Monday, 20 December 2010

Once upon a time there was this thing called midnight Mass...**

So following up on Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese's apparent financial woes, reported on yesterday, I'd like to talk about missed opportunities.

The Masses of Christmas

Traditionally of course there are several 'Christmas' Masses. 

There was the Christmas Vigil Mass on  December 24 (not a substitute for attending on Christmas Day!). 

And then this is one of the few days a year when priests have the privilege of offering three Masses: Midnight, Dawn (though my FSSP missal suggests it doesn't actually have to be literally at dawn, let alone 45 minutes before dawn at 5am as the Sydney and Canberra TLM communities are doing.  Can this really reflect pastoral needs?), and during the day.

Traditionalist communities aside, the dawn mass, sadly, seems altogether dead.

Still, until recently at least, some attempt at maintaining the tradition of Midnight, or at least almost midnight , masses continued.

Once upon a time attending Midnight Mass at Christmas was surely one of the highlights of Christmas, particularly for children who on this one rare occasion were allowed to stay up late! 

Midnight Mass also attracted lots of the semi-lapsed and even non-Catholics.  Now of course Christmas and Easter only Catholics are a problem - but surely if you do manage to get them along, its also an opportunity?

No Mass at midnight?

Well, either in terms of potential collection plate revenues or a chance to re-evangelise, most parishes in the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese seem to have just given up, as the following Christmas Mass listing illustrates. Most parishes seem to just offer 'Vigil' masses at around 6pm. I've bolded the few actual Midnight Masses.

Oh and the Canberra TLM community, presumably uninterested in picking up new attendees, hasn't managed to get itself into the listings at all.  For the record its offerings are at Garran at 6pm on December 24 (for the real Vigil, not the substitute for the Mass of the Day!), Midnight, 5am and 10am.

The secularisation of Christmas?

Here is the listing from the Archdiocese's website. 

I've highlighted the actual midnight masses in black, and pseudo-midnight masses (I've highlighted anything from 8pm onwards, as opposed to standard times for Sunday 'vigil' Masses which are generally 6-7pm) in blue (noting that many of these seem to represent expediency in multi-church parishes):

ADELONG-BATLOW: Christmas vigil 7pm Batlow. Christmas Day 9am Adelong.

ARANDA: Christmas vigil 8pm. Christmas Day 9.30am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am.

BATEMANS BAY: Christmas vigil 6pm 9pm. Christmas Day 8am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 7.30am 9am. Other Sundays vigil 6pm, Sunday 9am.

BEGA: Christmas vigil 6pm Bega, 7pm Bemboka, 8pm Tathra, midnight Candelo. Christmas Day 8.30am Bega. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 7.45am Tathra, 9.30am Bega, 8.30am Candelo, 10am Bemboka, 5.15pm Wolumla.

BOMBALA: Christmas vigil 6.30pm Bombala (6pm carols and children’s pageant), 8pm Delegate (6.30pm carols and Christmas pageant). Christmas Day 9am Bombala. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am Bombala, 5pm Delegate.

BOOROWA: Christmas vigil 7pm Boorowa, 7pm Harden-Murrumburrah, 7pm Binalong, 7pm St Clement’s Galong, 9pm Frogmore. Christmas Day 8am Boorowa, 9am St Clement’s Galong. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Boorowa, 9.30am Harden, 11am Binalong, 9am Galong.

BRAIDWOOD: Christmas vigil 8pm. Christmas Day 9am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am. New Year’s Day vigil 6pm.

BUNGENDORE: Christmas vigil 6pm Bungendore, 7pm Gundaroo. Christmas Day 8.30am Bungendore. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8.30am.

CAMPBELL: Christmas vigil 6pm (children). Christmas Day 10am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 10am.

CATHEDRAL: Christmas vigil 6pm St Christopher's cathedral, 9pm St Peter Chanel's Yarralumla, midnight cathedral. Christmas Day 8am 11am cathedral, 9.30am Yarralumla. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am 11am 5.30pm cathedral, 9.30am Yarralumla.

