PRESS RELEASE – ImmediateCatholic Union Chairman, James Bogle, calls upon the Catholic bishops of England and Wales to reviews their decision to move weekday holy days.
LONDON, JULY 31, 2006 - The Chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, Mr James Bogle, a London barrister, has called upon the bishops of England and Wales to review their decision to move three holy days of obligation from being celebrated during the week to being celebrated on the nearest Sunday.Speaking to The Catholic Herald of London, Mr Bogle said that the bishops had not consulted widely enough among the laity, that he thought few of the laity strongly objected to celebrating holy days on weekdays and that the move was an unnecessary capitulation to the spirit of secularism now dominating society. He added that secularism was a failure that was not making people happy.Mr Bogle told Zenit, the Catholic news service, that the rhythm of the feasts and fasts of the liturgical year is an important spiritual and practical reminder to Catholics and others that Christians look to a greater set of priorities than just the pursuit of material and worldly gain. "In former times", he said, "Our ancestors in the Faith divided the year according to the round of the Church's calendar so that the whole of society was constantly reminded of the story of Christ's life. In the Middle Ages nearly one third of the year consisted in holy days. Working people even had enough spare time even to use some of it to build, freely and out of love and devotion the great Cathedrals that are the pride of European Christianity. This freedom accorded to the Christian working man was removed at the Protestant Reformation along with many other rights.""Today in Britain there are few religious public holidays there being beside Easter and Christmas only the Bank holidays. We have left off celebrating the Christian feasts and the lives of the saints in exchange for holidays which are convenient to banks. This bespeaks a curious inversion of priorities: money over holiness, material wealth over the Faith. How the bishops think that reducing the few holy days that Catholics celebrate will, as they suggest, 'facilitate Catholics' observance of important feasts' I cannot imagine. On the contrary, it is merely giving in to the materialistic spirit of the age that prefers banks to saints".Mr Bogle said further "The reality is that mass attendance on Sundays is going down almost as rapidly. This is a manifestation of a much deeper malaise. This move is a further step in the privatisation of religion and the banishment of Christian witness from public life and society.”Mr Bogle suggested that a radical re-think was now required not only by the bishops but also by all responsible for catechesis and evangelisation."We need to reinforce success not failure", he said. "We should look to those areas of the Church which are exhibiting success and which are growing and evangelising. The inescapable fact is that orders like the Missionaries of Charity, the nuns of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who make greater, not less, demands for commitment and sacrifice are those which are attractive to young people. Likewise Christian marriage is a holistic commitment without reservations.""Christian renewal cannot come from loving only by halves. Young people know this and are not impressed by back-tracking. This is why those religious communities that seek the whole Gospel are the ones that are thriving and those Orders that want to go back on their original charism are the ones that are drifting, waning and closing down. Now is the time to invest in the future not hold a closing down sale. The opportunity to witness to fellow workers on Holy Days of Obligation by attending mass during the week has now been further reduced by this latest decision. It is yet another big sign to the world of a closing down sale and I strongly urge our bishops to re-think their decision."The Catholic Union of Great Britain is an association of the Catholic laity in England, Wales and Scotland to promote the Christian standpoint in public affairs. It was first founded in the 19th century with the Duke of Norfolk as its President. The Catholic Union includes peers, members of the UK, European and national parliaments and local authorities as well as Catholic professionals from all backgrounds. The Catholic Union regularly lobbies government on a whole range of issues of Christian and general importance.
Fr. Gregory comments: Here in the US we've been dealing pragmatically with the question of Holy Days of Obligation. We've moved Ascension Thursday to the 7th Sunday of Easter, (thus destroying the Pentecost novena, the 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost that have always been a special time of prayer and emphasis on the Holy Spirit) and we've made any other Holy Day of Obligation non-obligatory if it falls on either side of a Sunday, except the Immaculate Conception, December 8, (Patronal feast of the USA) and, I believe, All Saints' Day, November 1. Now when I use the term "pragmatic" I don't necessarily agree with it. Should not Catholics observe a different calendar when it comes to the liturgical year? (Even though the Gregorian Calendar ---named after its eponymous instigator, Gregory XIII---is really the liturgical calendar of the Latin Rite Catholic Church.)
Yes, is is more difficult to go to Mass on a non-Sunday holy day. But then, again, it is easier to offer incense to the statue of the Emperor rather than suffer the humiliation (and pain) of being thrown to the lions. In the long run, however, which would be better? I ask this sub specie aeternitatis.
Yes, we are making the readings, prayers, etc., of the holy day or Epiphany more accessible to folks by moving them to Sundays when everyone is kind of pre-disposed to attend church. Isn't that a good thing? However, a good thing at what price? Perhaps it is the same price that we pay for the Saturday evening "vigil" masses that are so much a part of most American parishes. Here, those who have to work on Sunday, and who cannot otherwise attend the Sunday liturgy (I'm being cynical now because there are really few people in that situation) can fulfill their obligation by attending a Eucharist that has started after First Vespers of Sunday (the Church arbitrarily assigns 4:00 p.m. for this).
Do you ever look at a Saturday-Mass congregation? They are so tired they can hardly drag themselves in. They can only mumble the responses, and singing with any religious lust is out of the question. If they thought that you'd push their chests in and out for them they would quit breathing! Preaching to this group gives you about as much feedback as preaching in a cemetary!
Capitulating to the prevailing "culture," whether by moving holy days of obilgation to Sundays, or moving Sunday to Saturday evening hardly seems to advance the spiritual agenda of the Church. If we could only have some studies to enlighten us! Then we would know. But we don't want to know, really.