Sunday Masses On Saturday: A Reverse Of A Proper OrderBy FR. KEVIN VAILLANCOURT
Editor, The Catholic Voice
Well, it's happened again.
Last night I received a phone call from someone in the neighborhood interested in attending Mass in my parish church. You see, my parish is smack-dab in the middle of a large novus ordo parish and I frequently hear from Catholics in the area who wish to attend the Tridentine Latin Mass. The conversation usually goes something like this:
"Good evening, Father," the caller says. "I'm calling to find out what time your Masses are on Sunday."
"Masses on Sunday are offered at 8:30 and 10:30 am.," I reply.
"Father, is there a Saturday Mass?"
"Yes. Mass on Saturday is at 8:30 am."Usually there is a brief period of silence here.
"Father, is there no evening Mass on Saturday?"
"No, not one that fulfills the Sunday obligation. I believe that Sunday is the Lord's Day and that is the day we should be in church for Mass. Masses on Saturday are for Saturday, not Sunday."
"OK. Thank you, Father." (Click)The Saturday/Sabbath/Sunday Dilemma
The conversation depicted above occurs more frequently than most tradition-minded Catholics might imagine. I'm sure priests who adhere to tradition are probably shaking their heads in agreement with this right now. Catholics involved with the novus ordo are accustomed to the idea that they can go to church on Saturday night and that this will count for their Sunday obligation. How often does it happen that many who go to church on Saturday night are in church for the only time that week. Thus, instead of worshipping God on Sunday, it is Sunday that is the one day of the week that they are not in church.
Protestants and members of other religions with a Christian name often raise an objection when discussing the Saturday/Sabbath/Sunday dilemma. "Do you know," one minister said to me, " it is the Catholics alone, of any branch of Christianity, who go to church on Saturday and say it counts for Sunday? Now is Sunday the Lord's Day or not? And if it is, then why are people not in church on Sunday for worship instead of Saturday? Are Catholics just lazy, or is there a good reason for this?"
These are good questions. My reply to him and to many others is that, yes, Sunday, not Saturday, is the Lord's Day in the Christian Dispensation. The change in observing the worship of God on Sunday instead of Saturday occurred in apostolic times. "The practice of meeting together on the first day of the week for the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is indicated in Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2; in Apoc. 1:10 it is called the Lord's Day." (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912, Vol. 14, p. 335) There were good reasons for this. Our Lord rose from the dead on a Sunday and the Holy Ghost came down on the Apostles on a Sunday. Most denominations bearing the name Christian have followed the Catholic practice of having their services on Sunday as the Lord's Day. So do you wonder why many Protestants are upset at Catholics for observing the Sabbath of old as well as the Sunday? We look to them to be spiritually schizophrenic. But, is the novus ordo church catering to laziness in its members by having Saturday/Sunday services? Ah, that is a question that is best answered by the individual.Why The Change?
Canon 1248, 1 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983 says that "The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day." But the change to Saturday/Sunday observance didn't start here. The law in the new Code was merely a statement of fact of something that was already in occurrence in many parishes in the United States by as early as 1968. But why the change? What is more, why have so many of the faithful gone along with it?Sacrosanctum Consilium
, one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, made it a point to say that Sunday observance was supposed to receive higher notice than before. The new theme would center on the "Paschal Mystery" and, in effect, every Sunday would be like another celebration of Easter. It was recommended that the faithful would find more meaning for the Sunday if they prepared for it the Saturday evening before. So far so good. The thought was to encourage the faithful to read ahead for the liturgy of the following Sunday and to participate in Vespers or other prayer services in church on Saturday night. However, other "prayer services" soon lead to liturgical rites, to masses and then to satisfying the question of the people: "If I'm going to church on Saturday night with the Liturgy, and the prayers are from Sunday, then do I have to go back to church on Sunday and hear the same thing?"
The principle of Saturday anticipation of Sunday comes from those who recite the Divine Office. Ordinarily, the celebration of Sunday or a major feast begins on the night before with Vespers. It is part of the solemnity of the day. However, it was never understood that with Vespers, or the celebration of Mass at that time, those observing these practices would fulfill the obligation of attending Mass on Sunday or the holyday. The holyday was always considered as beginning at midnight (not at Vespers) and ending the following midnight. Likewise, the precept of abstaining from servile work has always been traditionally observed from midnight to midnight of the day of obligation. Do those who observe the Saturday/Sunday practice abstain from servile work starting on Saturday evening, or on Sunday morning, or -- do they observe it at all, since the observance of which day is the Lord's Day is confusing?
Since nearly all tradition-minded priests and bishops do not observe the Code of 1983, for very weighty reasons I might add, their holydays are observed on the day of obligation, not the night before. This is but one more instance which clearly demonstrates that the conciliar church of Vatican II is a different church than that of the Catholic Church of all time.
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This article was printed in the March 1997 issue.