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.