Who Goes To Saturday Mass?

A commenter remarked about the “sacrosanct” nature of the Saturday afternoon/evening Mass. I can’t deny it. When I was at the student parish at Michigan State back in the mid-90’s, there was talk of compressing the Mass schedule from five to four. (I noticed now they have six.) The Sunday 4PM Mass was on the chopping block because it was considered the “dead” Mass. But the Saturday evening Mass actually had lower attendance. There was quite a stir when I suggested we consider dropping the Saturday night. I think a few people were ready to brand me a heretic. Saturdays have a very loyal following.

At my present parish, I notice a lot of older parishioners at our late Saturday Mass. Our attendance bumped about 25% when we went to 4PM year-round. (We used to have 5PM from Lent till the end of October.)

This Mass has consistently been our biggest draw, except when the children’s choir does the mid-morning. Now with our condensed Sunday schedule, I think the mid-morning 9:30 has overtaken it. Even the new 11:30 is giving it a good run.

I see some, but fewer families at the Saturday. Given the numbers of older parishioners who come on Sunday night, I suspect that evenings are slightly more convenient for many folks. It’s actually a nice time to come to Mass.

I still remain with misgivings about the whole anticipated or vigil Mass thing replacing Sunday. But I’m not willing to go to the stake for it.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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18 Responses to Who Goes To Saturday Mass?

  1. Liam says:

    Afternoon Masses are usually dominated by the elderly, in my experience.

    There are some practical reasons I may speculate considering my elderly parents’ experience:

    1. It can take hours for some elderly people to get ready to go out. It takes about 4 hours for my mother, for example: certainly, she’s not *obliged* at this point to undergo this to go to Mass, but for her getting to Mass is a marker of her continued functionality. My mother makes appointments (doctors, haircuts, et cet.) that she can before Saturday Mass so she can be dressed to go out once for two things, rather than getting ready twice, which is an unnecessary trial.

    2. Late afternoon often occurs between various cycles of meds, as many elderly (and other) people live on strict medication schedules unknown to previous generations.

    3. In the winter, ice is usually least present in late afternoon, enhancing mobility.

    4. Elderly parents may either host family or be hosted by family on Sundays, in an attenuated form of the old Sunday dinner.

    * * *

    I would suggest the original reason Saturday evening Mass came before Sunday evening Mass in the 1970s was that in the 1970s many more people still had large family dinners on Sunday afternoons, while Saturday was more of an errand day (since many states still had blue laws that kept most stores closed on Sundays) and people often went out on Saturday night.

    It was the demise of the blue laws (very sad) that exploded this pattern.

    Anyway, if ministerial resources allow, either offer Saturday Mass in an explicit effort to support the revival of Sunday family dinnertime (and get rid of Sunday evening Mass) or get rid of it and have Sunday evening Mass instead.

  2. aplman says:

    Our Saturday 5:00 has decent numbers outside of the summer but the Sunday 9:30 and 11:30 are often SRO, leaving the Saturday 5:00 in their dust.

    As I recall, the anticipated Mass was to be held in a particular area for the benefit of those unable to worship on Sunday. Am I wrong about that?

    The reality, however, is that the anticipated Mass allows many to get the worship obligation fulfilled ahead of the Lord’s day.

    This, IMHO, is one of the greatest mistakes to come from the post-Conciliar liturgical effort.

    I’d love to go to the stake over this – but my parish Finance Council knows that we would lose many worshippers, and their contributions, if we went to a Sunday-only schedule.

  3. Talmida says:

    What’s the big deal about this one? Is there a liturgical issue?

    The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown. In the creation story in Genesis 1, every day begins at sundown (evening came, morning came, day one).

    We have vigils for major feasts — why not for Sundays? I like starting my holy day with Mass. You work 6 days a week, lay your burdens down on Saturday afternoon, and go straight to mass. You move from there into a romantic date-night or a family dinner and still have all of Sunday to celebrate God’s creation with your family.

    Going to mass on Sunday seems to take up so much more time. It’s the one day when everyone can grab extra sleep, then they all have to wake up, eat, shower, dress. There is the pressure of getting the house and the family ready for the day. By the time you get back from mass and change, it’s almost noon. Half the day is gone!

    The Sabbath is not only about mass. We are to stop our work of creating, and appreciate God’s work of creation. We need time to do that too, but every family I know spends Sunday night getting ready for Monday (homework, laundry) and thus shortening the Lord’s Day. Beginning a day the evening before seems quite the natural way of doing things.

  4. Liam says:

    I had tried to post twice here but my post was rejected yesterday for some reason…

    Anyway, the popular reception of Saturday evening over Sunday evening Masses is, in the US at least, attributable to…the blue laws and social habits that were still common in much of the US into the 1970s just as evening Masses were being introduced into the Catholic parochial schedules. Namely, Saturday was perforce an errand and chore day because stores were closed on Sundays in many places. Also, many Catholic families maintained the tradition of a major extended family dinner on Sunday afternoons.

    The subsequent demise of the blue laws has blown apart the Sunday patterns, and the only reason to retain Saturday over Sunday evening in the schedule is for the remnant of families who still maintain the family gathering on Sundays. It would be interesting to see if, instead of Mass at 4pm on Saturday, you made it at 7pm… One of Cardinal Law’s first acts when he came to Boston was to require parishes to get rid of multiple Saturday evening Masses unless there was a demonstrated need (like different vernaculars), as many parishes had a 4 or 5 and a 6 or 7 PM Mass.

    As for afternoon Mass, it makes sense for elderly people because it can take hours for them to get ready, it often falls between meds schedules that did not exist a generation ago, and it’s often the time of day with the least amount of ice in wintry climes. Ask my parents…

  5. Gavin says:

    In an ideal world, there would be one Anticipatory Mass per city, not per parish, on Saturday. More if needed. As is, I think most of us are just consigned to either grumble about it or just ignore it as I typically choose to do.

    Talmilda’s arguments would hold water if they were at all based in reality. Let’s poll Saturday Mass attenders, how many of them are familiar with the Jewish Sabbath? Anyway, we’re not celebrating the Jewish Sabbath, we’re celebrating the Lord’s Day. If you want your Sabbath, go to a synagogue. How many people going to Saturday Mass do so in order to have a full Lord’s Day for private devotion? Any? Of course, going out for the romantic date night is totally all about the Lord’s Day, right?

    “Going to mass on Sunday seems to take up so much more time.” Boo-freaking-hoo. Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it. Maybe Christ should have saved some time by rising from the dead on Saturday at 2 PM? “By the time you get back from mass and change, it’s almost noon. Half the day is gone!” So pray your None, eat dinner, pray your Vespers, read scripture, pray Compline and go to bed. And throw in some leisure time while you’re at it, this all doesn’t take long.

    Honestly, I don’t doubt Talmilda’s sincerity (if she does go to Saturday Mass). What I doubt is that John and Mary Catholic, the 20-something childless couple, are going to Mass at 3PM so that they have an extra 9 hours or so to devote to the Lord. For those like Talmilda who do use the Saturday Mass as an aid to devotion (and of course the elderly), perhaps one or two parishes should have a Saturday Mass. But not every parish should feel obligated to have one. This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. As opposed to despising the gathering of God’s people as a burden or finding loop holes to get around Mass.

  6. Neil says:

    Dear Liam,

    Both of your earlier posts were labelled as spam. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, regarding your post on this thread, it was the suspicious presence of several asterisks. In any case, I’ve unmarked them as spam. Obviously, your comments – always insightful and learned – are more than welcome.

    Now, please continue the conversation …


  7. John Behr says:

    Todd mentioned “First Vespers” for Sunday.
    Having finally learned about “First Vespers” within the last year, I request a little more real info about how Saturday evenings are regarded liturgically, as it is naively clear that the Sabbath begins then in the office.
    I think it would be helpful to encourage all of them to be “vigils”. (It then would be logical to take advantage of the status– e.g. using the many lovely evening office hymns in any hymnal as recessionals– but someone eventually declares these “inappropriate for Mass”.)

