US Bishops Seem to Say It’s OK to be Too Busy for God

There is a point in everyone’s life when you begin to see the tug-of-war between God and the World. The Gospels highlight, underline, and encircled this very tug-of-war during the encounter our Lord had with Satan in His forty days:  The devil put it out there clearly: “all these kingdoms are mine.”  Related to this struggle is what Our Lord tells us: your treasure is where your heart is, and for those that love Him, the Kingdom of God is already in their hearts, alive.

Opportunities to celebrate (in the real sense) the things of Heaven and events of our Heavenly family are called feast days. Some feasts are so important to the family of Heaven that Mother Church has called them Holy Days, or Holy Days of Obligation. These are the commemoration of things that establish, define, or have deep sentimental significance for our Heavenly Family. We want to be part of the family, so those of us who have already set our sights on the things of Heaven want to be part of the events of Heaven.

It only follows that, because these things are relished, loved, and desired among the family, that we’d look forward to being part of it. Easter, for instance, is the event annually where we recall that death was destroyed by our Savior and Life-Giver, Jesus. If you’ve ever spent time with older people and talked with them about their life, there is always some events that bubble to the top of their memory, and when they discuss those events, there eyes sort of reveal that their mind had taken them back to the event and you can see the emotions on their face of they re-live the event. Feast days in the Church do that for us. They give us children of the Church a way to re-live her most awesome moments!

Family Time and Family Moments

Any family member can rattle off a list of events in their family that anyone else in the family can relate and would list as well.  Ask someone, or think of it yourself — there was the time cousin Nick opened his restaurant, and everyone went to help. Today, the restaurant is three times as big and has fifty employees! The time Aunt Betty graduated from school but Uncle Tom was stuck in an airport half way around the world. Ah, and the one holiday when everything went wrong. That’s life, and most people love to recollect those events and live them again to compare where their life is today. If Heaven is real and with living people, would it not do the same?

The Church, our Heavenly family has those same kinds of events. There was the time Our Lord was born, and it was so awful because the Inn kicked them out. There was the Resurrection at Easter, and the Apostles, God love them, were scared and hiding. There was the time at that funeral when some guy went crazy and tried to knock the casket over. Wait, that last one is today, today is when we talk about Mary’s funeral and how Our Lord forever changed what funerals mean for those who love Him. Feast days aren’t some dumb extracurricular merit badge one gets for learning to tie a knot like a cubs scout badge. No, they are a common recollection of important events in our Heavenly family. Ones that we are part of.

Family Time are Holy Days and Vice Versa

holy days of obligation from Fr Hardon dictionaryJust like most families have stories of people who came before us, the Church passes her stories to us with feast days that re-live the event. In the United States, there are only six. Six measly days where we are asked to listen and re-live awesome events of our family. Today, we would hear about the Blessed Mother being taken body and soul to Heaven. Whoa! Father Hardon’s modern Catholic Dictionary lists the nature of a holy day of obligation and the six holy days:

  • January 1, Solemnity of Mary (modern name) / Circumcision of Our Lord (traditional)
  • 40 days after Easter (unless you are American and use common core math to get 43) , Ascension of Our Lord
  • August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • November 1, All Saints’s Day
  • December 8, Immaculate Conception of Mary
  • December 25, Christmas, birth of Our Lord

That’s a pretty short list. For instance, the Transfiguration isn’t there, but that’s a fun story. Remember when Peter wanted to build some tents? That list is meant to be the events we find so important that we need be sure our children hear the story, and we re-live it ourselves. Not a heavy burden by any means…  Six days, two of which, you are already likely off work for a holiday, Christmas and January 1. So there’s really only 4 days that impose into the lives of our family and require us to attend.

Notice how Fr. Hardon’s definition includes a note that the parish priest is obliged to offer or have a special Mass for his parishioners on that day.

So, just like the problem where our Bishops can’t calculate forty days from a Sunday to be a Thursday anymore, they also think that four special days is just too tough if you have to go to Church two days in a row. It makes you want to scream with sarcasm:  “God help us if you get too much God!”  These are our bishops! Aren’t they supposed to be the guardians of ensuring that we learn the faith? That we have a life in the kingdom of God here in our Church?

The abrogation I’m referencing is this, in my opinion, stupid and lame note that is always paraded in parish bulletins for weeks like this week:

“Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.”

