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Holy Days of Opportunity

Gerald at The Cafeteria is Closed has news from California. It seems that Cardinal Mahoney, et al, decided that Tuesdays are too close to Sunday and declared that January 1st, 2008, was not a Holy Day of Obligation. Arrgh!!!!!

In light of my discussion below about the importance of living the liturgical calendar, I view this as an extremely ill advised decision. What is the pastoral message that is being sent by this move? It says all your parties, football games, and hangover recoveries are more important than meeting and receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. It says that your faith is something extraneous to everyday life and can be set aside when it is inconvenient.

The truth is our faith should be front and center. Everyday life is supposed to revolve around our faith, not the other way around. Sure it would be great if everyone spontaneously felt called to Mass on January 1st. And the good news is that many people in California did attend Mass on the Solemnity of Mary even though it wasn’t required by their bishops. In the ideal world we wouldn’t need the phrase Holy Day of Obligation because everyone would cheerfully celebrate these days as Holy Days of Opportunity—the opportunity to attend Mass and mark such a special feast day. But we are not there yet. Like rebellious teens, many of us chafe at the idea of rules telling us when we should be in church. Yet like teens, some of us need that authoritative nudge to keep us headed in the right direction. We do not need bishops to behave like over indulgent parents who never instill a sense of discipline or direction. As adults, we now understand and appreciate the boundaries our parents set during our teen years. Likewise, I can say in my own case, that as my faith matures, the rules and precepts I once viewed as arbitrary now seem brilliantly wise.

Therefore, the more pastoral though admittedly more difficult response of the bishops of California should have been to help their flocks see Holy Days as gifts to be enjoyed. Instead they chose to reinforce the perception that Holy Days are annoying intrusions. Let us pray that each of us will grow in the ability to view our faith as a source of joy rather than as an onerous burden of obligations.


frival said…
You know, maybe it's just me but I have always thought that having a Holy Day of Obligation on January 1 is an eminently Catholic thing to do. First it serves as a reminder that we ought not to over-indulge (who wants to head into Church for everyone to see bleary-eyed and hung over?). Second, it reminds us that everything we do must start with God first, including marking our time. Third, it reminds us that God takes precedence over our plans and even our conveniences. Fourth, when we've finally managed to digest the first three, it provides us the opportunity to start our new year in the most serene and simultaneously profitable way possible.

To take those opportunities away in the name of "fairness" is to do harm to everyone who takes the opening it provides to not go to Mass that day. I am simultaneously heartened by the good attendance we had at our parish (not in CA) and saddened by the short-sightedness of this decision. Hopefully there will be some loving correction offered the Cardinal by his brother Bishops.
mallys said…
Our attendance, in an orthodox diocese, was definitely less than the Sunday that preceded it (fewer scheduled Masses too), but one of the priests in the city took a show of hands (at Sunday Mass) on people planning to attend, and then told them that it was a holy day of obligation and they were required to attend Mass. It may have boosted that parish some, but those that weren't planning on it didn't change in large numbers.

The problem would appear to be that people no longer feel an obligation to worship God, either weekly or on holy days. Teaching from the pulpit is lacking, and those of us teaching religious ed are already dealing with students who are dropped off for their weekly dose of religion and never attend Mass with their families.
Catholic Mom said…
I feel your frustration. But you have already taken the first step to turning the tide by becoming a catechist. I encourage you to browse through my posts on Religious Education linked on the sidebar. I don't have a magic bullet to repair the damage of generations of poorly catechized Catholics, but there may be a few ideas that you will find helpful.
mallys said…
Thanks, I have been looking at your ideas with great interest for some time. I have been a catechist off and on for thirty years and I agree with you that the parents (who are known in catechetical circles as "the lost generation"--Jesus loves you, let's make a collage) are the key. They need to know what it means to be a Catholic by creed and by practice. I think one of the greatest gifts to the Church is the large number of separated brethren who are finding their way "home to Rome" and energizing us with their willingness to study and practice what they learn.

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