The Armchair Liturgist: Cancelling Liturgical Christmas

During 8:30 Mass yesterday we had almost an inch deposited on our parked cars. The buzz at church during our brief whiteout in Story County was the incoming weather system due to hit later this week.

I confess I’m glad I’m not the pastor making decisions on the state of liturgical grace. Particularly for those “two-timing” worshippers due to grace our doors later this week. But how bad does it have to get before you cancel Christmas?

As a church musician, suppose you have oodles of cool music ready to go when Father calls and says to stay home on Thursday/Friday. A lot of it is appropriate on Holy Family Sunday. Transfer some or all of your prelude?

Christmas Eve practice in our parish is later tonight at 6:30. That will be less of a challenge than Midnight Mass practice, now scheduled for Wednesday at 7. Daily highs will be close to the freezing point, which means some treacherous driving conditions, even within our city.

I leave it in the hands of you armchair liturgists out there. Suppose you have the pastor’s ear. What would you advise? And if Christmas is cancelled, what do you do with the fruits of your rehearsals for the Nativity feast? provides the “White Christmas Probability Map” for interested weather geeks. Usually, the historical expectations are on this map, but I think now they have the actual prediction of having an inch or more of snow, new or old, on the ground Christmas morning.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in The Armchair Liturgist. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Cancelling Liturgical Christmas

  1. Liam says:

    You cancel when there is a significant risk to public safety by inviting people to travel when they should not; a pastor might also have a special legal duty to his employees in that regard, btw.

    That’s a somewhat less squishy measure, perhaps.

    The Sunday after Christmas falls within the Octave of Christmas, and all of the days of the Octave partake of Christmas Day, so whatever you would have programmed for Christmas (other than the readings and proper collects; even the psalm may be the seasonal psalm, which you would have used on Christmas anyway), you may reschedule for Sunday with unadulterated glee.

  2. Kent says:

    What is “cool” music? The music and preparation thereof should be the last consideration about whether or not to cancel Mass. Christmas Mass with or without “oodles of cool music” is still Christmas Mass. If the priest can make it to church, then you have Mass. Surely he can lead the singing of a couple of Christmas hymns even if he is by himself. And for those able to attend, it will probably be the Christmas that they look back on with the most sentimentality; the one they tell their grandkids about.

  3. Copernicus says:

    It should be unthinkable to cancel it under any circumstances, is my honest opinion. How few people would have to be there to make it a waste of time to celebrate the Nativity?

    “Risking public safety by inviting travel” is a consideration only an American lawyer could have dreamt up! (OK, to be fair, libel laws in the UK are far stupider than anything an American lawyer might ever have dreamt up.) The Church has to be above that.

  4. Liam says:


    I should have been clear that by cancelling”it” I meant the whole nine yards of Christmas music programming that seemed to be the particular focus of Todd’s post. Obviously, the priest(s) on site would celebrate Mass on Christmas (perhaps in the rectory) but if the parking lot is snowed in, you aren’t likely to get any choir or much of a congregation (those who come in snowshoes or on skies would of course be welcomed, I imagine).

    The bishop would, I expect, be sensible enough to dispense people from the preceptual obligation to assist at Mass under these circumstances, btw.

  5. MJM says:

    Our Parishioners always talk about the year the power was out in the entire city and various parishioners set up a generator and a (likely very unsafe from how it was described) giant heater in the main aisle of the Church. Even after the Bishop had ordered Masses not to take place due to the snow storm and lack of traffic lights, ours was the only Church that still celebrated Mass with a full choir.

    I wasn’t around for it, but they sure love to talk about it.

  6. Anne says:

    The Lord never intended for us to risk life and limb to make it to Mass.

  7. Liam says:


    As martyrs, perhaps he did, but not as stupid people. Driving to Mass in a snowstorm where public authorities have asked all but emergency vehicles to stay off the roads is not an example of the piety of martyrs but of self-centeredness (however well-meaning, as much self-centeredness is) – it’s one more vehicle that can cause accidents, get into accidents and keep emergency vehicles from doing their jobs.

  8. Jimmy Mac says:

    In the Bad Old Daze when missing mass intentionally was a Big Bad Mortal Sin, one could be automatically excused from attending because of “health reasons.”

    It seems to me that the conditions described above constitute a significantly possible health situation.

    Discretion is oft-times the better part of church valor. Postpone the mass until a time when it is safe for the regulars and irregulars to travel thereto.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s