From the Pastor: You Can’t Kill Two Liturgical Birds With One Stone!
A lot of angst and turmoil which is showing up in most other parishes this year which Epiphany parishioners will eagerly avoid. What is the issue? Next weekend on the Novus Ordo Mass calendar, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is celebrated on Saturday evening and on Sunday. But Sunday is also the Vigil of Christmas, so there will be Christmas Eve Masses. Most other parishes have only NO Masses and many people are planning on killing two birds with one stone, so to speak, to keep from being “burdened” with that most terrible of all afflictions, namely, “having” to attend Mass twice in one week. Let me set aside for the moment the terrible tragedy of a Catholic who doesn’t rejoice in participating in as many Masses as possible and rather look at the logistics of what they plan to do.
Remember, this is happening at many parishes, but not ours! Those who normally attend the Saturday evening vigil Mass to get their Sunday obligation “out of the way” will skip it that evening, December 23. Likewise, many of those who normally attend on Sunday, whether in the morning or early afternoon or evening will also forgo attending the earlier Masses for the 4th Sunday of Advent on December 24th. Instead, all of them will attempt to get to the Christmas Eve Masses or the “midnight” (shudder) 8:00 pm Mass. That way, they claim, they have been to Mass on Sunday, thus fulfilling their obligation for the last Sunday of Advent, plus they have attended a Christmas Mass (since, in the NO Mass the vigil “counts” as if it were the actual day), so they have also fulfilled their obligation for the Christmas Holy Day. “Yay!” they will exclaim, “We fooled God and only had to go to Mass once this week, plus we fooled the pastor and only had to put one crumpled up dollar bill into a single collection, not two! Woo Hoo! We are the smartest Catholics in the world!” Yep. Damned smart Catholics, if you get my drift. There was even one pastor (in the diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, not here locally, thanks be to God!) who, in his parish bulletin a week or two ago, “dispensed” his parishioners from their Sunday Obligation with this statement: “Therefore, by my authority as pastor, I hereby grant a dispensation from the obligation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in individual cases that meet the following conditions: 1. You are reading this dispensation as an individual right now; 2. You are my canonical parishioner, either by geography or by registration; 3. You place ALL the envelops for BOTH celebrations in the collection basket at whatever Mass you attend.” He foolishly (as if there was anything about his ridiculous stunt which was not foolish) did not tell the people that they had to actually put a monetary contribution in to the envelopes, so if his people wanted to play games the way he taught them in this fiasco, they could have deposited empty envelopes or, better still, stuffed lumps of coal into them. Fortunately, his bishop found out about it and quickly put an end to it. Please pray for his poor parishioners, for their shepherd is lost himself.
So why do I say that such a thing won’t happen here? Well, for the NO Mass parishioners, I assume that they have, for many years, been well catechized and they are excited about getting the opportunity to attend Mass for both Sunday and Christmas. They will attend their normal 5:00 vigil Mass Saturday evening and then come back for the 5:00 pm Christmas Eve NO Mass on Sunday. These are the only two English NO Masses available for the two days in question, so unless they wish to attend a Vietnamese NO Mass (which would certainly fulfill the obligation as well) their choices are limited. I am convinced that nobody that attends the NO here would try to “double up” by only attending the Sunday 5:00 pm Mass. As for the others, those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass don’t even have to have good catechesis behind them to do the right thing in this circumstance, for in the TLM there is no such thing as a vigil Mass substituting for the actual feast day Mass! The Vigil of Christmas actually takes the place of the 4th Sunday of Advent this year. It is the Mass of the day, not the Mass of the evening before the feast. So TLM parishioners will attend either the 7:30 am of the 10:30 am Sunday Christmas Vigil Mass and fulfill their Sunday obligation and then they will attend one of the Masses on Christmas Day itself and fulfill that obligation. The Midnight Mass in the TLM, is the first Mass of Christmas Day, and is never held before real midnight, so there is no silly game which can be played with that Mass.
Anyway, there you have it. Epiphany parishioners can relax and pray while others scheme to avoid prayer. Come twice. Enjoy them both. Glorify God with your prayers and presence at His Most Holy Sacrifice.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka