or to families?
When I looked for Masses in central London, where Mass is said more frequently than other parts of the country, the most common times were 8am, 10am, some at lunchtime and perhaps an evening one at 6pm.
That shows a disconnect with the working lives of normal people. Where is the Mass for the City worker who needs to be at his desk at 7am? Or the parents on the school run who need to drop their children at 8am? Where are the early morning Masses - 6am or 7am - to accommodate such people? At the same time how about an 8pm or 9pm liturgy for those finishing work? Why couldn't a parish church offer breakfast afterwards to those who made the effort to make an appearance so early in the morning?
The only people who will be able to make a 10am Mass are those who have retired. And we wonder why our churches don't have enough young people?
Celebrating the Holy Days could be also used as a tool for the new evangelisation. Rather than complaining that people don't turn up to Mass on a weekday, the days should be used as a spur for parishes to reach out to those who don't normally go to church. It is a chance to do things differently and move away from that crippling ecclesial mindset of 'business as usual'.
Christopher Lamb is The Tablet's Assistant Editor (Home News)
24 July 2012 13:28 (11 of 11)
The holy days are about fine now. Unlike Europe ours are not public holidays as well, when many do not have to work. I have experienced holy day Masses for 42 years, as long as I have been at work. Almost entirely they are rushed too much & no music /singing /solemnity etc, & usually another Mass waiting to begin. Leave it as it is, for those unemployed or retired then it is a different matter. Holydays belong to the former times when we were all Christian& this was taken into account. The fact that there is no concensus of opinion anywhere in the Catholic world on which day to keep, shows we are all not of one mind set here.
13 July 2012 21:45 (10 of 11)
Our parish only has a priest at the weekends so we cannot have a Day of Obligation Mass unless on the Sunday The next parish with a resident priest is 20 miles away.
10 July 2012 19:54 (9 of 11)
Much of the commentary seems to be about accommodating work schedules with Mass times for holydays. Reducing holydays to a rushed Mass (often without music or solemnity) to be fit in a workday is not a holyday. The obligation is not only Mass but to abstain from servile labor and enjoy recreation and maybe a celebratory family dinner. This was easier under Christendom where the secular arm declared a holyday. It is a problem how to do it in a pluralistic society, but reducing the meaning of holyday to the obligation to shoehorn in a quickie Mass between work and ordering take-out is not anything near a good solution.
Tony Sequeira SJ, Pune, India
9 July 2012 7:36 (8 of 11)
In August 1969 I helped out in St. Mary Moorfields. On the 15th, being two priests of the parish and three visiting, 14 Masses were celebrated: morning, noon and evening. Almost all the Masses were packed. But they were rushed ceremonies (15 minutes each). People fulfilled their obligation, but the celebrations were not conducive to prayerful participation. Sundays are preferable.
5 July 2012 21:02 (7 of 11)
It would be interesting to see if we can loosen the 'rules' in relation to Holidays of Obligations, and let the faithful decide how they want to celebrate the feasts. On Sundays, a few words on upcoming feast days and solemnities would be good - and if people are convinced the feasts should be celebrated I'd imagine they would make time to come to Mass. Ash Wednesdays are not Holidays of Obligation and I see many people attending Mass - I guess we are usually encouraged to attend Mass to make a good start of Lent the Sunday before?
4 July 2012 10:14 (6 of 11)
While we can all agree with the benefits of celebrating a Solemnity on its traditional day, from my experience Mass attendance on Holydays of Obligation is less than half of that on Sundays. The move to Sunday was made so that the whole community would celebrate these major feasts together. In an ideal world they would not have made the change, but we do not live in an ideal world.
3 July 2012 5:22 (5 of 11)
Only 4 remaining HDOs in England? You're lucky, here in Australia we only have TWO! Christmas and Assumption. I'd like to see at least a dozen of them. Excellent article especially your last paragraph. We should try to encourage even people who don't usually come to Mass on Sundays ('Christmas & Easter Catholics' ) to come to Mass on a HDO. People LIKE special occasions which only come once a year, not 'just another boring Sunday' as some see it. Let's shake up our boring weekly routine occasionally. Don't let the government dictate what feast days are important to us, by basing our decision on whether the government grants a public holiday. In many countries governments now treat Sundays as virtually just another working day, as many employers do. When that process is complete, should the Church drop the Sunday Mass obligation too? Never!
30 June 2012 12:32 (4 of 11)
I would think that celebrating Holy Days of Obligation on a Sunday will make it easier to accommodate the shortage of Priests. Many parishes would can only open on Sunday's as priests are so stretched, therefore it is better to have Holy Days of Obligation on a Sunday, rather when it is impossible for bother working parishoniers and clergy to celebrate mass.
29 June 2012 22:12 (3 of 11)
I think Father Peter Sharrocks' comments are remarkably negative. Why can't parish priests push the boat out on a Holy Day and go the extra mile ? (Excuse these cliches, but It might make all the difference if they were prepared to say extra Masses to make the day special...and what's the problem with extra Masses at Catholic schools? This is what's needed. Many people have days they have to work overtime; perhaps these rare Holy Days should be seen by priests as their 'overtime days'. It is a missionary activity and frankly, the Muslims, with their 5 calls to prayer every day, put us to shame. We need to make MORE effort, not less by taking the easier option of a transferred Sunday celebration. Holy Day Mass times need more thought.
Fr Peter Sharrocks
29 June 2012 18:34 (2 of 11)
In the current debate about whether Holidays of Obligation should be moved back to their original dates rather than celebrated on Sundays might I be permitted to say leave them as they are now. For many working people with families it is well nigh impossible, even with best of intentions, to get to Mass during the week. Many of them are simply too tired after a days work. We are not like many countries in continental Europe where the feasts are also national holidays and there is time to go to Mass. It is far better for us to celebrate these feasts on Sundays so that they can be celebrated properly and with due solemnity. Celebrating the feasts on weekdays is often a rushed affair which does not do justice to what is being celebrated and I haven't even considered how many Masses we are asked to celebrate in schools on Holidays of Obligation. I think our bishops made a mistake in trying to bring back Friday abstinence, please don't make another one.
29 June 2012 17:43 (1 of 11)
I attend an inner city church where we have a 1,10pm Mass every week day that finishes at 1,50pm. When it is Ash Wednesday or a day of obligation...we still have Ascension Day on a Thursday here....there is an additional Solemn Mass at 7,00pm. It seems to work very well