Tuesday, January 01, 2019

An Obligation Fulfilled

Mother of God,
pray for us.

What's wrong with the Church.

New Year's Eve I devoted to adoration before 5 PM Mass, in honor of the Mother of God.  The Mass has always been a holy day of obligation because it is also the Octave of Christmas.

This year one US bishop lifted the 'obligation' requirement for his diocese, and members of the online 'Holy Office' quickly cried out against it.  How Novus Ordo!  How Protestant!  Personally I thought lifting the obligation might be reasonable for those who have difficulties getting to Mass - the bishop had his reasons, I guess.  As for those who care nothing about 'obligation' yet go to Mass and adoration out of devotion and desire to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, nothing would deter them from attending Mass for the Octave.  After all, it's still Christmas - the 8th Day.  The Circumcision of Christ, the first shedding of his precious blood is likewise commemorated.

Anyway, last evening at my parish the pastor was away on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  (Together with his friend, a pastor from another parish they are leading a group of pilgrims.)  Fr. frequently refers to heading parish based pilgrimages as one of those perks of being a priest.  Be that as it may, guest priests are scheduled to fill in while he is away.  The schedule is already erratic, hours for confessions switched about, Mass times switched about, so there is often some confusion and people show up late to discover Mass time has switched.

Last evening the substitute priest showed up late.  It was snowing and evidently he was stuck in traffic.  The Music Director called Fr. in the Holy Land, Fr. told him that those who showed up for Mass could leave, they had fulfilled their obligation.  Some of us remained, and sure enough the guest priest showed up.  Completely taken aback because he had told people he would be late.  Those of us remaining in prayer, waited longer hoping Fr. would still have Mass.  He didn't.  He gave communion to a couple who asked for it, but other than that, nothing.

The obligation.

I've heard many priests complain because laity complain about holy days of obligation, and they think laity who do that are less than devout.  Then I've heard them complain that people come to Mass because they 'want something' - like on Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, or any Sunday when anyone and everyone goes forward for communion or a blessing.  I detect a sort of clericalism in their attitude, don't you?

So last night, when push comes to shove, we were all told we could go home because we fulfilled our obligation - as if that is what the celebration of Mass is all about.  Maybe we did.  But Fr. didn't.  Neither the pastor nor the quest priest fulfilled their obligation.

Why do we need a pastor, a priest?  To celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments and to provide pastoral care.  Not to fund raise, conduct tours, or lay out strategies to get more parishioners and recruit lay employees to run innovative programs.

What should have happened?

Considering the circumstances and the lack of communication with the in-transit celebrant, a Liturgy of the Word with Communion could have taken place.  With or without a deacon - an Extraordinary Minister could have conducted it.

Or, when the priest finally arrived, he could have, should have said Mass, with or without a large congregation.  Every Mass scheduled is said for a particular intention, accompanied by a stipend.  Maybe not always, but normally, and there is a real, canonical obligation to offer that Mass for the intentions of those who requested it.  The Mass needed to be offered.

In this case, pastoral care and consideration flew out the window.  As a layman, fulfilling an obligation is not why I go to Mass - it may be part of it to some extent - but the real reason the faithful attend Mass is everything the Church and her ministers tell us why we should.  We want to be there.  We want to worship God.  We need to be there, we need to hear the Word of God, to be fed, to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist.  We have nowhere else to go for that.  We have no one except Christ.  We can't confect him on our own - we need a priest - not an administrator.

Last night those in charge acted as if a performance was cancelled.  The show wouldn't happen, the singers wouldn't sing, the homily wouldn't get performed, the glad-handing greetings wouldn't happen.  No waves and happy New Year's exchanged.  No one was welcomed, no one dismissed, there would be no shouting and hugs and laughs after Mass.  Nothing.  Everyone was simply sent home, assured that they fulfilled their obligation.

That tells me it's a job for some priests.  Mass is entertainment - a performance, with a homily available on podcast, and if the music is good, maybe even a CD.  It's a business with perks - a career.  The best managers and fundraisers get the best promotions, and can dispense people from their obligations.  At least that is how it seemed to me last night.

Once again I know of what the Holy Father speaks when he says,  "priests should smell of their sheep".  So many priests no longer live among their sheep, they live off campus - you need to make an appointment to see them, during business hours.

Faith has dwindled in the Church.


  1. I agree Terry. When did this change occur? Reminds me of Fr O'Malley in Going My Way sending all the school kids home when he declares a holiday. Anyway, In my youth Mass was offered as a prayer, a religious rite. It was conducted whether or not another person was present. The Mass as performance, well that needs an audience. This whole priest as travel guide thing is a growing trend. Nothing inherently wrong with it but it can get out of hand. Cruise ships give deals too. In college there was the twenty minute rule. No professor after twenty minutes and everyone is excused. We live in a whacky world.

  2. I'm sorry you had to experience this.

  3. I'm sorry you did not get to participate in a Mass. I would have been very disappointed too. The obligation got lifted here, yet the cathedral was packed for the solemnity, to the extent that at the Offertory I had to run into the sacristy to fetch more hosts and wine than we had set out. People are hungry for the Eucharist, for the connection with God that Mass constitutes. You have a one-priest parish! I'm sorry. We have the opposite problem: a pastor, an associate, two retired priests, and a retired bishop. They have to rotate Mass duties and to concelebrate on those days when it is not their turn.

  4. Sadly, none of this surprises me. This is the rotten fruit of what 50 years of a corrupted Mass yields.


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