Hurried Solemnities

Solemnities and the many other liturgical feasts that fill our calendar are meant to be true celebrations.  Our current Missal translation even uses the word “festival” in some of the prayers.

However, sometimes the added liturgical elements can provide a challenge to celebration.  I remember as a seminarian, that when a solemnity added a third Scripture reading, a Gloria and a Creed to the Eucharist, meant that the little time that we had in the mornings between chapel and departure for class all but disappeared. Unfortunately, the most memorable element of many solemnities was that we would not have time for breakfast and that there would only be two or three minutes between the end of the Eucharist and our having to be in the van to go to class.

When you have time to spare, then the solemnity can be celebrated beautifully. Some institutions are fortunate enough to be able to modify their schedules and cancel class or work to allow for the fulness of worship options on these day. But when you do not control the rest of your schedule it can be a challenge. It would be hard to tell parishioners that the 7 AM Mass will be at 6:30 or 6:45 AM tomorrow because we are observing a particular solemnity.

I remembered these experiences from my seminary training last Saturday.  We celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  This is truly a beautiful liturgical feast.  But I had a group on campus for weekend classes. The Eucharist is usually offered for them 45 minutes before class begins.  Some students do come, but it is a challenge to make it to the campus that early. They were not late for class, but there was a certain tension between the competing liturgical and time concerns.

This leads to some reflections. Ought we schedule the liturgy earlier when we have solemnity? I am not a morning person, and while I do value the additional elements in the liturgical celebration, I also find it hard to equate getting up earlier, even by 15 minutes, with celebration. Do we skip parts of the Eucharistic liturgy? This is against liturgical norms and rubrics, but I suspect that often the celebrant “forgets” the Gloria and especially the Creed.  Or do we fast track the Mass, so that the Gloria and Creed are quickly recited in a scrupulous way, so that each and every word that is prescribed in the Missal is prayed albeit at breakneck speed?

Obviously, there must be some common sense and it is not always possible to sing the Misa Criolla at a regularly scheduled daily Eucharist, particularly in the early morning. But it is also true that we ought to make solemnities more festive. Extra liturgies could be scheduled later in the day to allow for proper celebration of these days, but the experience of the so-called Holy Days of Obligation, shows that these often have poor attendance.

But how ought we do justice to our rich liturgical heritage that expects longer celebrations on special days and the ancient principle that Sacramenta sunt propter homines (sacraments are for people)?

Cover art: Tower clock of Ss Peter and Paul’s Church, Old Brampton, Derbyshire, from Wikimedia Commons.




10 responses to “Hurried Solemnities”

  1. Todd Flowerday Avatar
    Todd Flowerday

    Monasteries have it easiest. Parochial schools, too, where liturgy is a priority. Altering a festival day to a Sunday pattern is a thought. Providing an hour or a bit more for daily Mass even if not needed is another. Catholic universities and high schools may be even more difficult than parishes. Years ago at my campus ministry at a state university, daily Mass was scheduled for the lunch hour. One of our staff visited another similar school in another state where that Mass was celebrated daily at 5:30pm and attended by four to five times as many students as ours. Oh, the resistance to changing our schedule, even for only one day of the week.

    I tend to look with more harshness to myself and the institution on the provision for liturgy on solemnities and “obligatory” days. We don’t take the lesson of Ash Wednesday much to heart. And I don’t mean the meme of giving people something to take home. Ash Wednesday has meaning, even for the casual believer, and the occasional non-Catholic. Somehow, it must be possible to give a needed and welcomed message about all saints, the Blessed Mother, and a parish name patron. And if we can’t, maybe it’s better to delete the Creed, Gloria, and third reading.

  2. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    In a school context, the problem is that communal worship is considered as just one more slot in the curriculum, and has to fight for its own space. Trying to “fit in” Mass is putting the cart before the horse. You’d have though that in a “Catholic” institution, adapting schedules would not be an issue, but it always seems to be.

    1. Alan Johnson Avatar
      Alan Johnson

      Years of experience teaching in Catholic High schools has taught me that dragooning pupils who may or may not be observant Catholics to Mass during the teaching day is a bad, bad idea.
      But that is a different discussion.

  3. John Lilburne Avatar
    John Lilburne

    If there is a scheduling problem with Masses of various times, the solution is to make all the Masses roughly the same time.

    Decisions can be made about the time for the homily, silence, Universal Prayer, singing hymns, Penitential Act, Eucharistic Prayer and introductions.

    For example, a seminary could decide there will be singing of the Gloria and Creed on a solemnity, so the usual Entrance hymn will be replaced with a spoken Entrance Antiphon; a usual hymn after Communion will be omitted.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar
      Todd Flowerday

      Schools have to make liturgy a priority. They think that they have to hew to a set schedule. But that certainly prioritizes the 90% non-religion academics and extra-c’s above the worship of God. It might happen that way in seminaries too. A fine way to teach priests-to-be what the Church prioritizes.

  4. Edward Hamer Avatar
    Edward Hamer

    I would greatly appreciate it if Masses could be scheduled earlier in the morning during the week – where I live they are mostly scheduled for after 9am, presumably on the basis that most of the people attending them are retired. That makes it hard for people of working age to get to Masses for solemnities which don’t fall on a Sunday.

    Mass at, say, 7am would also allow us to get the children to Mass before the school day starts, which might help with the schools’ scheduling probems.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      There is a parish near me that long had only a midmorning Mass on solemnities (this was even before clustering) – no evening Mass. They obviously decided to let parishioners who cared about the obligation to go to other parishes for that.

      1. Edward Hamer Avatar
        Edward Hamer

        It’s surprising. We actually ended up at our current parish because the church closest to us didn’t have any evening (or early morning) Masses for some Holy Days of Obligation, so we had to travel to this other parish and then found that we liked it.

        Where I live there are lots of people who commute into the nearest city and are therefore not around during the daytime, so if an enterprising priest started offering early morning “Commuter Masses” that people could go to en route to work he could get quite a congregation.

    2. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
      Anthony Hawkins

      During Lent our small (Sunday total around 150) parish has two weekday Masses, adding 7:30 to the usual 10:00. The earlier has been getting congregations over 30, as against 12 to 20 for the retirees like me.

  5. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    We had a local priest who used to promise 30 minute Masses on days of obligation. He was known as Half-hour Harry.

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