Sunday, December 24, 2023


Isn’t it odd how a “little permission” for something becomes the norm. When the Church, and yes, for pastoral reasons that were contrived, allowed for vigil Masses, it was very, very narrow. The Mass had to start at 7 PM, no earlier and it was for those who could not make it on Sunday, like those who the medical industry and other service jobs who were required to work on Sunday.

Well, well, well. Today it is the Mass of default for the elderly and everyone else who wants to enjoy Sunday without the hassle of going the Mass. And in some places the Vigil can be at 2 pm on Saturday. Most allow for 4 pm. 

This changed our Christmas traditions in many unfortunate ways. The majority of Catholics now celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December to get it over with. In my parishes, I had a 4 pm Children’s Vigil, 6pm for others, 8 pm for some strange reason. Christmas Day only at two Masses, 12 Midnight and 10 AM the Day of and it was sparsely attended. 

That’s how a virus works and corrupts and we can certainly apply it to other things in the Church to this day with new Covid-like viruses being unleashed on the sacraments.

My successor at St. Anne’s Church in Richmond Hill is bucking the trend. When I was there, because the Church seats about 1,200, I had two Vigil Mass, both packed, one at 5 PM, billed the children’s Mass and the other at 8 PM to take the place of the Midnight Mass and then one on Christmas Day at 10 AM.

The “new” pastor this year is only having Christmas Midnight Mass at midnight—how novel and one Mass on Christmas Day. I wonder how that will work and how many families with small children will go elsewhere. But it is a sea change that won’t be uncontroversial but a good change in my mind. I think, though, if one does this, there should be two or more Christmas Day Masses in the morning. 

The least bishops could do is the set what time the first Vigil Mass can take place as is done for the Easter Vigil. I would suggest that it be a 9 PM on the 24th. Or, be bold, say there can be no vigil Masses anymore. Sunday and Holy Day Masses can start at 12 midnight and all day, if one wants to, on Sunday and the actual Holy Day.

What do you think?


rcg said...

Yeah, it did ‘precess’ over time. We went to Midnight Mass and got to sleep in. We also got to dig into snacks when we got home. Then began the travels to visit relatives. My uncle played the organ for Mass so it was really a family tradition that was actually a lot of fun.

Also, there has become a tension over starting Christmas too early. I agree, but the anticipation of the birth of a child, I can say from experience, is joyful and everyone asks when the child is due. So it starts early. The time right after the birth is clearly the dawn of a new age, a new life amongus, that changes everything to revolve around it. Celebration and sober dedication idecdnds from Joy.

ByzRus said...

Agree. Options proliferate more options.

TJM, I've been slammed and have missed our chats. Hope you are doing well as I don't know how else to find you but here.

Wishing all a very blessed Feast of the Nativity. Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

TJM said...


Good to hear from you. I hope things ease up soon! A great benefit of being retired.

A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

ByzRus said...


Likewise, a very blessed and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Fr Martin Fox said...

I would say, of course, it's so very hard to claw back. Even if, as a pastor, I am prepared to endure the blowback, I have to weigh whether to have that particular battle now, or else put my energy and time into other struggles ahead of that. Maybe in ten years I'll get back to it (assuming other contentious matters are resolved). My view is that I can anticipate certain changes being both necessary and involving lots of explanation and patience, and it makes sense to order them such that success for one makes subsequent successes more likely. Exactly what that order is, is not self-evident; it varies from parish to parish.

That said, as much as I love *Midnight* Mass, the Missal refers to "Mass at Night," and as a now-departed colleague observed, for centuries, people wouldn't have easily known just when *midnight* was. And, I must say, getting up even for a 9 am Mass on Christmas, after having Midnight Mass, gets harder every year.

Right now it's fairly bright outside, and our first two "vigil" Masses for the "family" of parishes I am responsible for began 20 minutes ago -- offered by two of my colleagues, of course; I will depart shortly for the 4:30 pm "vigil" at the third campus.

Catechist Kev said...

Merry Christmas, Fr. McDonald! 😀

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow this Holiest of Nights when Christ was born. ✝

Unknown said...

Of course, "vigil" Masses these days bear no resemblance to vigils in the Catholic tradition. Traditionally, they always had distinct readings, and the days usually called for fasting/abstinence. Now, a "vigil" Mass is more properly called an anticipated Sunday Mass, except for the Easter Vigil and, if celebrated using the unique propers for Saturday evening, the Vigil of Pentecost.

Interestingly enough, one of the original reasons advanced for Saturday evening Masses fulfilling the Sunday obligation was to make things easier for people going on Sunday ski trips. Make of that "pastoral" accommodation what you will