Later this month, the Catholic community will celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which emphasizes the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. When I was a small boy, my mom took me to church in the afternoon on this Sunday when it was called the Feast of Corpus Christi. We’d spend time (it was just an hour, but it felt like an eternity) just kneeling there (or so I thought) in Church. There was no air conditioning, and since June was a rather hot summertime month, I wondered why the Church would want to have its members kneel for an hour on the hottest day of the year. Perhaps it was to balance out Christmas, which was almost 6 months after this feast day, since it always seemed like the coldest day of the year. I was told it was a special time called “adoration,” and the Eucharist was prominently displayed on the altar in a large golden object that looked like the sun.
Now that I’m much older, I wish for that special time again. Say what you will about current society, but I believe one of the worst things about it is the loss of the “specialness” of the Sabbath. Sorry 24/7 culture, but even today’s doctors say that appropriate rest is the proper way to re-energize. 5-hour energy shots aren’t. The brain, and not just our body, needs sleep…and a proper amount of it…every night. Frankly, I think that’s one of the advantages of our pandemic-inflicted world we’re living in. We can SLOW DOWN, especially during this time of Advent, and take time to reprioritize what’s really important.
As we continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its successive variants, there may still be some restrictions regarding Mass reimposed since mask mandates are once again being imposed, and there’s still the option for many to experience Mass online – which is indeed a gift to the homebound and infirm. For younger adults, their work schedules are ridiculous. I believe there’s still a mindset out there that thinks work is a “vocation” in the ordained sense since employers expect employees to put the job first at all times, and then families come second, rationalizing it by saying you do your job to take care of your family. Training for carpentry and plumbing used to be called vocational training, but a vocation is a calling. You may be called to be an electrician or a bricklayer, but it’s not the same type of vocation that an ordained minister is called to. For older adults, it may be quite difficult to get to Mass if there’s no one to assist them, and as a priest friend of ours loves to say, “It’s a remembrance of the Last Supper…not the Last Breakfast!”
So how about some type of gathering in the evening? An hour of music and prayer, perhaps an hour of adoration, and perhaps continuing fellowship (which could be at the parish or at a local food and drink establishment, cognizant of masking and social distancing, of course) might be a way to reach out and minister to those that just can’t get to the Church before the sun comes up during the week. It could also differentiate a parish from other parishes of the area.
What would be really different would be augmenting the daily Mass schedule, offering one in the morning and one in the evening. Of course, such a schedule might have to mean that the evening Mass is a vigil Mass, which could require a change in scheduling if there is a Sunday night Mass for Sunday, as well as play havoc with all the committee meetings that happen during the evening. Nonetheless, since there are a significant number of parishes that do not currently offer a Sunday night Mass, adding 6 Masses during the week could be one of those “remarkable” things that sets a parish apart from other parishes in the area. While it’s true that a Mass after sunset should be considered as the vigil Mass for the following day, evening Mass may not be considered to be acceptable on a regular basis, but how about a daily Mass at noon? Record the morning Mass during the week and stream in so it can be experienced at lunchtime! If workers are scheduled for a 7 am to 7 pm shift, there’s usually no way they can fulfill their obligation. Oh, sure there is, but they’d have to change careers, and if they’re using their God-given gifts in, say, the healthcare field, especially today, then that’s not the best option either.
And realizing the shortage of priests AND these crazy schedules, why do we knock ourselves out to have 3 Masses on Sunday morning? How about one Saturday night, one Sunday morning, and one late Sunday afternoon before sunset. Different? Sure! Appropriate? Yes.
In your planning, remember that parishes are now asked to work together more than ever before. In an area where there are three worship sites working as one parish, one might have daily Mass in the morning, another have daily Mass at noon, and another have daily Mass at 6 PM. “6 PM? Why, that’s dinner time,” you may say. Yes it is, so go back to that quote that refers to the Last Supper. Personally, I’d LOVE to attend Mass at 6 pm. And in the greater scheme of things, let’s get past the rubrics of sunset and sunrise which are human constraints and focus on what God wants for us. I’d bet He loves that we’re setting time aside to spend with Him and thanking Him for the gifts he continues to bestow upon us.
By the way, you may remember last week’s article was about Evangelization. Here’s an easy way to plan to do that. If your parish still publishes a bulletin, take four bulletins – one for you, one for the neighbor to the right, and the neighbor to the left of your home and for the one across the street. Invite them to Mass. Sit with them. Pray together. Even if it’s just for an hour. Jesus asked the same thing of His three closest friends.