The Weekly Weeknight Mass

My current parish is the second in which I’ve ever lived where the liturgy schedule features one of the weekly Masses regularly scheduled for a weeknight. And it’s big.

We draw up to 175 for a 10PM Thursday Night Liturgy (TNL), and apparently the tradition goes back several pastors. Last September, our pastor tossed out a “statistic” at Sunday 7PM Mass encouraging students to attend, “43% of St Thomas student parishioners meet their future spouse at TNL.” Four days later, we had a high attendance watermark–183.

Can any readers relate experiences of any other Masses like this? Most parishes with schools have a weekly morning Mass for the student body. In my last parish, attendance was usually higher than on any given Sunday Mass. Of course, six-hundred-plus kids were on the school clock, not necessarily God’s time. I don’t think our TNL has the same feel as a school Mass.

My home parish during my grad student days had their own TNL. 7PM was a much more reasonable time. The story went that it was begun because most parishioners preferred organ and choir on Sundays, and a folk group had nowhere to sing. So an “informal” Mass was provided for young adults. By the time I arrived in 1982, this liturgy routinely drew 200 to 300 people–many parishioners, but also people from around the city and ‘burbs who found a certain appeal in the experience.

Some observations from both parishes:

- You would think that having Mass on a weeknight offers certain flexibility with readings and all. And it’s true: often one can elect to celebrate a votive Mass. But my old parish and new stick to the daily Lectionary.

- Observances like Easter Thursday cause some headscratching. Our associate pastor was particular about reciting the Creed a few weeks ago. But the planners bumbled the singing of the Gloria. So we had a very “traditional” Confiteor-Kyrie-Gloria all recited in the introductory rut. Yuck.

- My experience with these Masses is that they tend to be very formulaic, more than the Missal suggests. At my old parish, I once commented that Thursday Night Mass was more formal and restrictive in its practices than Sunday Masses. The parish receptionist protested my opinion until I noted that every week after Communion, the first announcement was always the same. The priest first asked for birthdays, then anniversaries. He always asked. It was always in that order. We never deviated. We weren’t turning conservative, I assured her; it was only the human love of ritual and good order.

- Bishops seem to like a weeknight liturgy when they visit. Since I’ve been in Ames, my archbishop (above) as well as the new Des Moines bishop have come to preside. Back in my old parish, we had three bishops visit in my six years there.

- Masses in which people come to worship because they choose are simply marvelous. I’m sure the appeal is similar for that TLM at the Basilica this past Saturday. It wasn’t a Sunday obligation. The community was diverse, spirited, and intentional. I’m convinced that intentionality is the key to vital liturgy, and by that token, a vital faith community.

Your thoughts? I’m especially curious about your experiences.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to The Weekly Weeknight Mass

  1. Ben says:

    When I was at Truman State University our Newman Center had a 9pm Wednesday night Mass that was attended by both the students and the local Parish. One of the highlights for most of us was the way the homily was done. Usually the celebrant got the ball rolling and then everyone was invited to share and comment. We had around 20 people on average, but close to finals time the number would rise.

    Music for the liturgy was rather adhoc usually a capella and chosen on the spur of the moment by whichever cantor happened to come to Mass that night.

    Another related phenomenon was POTF (Prayer on the Floor). POTF was another weeknight activity where a group would get together around 10pm to pray together in an informal manner gathered in the dark of the chapel with a candle.

    It’s these types of non-Sunday opportunities that I miss in my “adult” Parish. If it doesn’t fit into 45 minutes on Sunday, “it just won’t work in our parish”.

  2. John Donaghy says:

    Todd, Thursday Night Liturgy at St. Thomas goes back to the 1970s! It was originally a Mass after the charismatics met, when the movement was strong at St. Thomas and many students were members. It progressed to a student Mass.
    When I began in 1983 it was student run and planned and students chose themes and scriptures texts. At times it was quite creative.
    Sometime in the late 1980s or 1990s the campus ministers decided that we would use the lectionary readings. I was one of those pushing for this because the themes got repeated and some of the more challenging lectionary texts weren’t being heard.
    One of the biggest problems of such liturgies, though, is the temptation to promote an in-crowd mentality, TNL groupies, for whom it is most of all a time to meet their friends. Newcomers, thus, don’t get greeted well. That’s why hospitality ministers have been so important.
    I love to go to TNL at STA when I get back to Ames – the music is usually good, the spirit is good, and it’s a real joy to see over 100 young people together to worship.

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