It seems that in order to accomodate more people attending certain solemnities, the US bishops thought it was wise to move these days to Sunday so more people could observe these Holy Days. It also seems that we are moving in the direction that more and more of these solemnities will end up on Sundays or with new rules to dispense the obligation of attending. Sunday, the Lord's Day, unfortunately has become the only "holy" day that most Catholics will attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I use "holy" in quotation marks in the previous sentence because I am not sure Sunday is an obvious Holy Day anymore either.
I want to offer a truly strong observation: Day after day Our Lord is neglected and abandoned by people who do not go to daily Mass. You may interject that daily Mass is not a requirement. But by bringing such an objection, you miss the point and show your bias by seeing your faith in the terms of obligations and law. The Holy Faith that we have received from Holy Mother Church is not one to be bound by rules and obligations. Sure, the laws and obligations are important, but they merely serve as a signt posts in the road of faith to help guide us. If you see yourself in this manner, saying I have to go to Church on Sunday because it is one of the Ten Commandments, then the faith which you practice is not a developed one. It is a child's view of the world. A more mature faith would attend to the Lord everyday possible. It should be our desire to go to Mass on Sunday and everyday because we come to participate in the Lord's sacrifice and receive Our Lord in His Most Precious Body and Blood. Should we not seek to adore Our Lord each and every day through this most supreme act of prayer with the WHOLE Church? Making such an effort is a sacrifice. You may have to get up early in the morning. You may have to go after work or during a lunch break to participate in Mass. But is not Our Lord worth it? I mean, we can find time to watch TV or read news or spend time on the internet but it seems Our Lord is a concern for Sunday alone or when we "really" need Him. If we practiced our faith with the devotion that we spend in other areas of our lives, then I think we would have a rich and life-giving faith.
I want to offer a few quotes I found in an old Adoremus Bulletin online. For those who do not know, Adoremus - Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, is "an association of Catholics ... to promote authentic reform of the Liturgy of the Roman Rite." You can find their website here. Adoremus Bulletin is their journal which covers the liturgical scene. In the online edition of Vol. IV, No. 8, December 1998/January 1999, the writers of Adoremus summarize the US bishops discussion concerning the transfer of Ascension to Sunday. I want to offer several quotes from bishops who spoke concerning this change. You can read the whole article here which has many more statements from various bishop. Bishop Alfred Hughes (now of New Orleans, but then of Baton Rouge), opposing the transfer said:
...[m]y continuing concern is accommodation to our culture, and the backing away from sacrifice, and the loss of a sense of transcendence. And these are issues that are recurring, and every time we take a step in the direction that's being proposed, it seems to me that we yield a little bit more about our identity in the culture that we want to transform as well as find ourselves incultured into.Bishop Raymond Burke (now of St. Louis, but then of La Crosse) opposed the move as well:
I'm aware that the decisions that we've already made about holy days have introduced a lot of confusion in our faithful, and it seems to me that the uneven implementation of this is going to introduce further confusion. So I would rise to speak against this particular proposal.
First of all, from a theological and liturgical point of view the Ascension is central to the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the most sacred time of year in our whole liturgical year. And its placement within the forty days after Easter and ten days before the coming of the Holy Spirit is a key to the whole observance of this time: Our Lord, at His Ascension, instructing His disciples to pray for the new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then the observance of that first novena of prayer before the coming of the Spirit.These questions and concerns found in these two statements continue to linger in my mind. Have we become too accomodating? Have we lost a sense of sacrifice? Have we lost a sense of transcendence? Have we confused the meaning of Holy Days of Obligations in general? I will leave these questions for you to ponder but you already should have an idea of where I sense we are heading.
Practically, this transfer is not dictated by hardship or necessity. It has never been easier for our people to assist at Mass on Sunday or the holy days. [W]e are making the transfer in order to make it more convenient for people to observe the solemnity at the price of losing the sense of sacred time, and the sacrifice which we need to make in order to observe sacred times.
Practically, too, the possibility of the transfer will generate more confusion about the importance of this solemnity, as well as the other holy days of obligation, and with regard to the obligation to participate in the Eucharist on Sunday and on the holy days. With the mobility of our society and the ease of communications, this confusion is inevitable....
Should not our hearts be burning within us in order that we may share the joy of the resurrected Lord and the faith which shapes and gives meaning to our lives? (see Luke 24:32-34)