Going To Mass on January 1

I’m interested in the turnout for Mass today and last night in Catholics parishes in the US. In the US, this was the first time in four years the Solemnity of Mary was a non-Sunday obligation. Does four years raise that many questions in people’s minds? Clearly so.
For three Masses, our parish had almost nine-hundred people–about 40% of our usual Sunday attendance and a shade over 25% of last week’s holy day.

One person I spoke with after our 9AM Mass came from another parish. She didn’t even know if her own parish had Mass today, but she knew we would.

Did you make it to church for the feast? What do you think would really put the bodies in the pews on a day like today?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to Going To Mass on January 1

  1. concordpastor says:

    For the past 3 years we’ve had only one Mass, on January 1, nothing on the eve thereof. I only have eyeball figures but our attendance today was close to 350 – certainly twice what I expected. It turned out to be a beautiful celebration at 11:00 a.m.

    I don’t believe there’s a high “sense” about holy day obligation in the parish, certainly not among those under 65. My guess is that people were there because it was the first day of a new year and they wanted to begin that year in prayer. The time was convenient and didn’t require early rising after a celebratory night.

  2. Liam says:

    I went to my territorial parish (not where I am registered) on the Eve; it was quite full.

    I do think the three successive years of no HDOO has diminished the sense of the obligation significantly. I don’t think the current policy works in that regard.

    Then again, I think Epiphany should be a HDOO on its proper day, not January 1, in the US.

  3. Marilyn says:

    Our new pastor scheduled no vigil the eve prior but an 8:30a.m. and 7pm – the one I attended the day of. This was surprisingly a popular decision with around 500 at the 7pm…

  4. Dale Price says:

    Yes. It seemed a bit light, attendance wise, especially with our parish offering only one Mass. We had some snow in on New Year’s Eve, but it wasn’t that bad.

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    I don’t “do” Marian things, but I asked someone who I knew would be attending our parish. He said there were about 100 people there (out of a usual 400). So I guess 25% is true for us’ns, too.

  6. Liam says:

    Btw, the feast is primarily a Christological feast and should be preached as such; while it honors Mary, it honors her in a way that points beyond her to Christ. The title Theotokos is a deep Christological and Trinitarian title.

  7. Deacon Eric says:

    Here in Los Angeles (and the other diocese of the province of Los Angeles) we do not observe January 1 as a Holy Day of Obligation. And I think Cardinal Mahony deserves credit for the courage to acknowledge that having January 1 as a day of obligation is an artificial top-down “devotion” that has never taken hold.

    I’d say the same about December 8. If these are such important solemnities, why do we get stripped-down minimalistic “celebrations” without music or effort — “Just get ’em in and out so they fulfill their obligation…”

    It’s not about the dedication of the people. The churches are empty on December 8 and overflowing on December 12 for Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the churches are packed every morning for nine days at 4 or 6 a.m. leading up to Christmas for Simbang Gabi.

    Seems to me the people have spoken: The Immaculate Conception has no meaning as a celebration (Anyone recall those festive parades and family traditions around December 8? No? Because there were none), and the hierarchy’s long search for a reason to have Jan. 1 as a holy day (first it was the Octave of Christmas, then the Circumcision, then the World Day of Peace, now it’s Mary the Mother of God). Celebrations come from the heart of the people, not from legislation.

  8. Deacon Eric says:

    Sorry, left out a line. The last paragraph should read:

    Seems to me the people have spoken: The Immaculate Conception has no meaning as a celebration (Anyone recall those festive parades and family traditions around December 8? No? Because there were none), and the hierarchy’s long search for a reason to have Jan. 1 as a holy day (first it was the Octave of Christmas, then the Circumcision, then the World Day of Peace, now it’s Mary the Mother of God) has never delivered a believable reason as to why people should be in church on a secular holiday. Celebrations come from the heart of the people, not from legislation.

  9. Marilyn says:

    well I was glad to be at Mass that evening and didn’t mind the reason or obligation:)

  10. Liam says:

    Deacon Eric

    The reason 12/8 is a HDOO in the US without the Saturday/Monday exemption is because it is the patronal feast of the nation and it is usual for national patronal feasts to be HDOOs. But, unlike many other countries, our culture is not Catholic and thus we’ve never developed the celebratory customs associated with national patrons elsewehere. So, another question is – should we be doing something about *that*?

    I am curious at the position of the Province of California re the HDOO on 1/1, because it is not mentioned in the USCCB’s calendar, which notes all exceptions to the HDOO schedule (such as the peculiar provincial arrangement for Hawaii and those re the Ascension that vary on a provincial regional basis). Any standing (as opposed to temporary emergency) deviation therefrom would have to be approved by Rome. Was it? Apparently people have searched regarding this but come up empty handed so far.

    Anyway, I would welcome ditching the 1/1 HDOO and instead stop transferring Epiphany from its proper day and make 1/6 a HDOO. And also make the Sunday thereafter the Solemnity of the Theophany (the first manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity, in our Lord’s baptism at the river Jordan).

  11. Back in parts East, on January 1st, we serve the Liturgy of St. Basil in honor of both the Feast of St. Basil, and the Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord.

  12. We also serve the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, or Theophany, on its proper day: i.e., January 6th.

  13. Deacon Eric says:


    You raise an interesting question about who determines Holy Days of Obligation. It’s my understanding that they are determined by the bishops’ conferences as provided in canon 1246. I know, for example, that some other countries have many more Holy Days than the U.S. does (and the list of 10 days in c. 1246 is more than we’ve observed here for some time).

    And there appears to be some discretion left to the ordinary, as is illustrated by most of the Western U.S. provinces (including the provinces of Los Angeles and San Francisco, two provinces in California) transferring the Ascension to a Sunday.

    Wikipedia has a summary by nation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Day_of_Obligation

  14. Liam says:

    Deacon Eric

    That example was, however, permitted by an action of the entire conference subject to Rome’s approval. That is, it was the conference that applied to Rome for permission to give the regional provinces the authority to make the determination re that particular feast. And the choice was merely one of schedule (the choice of which was already permitted elsewhere by Rome), not of dispensing with the obligation. Btw, most of the provinces of the US do this, except in the Northeast and Nebraska, IIRC.

    Absent evidence of approval by Rome in some way, it would seem the action by LA province re 1/1 is NOT properly construed as a licit permanent change in the schedule of holydays.

    An ordinary has the power to dispense the faithful from preceptual obigations for pastoral reasons. I think, for example, of the classic example of blizzards on Ash Wednesday, for example, where fasting/abstinence obligations were dispensed out of pastoral need (I remember this from 1978).

    That, however, is an ad hoc pastoral dispensation. It is not the lifting of the obligation as such, which would require conforming to the rules Rome has laid out. (To American ears, the distinction may not seem to be much of a difference, but it’s a big one in Roman law – dispensing from compliance with the law is quite different from changing the law, as it were.)

    So, it would seem the province dispensed from the obligation this year. For what pastoral reasons I do not know. Where this to become chronic, I would imagine people could get Rome’s attention to the matter….

  15. Liam says:


    Thanks. Of course, in the eastern tradition, the Epiphany to the Gentiles is celebrated on the feast of the Nativity itself, whereas the western tradition celebrates that on the 6th of January and commemorates the Theophany separately.

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