Noting the lack of Mass scheduled for St. Joseph's feast day this year, Fr. Raymond de Souza writes that much of the Canadian Church has lost its liturgical culture. public domain

Comment: Whatever happened to celebrating feast days?

  • March 30, 2017

Lent gives us two solemn feasts, St. Joseph and the Annunciation of the Lord. Both fell in the last weeks of March, and it is likely that a majority of Canadian parishes did not celebrate both of them; a great many likely celebrated neither.

Have Canadian pastors suddenly lost their piety? Hardly the case. But we have lost our liturgical culture. Central to any culture is how it thinks about time and the rhythms according to which common life is lived. Last week was a good example of how far a Catholic culture has eroded.

St. Joseph’s feast is usually March 19, but this year it fell on Lent Sunday, so the feast was transferred to Monday, March 20. In a great many parishes where only one priest is assigned, there is no Mass scheduled on Monday, given that it is the priest’s day off. I don’t begrudge that, but when the solemn feast of the patron saint of Canada — and patron of the universal Church — falls on a Monday, liturgical time should take priority, not the civic calendar. But I discovered even parishes named for St. Joseph skipped Mass on their own patronal feast!

The Annunciation falls on March 25, which this year was Saturday. Here another problem arose. Many parishes do not have a morning Mass on Saturday. Again, that sole priest usually has an evening anticipated Mass for Sunday, and may well have a wedding or funeral in the morning or midday. Understandable enough. Still, a solemn feast should be observed.

We have lost our sense of Sunday though, replacing it with the secular concept of the “weekend” to the extent that even bishops in Canada routinely adopt the lamentable practice of referring to “weekend Masses” — a concept that does not exist liturgically — as opposed to Masses on “the Lord’s Day” (which includes the anticipated Mass on Saturday, should there be one).

The introduction of Saturday evening Masses for the Lord’s Day — not as an exception but as the norm — has been one of the great pastoral disasters of our time, effectively stripping Sunday of its biblical character as the Sabbath, the moment when God regulates our time, not us. That some parishes report their greatest attendance on Saturday, that some daily Mass-goers make their Sunday obligation on Saturday evening, leaving Sunday as the only day they don’t go to Mass, all are indications of how far we have abandoned our liturgical culture.

Skipping St. Joseph’s feast was bad enough. But Saturday was even worse. From coast to coast parishes did offer the Holy Mass on Saturday, in the evening, but even though the faithful were gathered on the solemn feast of the Annunciation, it was ignored. That is liturgically absurd, elevating the Saturday anticipated Mass over an actual solemn feast.

If parishes are so bound to the civic calendar that they cannot offer a morning Mass for the Annunciation, they ought to have celebrated it in the evening of that same day and the bishop could inform the faithful if it fulfilled their Sunday obligation as he does in analogous situations.

Why does it matter? Catholics today can only practice and hand on the faith if they are accustomed to living in a counter-cultural manner. But no one can live against the prevailing culture without an alternative culture. God Himself indicated the outlines of that alternative culture when He decreed Sabbath observance — more important than any of the commandments related to our neighbour, including “thou shalt not kill” — and a cycle of feasts for the Jews, His chosen people.

The most holy Monday day off, the entrenched culture of the weekend — these are capitulations to the secular keeping of time, accommodations to the prevailing culture. It is a mindset wholly unsuited for the new evangelization.

On another liturgical note, nearly six years ago I described the new Roman Missal produced by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops publications service as “deeply discouraging, saddling Canadian parishes with inferior products for the foreseeable future.”

Well, the future didn’t last long. The aesthetically poor, shoddily made Missal is literally falling apart. At parishes across the nation, it is in a tattered condition, utterly unworthy of being placed on the altar for Holy Mass.

It would be too much, I suppose, for CCCB publications to offer an apology, or better a refund, but they have announced that “to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary” — a transparent ploy — they are now offering it for half price. At half the price it still remains a fourth-rate product, but pastors should be advised that a cheaper replacement can be had.

I never bought the original altar edition, preferring the British and American options, which are still serving quite well.

The embarrassing quality of the Canadian missal is another indication of our enervated liturgical culture.

(Fr. de Souza is the editor-in-chief of and a pastor in the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ont.)

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Three cheers for the return of Father DE Sousa. If we are to be Catholic we must think and live in Catholic circles.

Tim Kenny
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Vatican II happened. And we've been paying for it ever since.

Oswald Gomes
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