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.