    Having tried– and failed, but that’s another story–
    at more than one parish to help with music on Saturdays, I’m disheartened to hear claims they are merely “masses of convenience” for people and thus denigrate attendees.
    Yes, Gavin, I thought of it similarly to what Talmida describes as beginning the holy day, and there were quasi-regular singers in the congregations who seemed to feel that way, too.
    Also, when you try to gather musicians to help, you learn quickly that it certainly isn’t “convenient” for them– no sane person would do this regularly.

    I have a sneaking suspicion it also provides a refuge to avoid more elaborate but poorly done music. I’ve used it myself as a place where congregations can show they can sing just fine without an accompanist.

  8. Liam says:

    The evening prayer of Saturday (usually but not always Evening Prayer I (“first vespers”))* is linked to the Saturday anticipatory Mass because they would share the propers of the same commemoration. The US bishops a generation ago determined 4pm to be the earliest permissible time of such anticipatory Masses. In an ideal world, it might be nice to have vespers precede Mass, but the natives may get restless….

    * Sometimes Saturday would actually have Evening Prayer II (“second vespers”) if the commemoration of Saturday has precedence over that of Sunday in the table of precedence in the universal calendar. For the most obvious example, when Christmas falls on a Saturday, any vespers or Mass on Saturday evening would be for Christmas, not Holy Family. Now, attendance at Mass on Saturday evening still satisfies the preceptual obligation to attend Sunday mass, regardless of the propers. But people often assume that Saturday evening’s propers are those of Sunday, and that is periodically not the case.

  9. Dave says:

    At least 1/3 of the worshipers at our 4pm Mass are from other nearby parishes that have no Saturday Mass or are wanting to beat the early Saturday evening crowds at their favorite Bistro. And I don’t see them hitting the collection basket even though they are migrating from one of the richest counties in the country.

  10. John Behr says:

    Thanks, Liam, that’s helpful.

  11. sacerdos says:

    Talmida should consider that the Jewish reckoning of the day’s beginning (with sundown) is not technically applicable to any Saturday evening vigil Mass occuring BEFORE sundown. I am told that those places in Europe which offer such do so generally as an evening Mass – beginning around 7 or 8pm.

    I understand the practical points made, especially with regards the elderly. I am not so convinced by the argument (made above with not so much as even a hint of regret) from “Let’s get this Mass business out of the way so we can go on and enjoy the Lord’s Day”

    If someone goes to a Saturday evening Mass because that is the only way they can fulfill their obligation to go to Mass (because of work, limited mobility, etc.) then fine, but if someone goes to a Saturday evening Mass specifically with the attitude: “Let’s get this Mass business out of the way so we can go on and enjoy the Lord’s Day” Then I would advise them to re-examine their whole approach to the Mass obligation.

  12. Talmida says:

    There seems to be some misunderstanding about my remark, Going to mass on Sunday seems to take up so much more time.

    If it takes 3 hours for my family to get to and from mass on Sunday, and 1.5 hours to get to and from mass on Saturday, is it wrong for me to choose Saturday?

    My parish 5 pm Saturday mass is not made up of “John & Mary Catholics” who are childless couples in their 20s, but of the elderly, and of middle aged parents with older children, or young adult children. The kind that want to go out late on Saturday nights or stay up watching movies all night and sleep in until noon on Sunday mornings. The kind that you’re really happy they’re still coming to mass at all.

    Am I the only adult here who remembers her youth? I could have slept forever on any given weekend morning in the ’70s.

    I have no apology to make. Dragging teenagers out of bed and getting them up, showered and out the door on a Sunday morning is a waste of everyone’s energy when they are happy and eager to join their parents at mass on Saturday afternoon or evening. Wise parents learn to pick their battles.

    On Saturday afternoon, everyone is awake and dressed and can arrange their lives to come to mass. On Sunday mornings in my house, 5 people wait in line for the hot water. If we take our time rising, it’s not a problem, but if we all have to be at the same place at the same time in the morning, it’s not a pretty picture.

    There is no virtue in choosing the more inconvenient option.

    And although I know I shouldn’t say so, I thought that some of the comments in this thread were quite unkind. It’s a mistake to assume that we are all in the same circumstances when it comes to mass. Something that is easy for one may be difficult for someone else. We live in different communities, in different nations.

