When Sunday and Christmas Collide

ht-cmas-2013I think I can guess that nobody is keeping their Sunday schedule for Christmas. Unless your parish only gets a Saturday Mass.

It’s a given that Big Christmas for Catholics has shifted from midnight to the earliest Eve Mass. Why lament it? The biggest challenge for liturgical ministry is not restoring some sense of where a holy day lands, on the eve, the nearest Sunday, or the original day. That ship has long sailed. This would be an example of that Pope Francis comment about the Church’s ministers being more concerned with being hairdressers.

The point, friends, is to present the very best face on the liturgy for regulars, and especially visitors, occasional worshipers, and the vaguely curious. If the people came, heaven forbid, on the 23rd, it would still be the same task.

My parish has set the usual Christmas schedule: two eves, one midnight at 10pm, and two Christmas morning. What about yours?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to When Sunday and Christmas Collide

  1. Liam says:

    “That ship has long sailed.”

    I would have agreed perhaps more than 10 years ago, but, with the perennial caution of citing anecdotes as data, I’ve seen parishes that put substantial effort into the quality of their liturgies for Christmas Day reverse that momentum. Have to say I was gobsmacked (in the best possible way) to see how packed my parents’ parish Masses were for Christmas morning, and my own current parish is packed for both morning Masses (it only has one Vigil Mass), and I am aware of a former parish of mine that improved things by replacing the cantors-on-Christmas-morning with choirs.

  2. Four church amalgam parish: four vigils, two midnights (at 12am), eight Sunday morning, no evening.
    I believe one factor of the secularization of a Sunday Christmas must be laid at our separated kin’s penchant for dismissing (literally) any perceived obligation to attend church taking precedence over the “family time” (whatever that is) tradition. Irony alert, in that such progenitors often are the vanguard for the “Keep Christ in Christmas” political viewpoints and exclamations. Pity the poor football players who have to suit up; oh….never mind, many of them earn 20M per annum. Silly me.

    • Liam says:


      “no evening”.


      It just means it’s time for you to schedule a Singing Christmas Tree at each of your services.

      * * *

      Having been a chorister who did my tour of duty NOT visiting family on the Vigil or Day but staying to sing and then visiting family during the Octave, I am well familiar with the burdens on choirs and their directors trying to do a full suite of liturgical service, because Christmas is *much* more vulnerable to having choristers being away for family visitation than the Triduum services are. That’s one of the two reasons I am less concerned about programming for Christmas being more “popular” (hymns) – the other being that Christmas hymns are typically the ones congregations are most likely to “own” fully – and saving anthems for later in the season. A budget item for a local brass quintet (high schoolers can work out well – Christmas carols & related descants are often well within their ambit of skill) can do wonders to stretch out a sense of splendor from a bony Christmas goose. (Americans, for whom a Christmas goose is likely only encountered in a Dickens story, don’t usually understand that a goose offers much less flesh to share than the non-native-to-England turkey, but offers the compensatory glory of an immense amount of the finest fat – which is used to enrich a host of other dishes in a splendid fashion like stuffings and puddings and what not – make a great feast from a little.)

      • Liam says:

        Visual PS of how a goose is not a turkey:

        Geese look way bigger than chickens – even longer than hen turkeys (even smaller tom turkeys), and with a chest cavity that seems bigger than most turkeys’ – it’s just that the breast is much much thinner than either a turkey or roasting chicken. And those wings are way way bony.

        The relatively slim pickings (one goose for large table would mean quite small portions all around by contemporary American standards) have the compensatory glory of the most delicious skin and fat….

  3. Slacker? Dagnabit right you are.

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