Christmas Scheduling

My former parish in Kansas City had a grueling Christmas schedule. I inherited four Christmas Eve Masses (two simultaneously on our campus with a total of 1300-plus between them), a Midnight Mass, and three on Christmas morning. A few years later, we trimmed Christmas Day down to two. But there seemed to be sufficient attendance at 6 & 8 pm, at midnight, as well as those two on Christmas morning.

I noticed on Facebook they celebrate five Christmas liturgies now. 1:30PM Christmas Eve–that was an eye-opener. 5:30PM with the school choir–that seems a good idea for drawing some parish families. That schedule might well have netted them three full Masses, and no need to send worshipers to the school hall.

What do you think of that 1:30 time though? Too much of a concession to modern American practices? Or is it good to let people get the Christmas “obligation” out of the way well before any festivities with loved ones and friends?

From a selfish view, that schedule would have worked well for me–lots of time for my family on Christmas Eve and morning. I remember one year when my wife and I snarled up wrapping presents (“I thought you were doing it!”) and we both ended up folding, taping, and tagging gifts until nearly 4am (after I got home from Midnight Mass) and then it was up at 6:30 to shower for the morning Masses. The new schedule seems human. But that 1:30 Mass: is it kosher?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Christmas Scheduling

  1. Fred says:

    The Cathedral has a 2:30 on Christmas Eve (and every Saturday)…so another hour earlier maybe not so bad?

  2. Liam says:

    Well, who is going to tell those people they didn’t fulfill their preceptual obligation? Unless the bishop clearly dispenses with the obligation (he has to act affirmatively), they’ve got that problem for any Mass celebrated before 4pm in the US.

  3. Anne says:

    It’s not kosher if the rule of celebration is to begin by 4pm . However, thinking outside the box …and considering how to reach those Christmas /Easter Catholics,… maybe an earlier than 4 pm liturgy is a good idea on Christmas Eve. I don’t think the “obligation” should be lifted, just changed for that one feast. Allowing those who may wish to attend mass earlier in order to spend more time with their families might be a way of understanding, reaching out , welcoming, New Evangelization etc.

  4. I think the trending prevelence to schedule multiple Vigil Masses already denigrates the “holy” part of holiday, and defintely kow-tows to the perception of Christmas as a secular event, albeit edifying to “family values.”

  5. Liam says:

    The definition of evening for the purpose of celebrating Mass as starting at 4pm goes back to Pius XII in 1953 (which overturned the centuries-long prohibition on celebration of Mass after noon and before midnight), and it was this rule that the US bishops reinforced in the 1960s when they adopted the rules concerning anticipated Masses for the purpose of fulfilling canonical precepts; given this plus the canonical issues, it would probably have to go to Rome to get changed. A bishop could thus only dispense, not change the preceptual obligation; but, as I noted above, a dispensation is not an implied action but must be affirmative in nature. I would have a hard time imagining that being done, given that there is not a lack of Masses to fulfill the preceptual obligation; it’s merely a matter of preference on the part of some of the faithful, which doesn’t rise to the grave level needed to justify a dispensation.

    I question how much of this is indeed a matter of supply vs demand. In parishes where there is only one vigil Mass for Christmas Eve, I’ve seen packed churches on Christmas Day. It may be that pastoral staff, in anticipating a need a providing a supply, create the demand that justifies the supply post-hoc.

  6. Melody says:

    I’m in favor of any kind of scheduling which gets people to Mass. Our parish has done without the Midnight Mass the past two years. We only have one priest and he was already covering a 5:00 vigil Mass and three more in the morning. The midnight Mass was poorly attended, so it was the obvious one to get dropped. We wouldn’t be able to add a Christmas eve afternoon Mass because that would just add to the pastor’s burden; but my married kids who live in a bigger city would totally be in favor of it. I can’t imagine the powers that be opposing something that would mean more people meeting their Mass obligation, but I suppose some would be sticklers about it.

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