Quick turnaround, but no ‘two-for-one’ Masses as Christmas falls on a Monday

People exchange a sign of peace during Christmas Eve Mass. (CNS file/Daniel Soñé)

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although Christmas this year is the day after the fourth Sunday of Advent, Catholics looking to count a Sunday evening Mass Dec. 24 for both that Sunday obligation and Monday’s Christmas Mass obligation will have to think again.

The U.S. bishops already saw this coming at the beginning of the year and said Catholics should attend separate Masses for the two days.

A newsletter issued in February by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship noted that a “two-for-one” Mass cannot occur in the very rare circumstances when two of the six holy days of obligation — the feast of the Immaculate Conception or Christmas — fall the day before or after Sunday.

“When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations,” the committee said.


The reason Catholics might consider the idea of receiving dispensation from a Monday Mass likely stems from the U.S. bishops’ vote in 1991 to lift the obligation to attend Mass on holy days of obligation that fall on Saturdays or Mondays. But that vote was only for three of the six holy days: the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1; the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15; and the feast of All Saints, Nov. 1.

A week after Christmas, Jan. 1, 2018, also falls on a Monday, but is not a holy day of obligation.

But Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, hopes the faithful of the Diocese of Peoria will still make Mass a priority on the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

“I encourage all Catholics to give proper honor to our Most Blessed Mother and to God’s Mercy at the beginning of the New Year,” Bishop Jenky wrote in the calendar listing of his 2017 Festival Letter.

The U.S. bishops’ divine worship committee agrees, hoping that that Catholics would want to go to Mass two days in a row, saying: “It would be hoped, of course, that Catholics foster a love for the sacred liturgy and hold a desire to celebrate the holy days as fully as is reasonably possible.”

The bishops’ committee also has looked ahead to when this will happen again. In the next 12 years, Christmas will fall either on a Saturday or a Monday four times and the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, will fall on either of those days three times.


Paulist Father Larry Rice, director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin, said he hasn’t heard anyone ask about a dispensation for the Christmas liturgy, but he suspects some will try to combine the Sunday and Monday Masses. They also might go to the Saturday evening vigil for Sunday and the Sunday vigil for Christmas, which is OK.

A big challenge for parishes this year will be decorating for Christmas liturgies, especially parishes with afternoon Masses on Sunday that will only have a few hours to turn the church over from Advent to Christmas.

He said the big challenge for parishes this year will be decorating for Christmas liturgies, especially parishes with afternoon Masses on Sunday that will only have a few hours to “turn the church over from Advent to Christmas.” Another challenge will be getting volunteers to help set up churches for Christmas Eve.

Some parishes are moving up the time of their Sunday Masses on the fourth Sunday of Advent to accommodate the quick turnaround.

Father Rice told Catholic News Service the rare event of a Monday Christmas “sounds to me like an opportunity to simplify, although Christmas isn’t generally a time people are looking for that.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Portions of this story were supplied by Catholic Post staff.



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