    There are communities where for some weeks, the sun doesn’t set at all. Should they cancel all vigil masses?

    sacerdos quotes a comment about getting mass out of the way. I cannot find the original that he is quoting. However it seems to me that getting mass out of the way for some other activity is about as regrettable as dragging unwilling people to mass and expecting them to participate in any meaningful way.

  13. Liam says:


    Just by way of counter-anecdote of personal experience: I came from a large family of early risers: sleeping in meant sleeping til 7am (OK, 8AM in late fall and early winter). We had two small bathrooms, one of which was reserved for my parents and the youngest child; the other 5 of us had to share the other bathroom. We managed fine, though we had no separate water heater (my parents only got one 5 years ago!!). Several of us as adults rise don’t find rising at 4AM too odd (3 of us rise around then, the rest of use rise around 5:30AM though we all live apart and have for decades). So I don’t have the experience of ever living with people who sleep late by choice, only when sick. And I have *lots* of friends likewise. Actually, I know very very few people who sleep past 9 on weekends even. And I have a huge circle of friends.

    As I said, though, I understand there can be good reasons for a late afternoon Mass, and I noted some. But it needn’t be Saturday necessarily; it could be Sunday.

    In Boston, I expect parish staffing will be superceded in the next decade by vicariate (deanery) staffing, and churches will need to choose much more carefully how and when they can get a single Mass. That is, there will likely be one or two churches in a deanery with a Saturday afternoon Mass, one or two with an early Sunday morning Mass, et cet. And congregants will have to decide whether location or time is the primary factor in choosing where and when to go to Mass.

  14. armchair liturgist says:

    I think a lot of you are forgetting an important factor in the debate about saturday vigil masses. In my parish in London, Uk the saturday vigil mass was introduced to replace the sunday evening mass when the parish became a single priest parish. Canon Law places strict restrictions on how many masses a priest can celebrate each day. Celebrating mass twice in a day is called ‘bination’; three times is ‘trination’. It is explicitly not permitted for a priest to celebrate mass more than three times on a single day (except in very extraordinary circumstances). A priest is required to gain permission from his local ordinary(bishop) when circumstances require him to binate or trinate on an occasional or regular basis. Bishops usually give an ongoing permission where pastoral necessity. For example, our parish priest has permission to celebrate all three of our sunday morning masses (when needed) although thankfully a local retired priest often relieves him from this heavy and tiring burden by celebrating one of these masses. However, the bishop (citing canon law at the time) was unwilling for our new parish priest to celebrate four masees (ie, 3 sunday morning & a sunday evening) in one day. We were faced with a choice of reducing our 4 sunday masses to 3 (which wasn’t feasible as all were very reasonable attended) or finding another solution. The solution was to move sunday evening mass to saturday evening. Interesting by a quirk of canon law, saturday vigil masses are considered as part of saturday not sunday when calculating a priest’s mass duties. Despite the strange logic of saturday being saturday for the purposes of bination/trination, yet paradoxically liturgically sunday – i think there is some obvious pastoral sense in the law. It would have been too much to expect one (elderly) priest to celebrate four sunday masses in one day (especially when 3 are sung mass) and his presiding would have inevitably been impaired as he tired towards the end of the day.
    My point briefly, is that in light of the shortage of priests and the reality that many parishes have a single priest (or even have to share clergy with a neighbouring parish) that the saturday vigil mass is a pastoral necessity.

  15. Elwin says:

    Who said the Roman Catholics can change the Day Jesus rose from the dead ?

    Exodus 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.Six days you shall labor and do all your work,but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter,

    Hebrews 4:9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

    Matthew 12:6-8 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man (Jesus) is Lord of the Sabbath.”

    Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.(Everything including the Sabbath)

    John 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. (Everything including the Sabbath)
    Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.(Jesus fulfilled the law praise him for it on the day he has risen)

    Galatians 5:18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.(Not obligated to the Law of Moses “Under grace” Jesus fulfilled the law for his people)

    Matthew 28:6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.(Sunday)

    Mark 16:9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he a. appeared first to Mary Magdalene,(Sunday)

    Acts 13:39 Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God–something the law of Moses could never do. ( We are not under the law of Moses we are under the Grace and mercy of Jesus Christ)

    Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight (Sunday)

    1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.(Sunday)

    Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

    Revelation 22:19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book
    Matthew 15:14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[a] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” ( No such thing as purgatory God is is talking about pit being Hell)

    • Todd says:

      Lots of Bible quotes, but nothing relevant to the long Christian practice of observing a vigil. Jewish practice, which you cite in your first quote, observed the Sabbath from sundown on the previous evening.

      Christian observance of Sunday from Saturday evening does have a long tradition in worship. Whether the practice is optimal: that’s a good question for discussion. But the Bible doesn’t decide it, at any rate.

      • Elwin says:

        Why do they have Mass on Saturday when the lord is clear we are to worship Jesus on the first day of the week (Sunday) after he completed the work his father sent him to do [defeat us and our wickedness-Satan- Death-and his Fathers wrath for the way he feels about us]

        Isaiah 53:7 He (Jesus) was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter (to get slaughtered by his own creation), and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth

        Acts 2:23 This man (Jesus /God became a man) was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you (all of us), with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

        Isaiah 53:7 He (Jesus) was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter (to get slaughtered by his own creation), and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth

        2 Corinthians 5:21 God (The Father) made him (Jesus/ God became a man) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we can become the righteousness of God.

        He was ever forsaken by his father so we wouldn’t have to be.

        Matthew 27:46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

        Mass is Old testament by the way ,there is no more sacrifice. They should not be sacrificing Jesus at there masses. They will be accountable before the lord be assured if it.

        1 Corinthians 10 :11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
        14Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry (FLEE FROM IDOLS WAFERS STATUES OF POPES -MARY ETC). 15I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one loaf (ONE LOAF/ GODS PEOPLE), we, who are many (ALL THROUGHOUT THE WORLD), are one body (IN CHRIST BY HIS SPIRIT), for we all partake of the one loaf (ONE BODY IN CHRIST WE DO IT IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIM IT IS NOT HIM)
        18Consider the people of Israel (SPIRITUAL ISRAEL/ GODS PEOPLE): Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol (WAFER STATUES ETC.) is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?23“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
        25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
        27If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it,(“DO NOT EAT IT” THEY ARE SACRIFICING JESUS EVER TIME THEY PUT HIM IN THAT WAFER).

        And as i said originally we are to worship Jesus on the day he fulfilled the law for his people and not any other day.

        Matthew 28:6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.(Sunday)

        Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.(Everything including the Sabbath)

        Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight (Sunday).

        The lord takes his word (Jesus is the word) very serious and we as his creation are to treat it with the utmost reverence, awe and honor he deserves.or there is eternal consequences.

        Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be eternally condemned!

  16. Todd says:

    You asked, “Why do they have Mass on Saturday when the lord is clear we are to worship Jesus on the first day of the week?”

    The apostle Paul urged believers to pray at all times. Christian worship has never been confined to any single day of the week, in fact the very early apostolic witness (see Acts 3:1ff) was that the early believers prayed daily.

    If you are not a Catholic (and I presume this from the “they” in your statement), you should realize that Catholics have Mass every day of the week.

    Pope John Paul II was clear in his apostolic letter on The Day of the Lord (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_05071998_dies-domini_en.html) that Sunday is to be honored whether or not one attends Mass on Saturday, or Sunday, or one is unable to go to Mass at all. The Saturday evening Mass satisfies the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, but it does not replace the whole observance of Sunday. So when we talk of Saturday evening Mass, we are not talking about the entire spectrum of Catholic worship or spiritual observance. But only the obligation to celebrate Mass on Sunday.

    Also if you are a non-Catholic, it is curious that you would be so concerned about this obligation to attend Mass. If Catholics are in spiritual danger from going to Mass on Saturday evening, it would follow that millions of non-Catholics are in trouble for not attending Mass at all. Indeed, I would point out the numbers of Christian churches that suspend services when Christmas falls on a Sunday. What’s up with that?

    Catholics may not have their act together individually or collectively on Saturdays and Sundays, but we are certainly no worse off than any other Christian group.

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