I’m proud to offer my full support to George Weigel’s recommendation that we reclaim the Church’s “Countercultural Time” as a way to promote universal holiness in America, specifically by reclaiming traditional feasts and solemnities as days Catholics are required to attend Mass:
Let me suggest one specific, concrete way that Catholicism in America can begin to mount a campaign of resistance to the flattening-out of our common life by the ambient culture: Restore a distinctive sense of time to Catholic life, and do that by reforming the reform of the liturgical calendar.”
Many Catholics are already passionate about reclaiming the liturgy, and I believe this worthy goal is best achieved within the context of also reclaiming liturgical time throughout the year. Weigel writes:
As things now stand, the Church has bent its sense of liturgical time to the imperial demands of that modern cultural artifact, the weekend. The Holy See has permitted local churches to lower the bar of liturgical expectation by transferring solemnities like Epiphany and Corpus Christi to Sundays, and the bishops of the United States have gone a step farther by lifting the obligation to attend Mass on certain holy days if those days fall on a Saturday or a Monday: thus, just a few weeks ago, the Solemnity of All Saints dropped off a lot of Catholic radar screens because it fell on a Monday, and was thus not a holy day of obligation.
These are very bad ideas, it seems to me. If the time we spend worshipping God through Christ in the power of the Spirit is, in truth, an experience of enriched time (because it anticipates the time-beyond-time,) then we should not look for ways to cut temporal corners by shifting to Sunday long-established feasts whose celebration during the week once gave a unique rhythm to Catholic life. So let’s put Epiphany back where it belongs, on January 6, and let’s get the Solemnity of the Body and Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, back where it belongs, which is during the week.
I completely agree with this. It is not too much to require Catholics to occasionally go to Mass two days in a row. Weigel says that instead of removing holy days of obligation from the calendar, we should be adding them back: Epiphany, Corpus Christi (which promotes Eucharistic devotion and belief), the Annunciation (“which could become an annual celebration of the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death”). Two more holy days could be established:
And if the late John Paul II was right in lifting up Our Lady of Guadalupe as a special Marian gift to the Church in the Americas, then perhaps we should consider making December 12 a holy day of obligation, focused on the New Evangelization. I would also be tempted to add to an expanded list of obligatory holy days the October 19 feast of the North American Martyrs, as a reminder of just how challenging the proclamation and defense of the faith can be.
Weigel is also counseling us to be sensible about reintroducing the obligation to attend Mass on these traditional holy days:
As for the practical problems of distance involved in some rural areas, these can be easily addressed by the local bishop dispensing from holy days of obligation when he sees fit. Nonetheless, the Church as a whole ought to make a countercultural statement by the reforming the way it orders the rhythms of its life.
I would add, to respond to a question that is sure to arise, that Catholics are already permitted to miss Mass if it is simply impractical for them to do so. Holy days of obligation during the week would therefore operate according to the same principles that already govern the Sunday obligation to attend Mass.
I have a personal story to contribute. This November 1st (18 days ago) the solemnity of All Saints, which is ordinarily a holy day of obligation, fell on a Monday. According to ecclesiastical decree in the US, whenever this feast falls on a Monday (or Saturday) Catholics are no longer obliged to attend Mass.
Well, I still went to Mass. I’m blessed to work within easy walking distance of a daily Noon Mass and so I attended during my lunch hour. It was packed, far more than a typical weekday Mass. Many other local Catholics had obviously decided they still wanted to attend Mass on this day, even though they probably do not make a habit of attending Mass daily. It was wonderful and uplifting to witness so many other Catholics forming their priorities this way. I departed and returned to my job thankful for the unique privilege Catholics enjoy in being able to worship and receive our Lord in the Eucharist.
Restoring liturgical time, and beginning to do so by reclaiming our traditional holy days of obligation, and even adding a few more, is a way to encourage more Catholics to share in this grace-filled experience.
I think there is everything good about such a proposal.