Handling Saturday Night Mass

Brian’s site noted this CMAA interview of Father Dennis Kolinski. He is the associate pastor at Chicago’s famous St John Cantius Parish.

I’ll say upfront that I’ve not hesitated to recommend this parish to people who have a traditionalist sensibility in the Chicago area. I do mention this in spite of a flawed and occasionally misinformed approach to liturgy as evidenced by this proud claim:

On one Sunday in June 2007, when many parish choirs are on vacation, parishioners at St. John Cantius enjoyed the Mass for Five Voices and O Rex Gloriae by William Byrd, along with Omnes Gentes Plaudite by Christopher Tye (1505 -1572)

I’m an admirer of British Renaissance music as much as the next early music fanatic, but I’d expect that in a parish where “everything we do here is essentially based on Sacrosanctum Concilium and Mediator Dei,” there might also be some room to look at the red print in the Roman Missal. Is the Mass for the performance pieces or are the performance pieces for the Mass?

That said, I was struck by their decision on handling the Saturday evening Mass as a 1970 Rite “Low” Mass. An experienced liturgist will note there really is no such thing. The Church’s documents assume the aim is a sung Mass with full participation. Sacrosanctum Concilium and Mediator Dei might seem to dodge that issue because they date 1963 and 1947 respectively, but they do not exhaust the whole of the Church’s teaching on liturgy. It seems as if the SJC people have no problem recruiting choristers, so the decision to do a weekend Mass without music remains a curious one.

I’d be interested to see how they treat authentic vigils, like Pentecost and Assumption. Do they keep the no-singing format because the people expect one Mass that way? Or do they recognize that not all night-before liturgies are the same? The whole policy strikes me as a little too “creative,” in a DRE sort of way.

I feel somewhat ambivalent toward the Saturday evening Mass. I’m not convinced it’s a good idea. People who might be unavailable for Sunday morning Mass might still have the Sunday evening option instead of Saturday evening–so I’m not totally sympathetic to the availability argument.

I feel more ambivalent about hanging a Mass out to dry, as the SJC staff seems content to do. Would they consider moving the Mass to Sunday evening and dropping the stepdaughter treatment? It strikes me that a parish that puts that much effort into a classical music program should be a little embarassed by having a “quiet Mass” on the docket.

If I were designing a parish music ministry along my own ideals, and setting aside my preference for a single Mass each day, including Sunday, and not considering the needs or tastes of the parish, my weekend schedule might look something like this:


5:30 Vespers

7:45 Compline


7:30AM Morning Prayer

8:30 Mass

11:00 Mass

5:30 Vespers

6:30 Mass, pause, then Compline

I have to say I’ve pondered the notion of linking the celebration of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline to astronomical dawn, sunset, and night. I can’t imagine such an endeavor would be practical. Outside of Easter Vigil considerations, that is.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Handling Saturday Night Mass

  1. Gavin says:

    I must say the one thing I did NOT like looking at SJC was their Mass schedule. 1.5 hours between Mass start times? Come on! I don’t like the 3 hour difference in times at my parish, but better too far apart than too close together.

    I share your objection to the Saturday Mass. It’s a Mass of convenience. Sunday night makes much more sense – it’s the Lord’s DAY, not the Lord’s morning and previous afternoon. Alas, I think this is one thing that all the liturgical heads in the world couldn’t get together and fix pastorally. You can either drop it and lose 1/3 a congregation or it continues forever.

    And of course I have to comment on the choral ordinary. You know that nothing short of a Motu Proprio addressing me by name would keep me from using a choral ordinary on occasion. Note the key word: on occasion. I have a LOT of respect for parishes such as St. Agnes that pull off a full choral Mass each week, but I too have to think about Sacrosanctum or the principle of participatio. I’d wager that the priest may have been talking about Corpus Christi, so in that context it’s more than acceptable. Just so long as they’re all singing Mass XV the next Sunday.

  2. Gavin,

    It is quite common in Chicago (and other population centers) to have Masses spaced so closely together. They have multiple priests who can alternate the Masses (if they are even required to binate) and, if they did not schedule them so, the Masses would extend throughout the day, when people prefer to go to the Mass in the morning*!

    *All except those who chose to avail themselves of the vigil Mass which has become so “sacrosanct” since the second Vatican Council.
    I am no fan of it, especially when it becomes the “vigil” which must end BEFORE sundown so those attending it can get home before dark! The whole rationale given for the vigil was that it recognizes a Jewish reckoning of the day – but even here, when the vigil BEGINS before dusk, it is really not Sunday by such reckoning.

  3. known as 332 says:

    Indeed, I am one of those with traditionalist leanings that Todd had graciously pointed toward SJC…and I remain greatful for Todd’s generosity of spirit from when we moved from KC to Chicago for his recommendation.

    As decidedly a non-expert (other then a general prior background as a musician), the Saturday evening Mass (which we go to on occasion) has all of the reverence that the Sunday 9am (English Mass), albeit without the incense and some of the other elements. It has a quiet solemnity that draws me into the Mass just as the beauty of the chants do on Sunday morning.

    I can’t comment to the theological questions raised here, but I still leave Mass feeing renewed…in a way that nearly all the western suburban Churches have not accomplished.

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