USCCB, citing Canon 1246 §2 as altered by a vote in 1992, signed by Archbishop Pilarczyk (Cincinnati). Curiously, the subsequent abrogation of Ascension Thursday and application of common core math was signed by Bishop Schnurr, who is today Archbishop of Cincinnati, too. Given what I’ve seen having grown up in Cincinnati, I’m not surprised to see it at the center of things I find to be, in my opinion, so subtly destructive of authentic orthopraxis and living faith.

In other words, the USCCB seems to be telling us that these days are only holy if they are convenient… or, “God doesn’t want to share His life with you if you have to skip that trip to Target or the soccer game.”

A more sarcastic way to put it:  “These days aren’t holy if they take away wedding revenue or sleepy Mondays, because you only need God once a week anyway, and the wedding money is a good gig.”  Nobody says that, but people do say it when they try to figure out why Saturday can’t be holy.

The most sarcastic way to put it, however, is to notice that every family has dysfunction, and the Bishops seem to be dysfunctional with Heaven. One could say that they appear to be divorcing our practices from those of Heaven. On the face of such changes, it does appear that this tug-of-war with the world was lost.

So, by the time this article posts, most of you will be unable to attend whatever Mass might have been available in your area to be part of the Assumption because it most likely happened at the crack of dawn, if at all. The Bishops, who have the rightful authority and power to have done so, say you don’t need it, it’s not obliged, and therefore, what else are we to understand other than: it’s not so important.

Dormition Icon detail of Mary with Jesus

For your edification however, today, as noted in the Catholic Catechism, even available on the USCCB website, is the event our family before us called the “little resurrection” and one of the most succinct little explanations comes from the Troparion of the Dormition sung in Eastern Churches (like my Melkite parish). It is chanted:

In giving birth, you have preserved your virginity, O Mother of God, and in falling asleep, you have not foresaken the world. You have passed to life, being the Mother of Life. Through your intercession, save our souls from death!

There is an alternate english translation on the USCCB website’s catechism page. You can also take a gander at this post of a couple years ago that talks of the traditions around what happened on the actual day of the Assumption.

I hope you had an opportunity to re-live the feast of the Assumption (Dormition) with our Heavenly Family. It’s pretty sad that our own Bishops don’t seem to think we should have to be with them much. Pray for them. While they don’t appear to be helping us win the tug-of-war with the world, they are still supposed to be part of our Heavenly Family, even if they don’t seem to want to celebrate it any time but Sunday.

This article, US Bishops Seem to Say It’s OK to be Too Busy for God is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • susanna says:

    Two Masses at the TLM church this a.m.; the early one had a good crowd. OTOH, a friend’s ordinary form parish found this holy day not even worthy of mention in the bulletin. She was surprised when I reminded her. Simply no excuse for this. I agree with you, but for my own peace, I have to think the bishops are being sympathetic to people who have two jobs or are working overtime or otherwise harried. Maybe families can let the toddlers they daily drop off at day care, that they drag out of bed too early, sleep in one more day. Maybe people caring for elderly parents, or old folks working at Walmart, have that time off. We’re all not on the same path, to paraphrase St. Katherine Drexel. Thanks.

    • John B. Manos says:

      Susanna, thanks, and those are great concerns. In fact, Mother Church has always excused obligations where there is a good cause. What different here is that obligations set aside something as extra special. Removing the obligation for everyone then means it is not special. Rather, the things yielded to are more important.

  • Andi Andrzejewski says:

    If I go to a Saturday evening Mass with the intention of honoring the Assumption, with that honor the obligation? Yes, I am being serious, no, I don’t really know, This change came into being when I was away from the Chruch. I apologize for the Stupid question

    • John B. Manos says:

      Andi, first of all, welcome back! God has good plans for you!

      Your question isn’t stupid at all. It’s confusing because Saturdays have become a mess liturgically in the United States. At this point in the day, unless there is a noon Mass for the Assumption, almost all the Masses, other than weddings and funerals, will be Sunday Masses. Yes, you could go, and with the intention of being at Mass for the Assumption, but the readings and the propers will all be for tomorrow.

      You asked whether it would count for today. Well, the upside is that you don’t have to make Mass for today, so there is no obligation per se. On the other hand, if, because you want to show devotion for this day of Our Mother Mary, she would, without a doubt, cherish having her child be with her at Mass.

      That desire to be part of it is great! Nurture it and feed it. Unfortunately, it’s made tough by the circumstance.

      Not a straight answer, I realize, but I don’t want to discourage a devotion.

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