Changing Feasts in the Church
graham3 asked this follow-up question on 1/27/2001:
Thank you Father. I think I understand your example re Liberation Theology (see cremation). But I have difficulty in allowing a freedom of discernment to an x degree. This lack of guidance I think has led over the past 30 years to ever more empty churches. As an example. Cont
A few years ago The Bishops Conference of England and Wales announced that they were intending to end Holydays of Obligation and move them all to Sunday irrespective of the date they fell on. Their reason was that Catholics already had enough to cope with in their everyday lives i.e. work, school etc without being obliged to attend Mass. This caused a major uproar and the decision was made by the Bishops "with great sadness" to leave the Holydays as they were. Unfortunately churches that were filled prior to the Bishops announcement are now almost empty. The same with Sunday obligations. The introduction of the Saturday evening Mass for Sunday caused an all round drop in attendances on both days. Strangely enough the Parishes that kept to Sunday Masses only are still full.
The joy of the Lord be in your heart.
In Peru happened something similar you describe in your post. Ascension of the Lord, Corpus Christi, etc. etc. are celebrated now on Sunday. The question if this is adequate is open to debate. Your question focuses on discernment.
Looking at my personal experience I would doubt that the Bishops' announcement is the real cause of the diminishing assistance at Sunday Mass. It sounds suspiciously like the argument "post hoc propter hoc – it happened afterwards so it is because of it". I've have been involved with the same Parrish, for almost 30 years. From 1965 to 1978, the assistance dropped 50%. The reasons were not the changing of the day of celebration or the different Mass schedule. It was definitely secularization. Society lost slowly all vestiges of Christian standard and model and became paganized.
In the times before Christianity in some way put order even in public life. The crumbling of broad-spectrum Christian public custom to do things was the reason that many of those that attended Mass didn't come anymore. Christian pattern in every day life didn't anymore prop up the habit to attend. There was no deeper motivation.
I think you can't recuperate assistance precepts. I'm talking about pastoral procedures not intrinsical value and obligation. What has been lost on the way was a real and profound relationship with God. Therefore, we should strive to encourage real conversion. And those who experience the Eucharist, as a moment of life-giving encounter with the Lord won't have any problem regarding the hour, the day or other circumstances. They will react like the martyrs of Bitynia when the prefect wanted to prohibit their Eucharistic assemblies: "We can't live without the Lords sacrifice".
In my former answer, I was talking about discernment regarding subjects that are not obligatory and where the application is under the free decision. However, regarding Mass the pastoral endeavor shouldn't be pondering the precepts but testimonial preaching of the good news so that we live our faith with the enthusiasm of the first Christians. Just what John Paul II is requesting of all Catholics.
There can never be a freedom of discernment of what is obligatory. But the way of approaching a truth or precepts in order to apply them depends heavily from the discernment of the situation at hand.
God bless you