CENTRAL CANBERRA: Christmas vigil 6pm Dickson. Christmas Day 8am Braddon, 9.30am Dickson. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9.30am Dickson, 8am 10am (German) Braddon.

CHARNWOOD: Christmas vigil 7pm. Christmas Day 8am 10am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am 10am.

COOMA: Christmas vigil 6pm Cooma (children) 9pm Cooma, 9pm Nimmitabel. Christmas Day 8am Adaminaby, 9am Cooma.

COOTAMUNDRA: Christmas vigil 7pm (family), 9pm. Christmas Day 8am Stockinbingal, 9.30am Cootamundra.

CROOKWELL: Christmas vigil 9pm. Christmas Day 9.30am.

EVATT: Christmas vigil 6pm 9pm Evatt, 9pm Hall. Christmas Day 8.30am Evatt. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Hall, 10am Evatt.

GOULBURN: Christmas vigil 6pm 9pm Old Cathedral. Christmas Day 8am Our Lady of Fatima, 10am Old Cathedral, 9am Marulan. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 10am Old Cathedral.

GUNDAGAI: Christmas vigil 6pm (family) 8pm. Christmas Day 8am Gundagai, 10am Jugiong. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Gundagai.

GUNDAROO: Christmas vigil 7pm.

GUNGAHLIN: Christmas vigil 7pm (children) 10pm (carols 9.30pm). Christmas Day 9am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am 9.30am.

JINDABYNE: Christmas vigil 5pm Thredbo, 7pm Dalgety, 8pm Jindabyne, midnight Jindabyne. Christmas Day 9am Jindabyne, 9am Berridale. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8.30am Jindabyne, 10.30am Dalgety, 5pm Thredbo.

KALEEN: Christmas vigil 7.30pm 10pm. Christmas Day 10am (and 6pm normal weekend vigil). Sunday 5.30pm.

KAMBAH: Christmas vigil 7pm (children), 9.30pm Vietnamese Mass, midnight. Christmas Day 9.30am (and 6pm normal weekend vigil Mass). Sunday 8.30am 10am and 5pm Vietnamese Mass.

KIPPAX: Christmas vigil 6pm 9pm midnight (carols 11.30pm). Christmas Day 9am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8.30am 10am 6pm.

LAKE CARGELLIGO: Christmas vigil 7pm Tully, 9pm Lake Cargelligo. Christmas Day 9.30am Lake Cargelligo.

MICHELAGO: Christmas vigil 7pm. No Bredbo or Jerangle services.

MORUYA: Christmas vigil 6pm, midnight. Christmas Day 8am Tuross Head, 10am Moruya. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Tuross Head, 10am 5pm Moruya. January: vigil 6pm Moruya, 10am Moruya, 8am Tuross Head. Carroll College Broulee Sunday 5pm on 2, 9 and 16 January.

NAROOMA-COBARGO: Christmas vigil 6pm Cobargo, 7pm Narooma. Christmas Day 8am Bermagui, 9.30am Narooma. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Bermagui, 9.30am Cobargo, 9.30am Narooma.

NARRABUNDAH: Christmas vigil 6pm, 8pm (charismatic). Christmas Day 9am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am, 7pm (charismatic).

NORTH WODEN: Christmas vigil 5.30pm Curtin (children), 7pm Garran, midnight Curtin (preceded by carols). Christmas Day 8.30am Garran, 9.30am and 6pm Curtin. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9.30am Garran, 5.30pm Curtin.

O’CONNOR: Christmas vigil 6pm 9pm. Christmas Day 9am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am.

PAGE: Christmas vigil 7pm 9pm. Christmas Day 9.30am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am 9.30am.

PAMBULA: Christmas vigil 6pm Merimbula (children) 9pm Eden, midnight Pambula. Christmas Day 10am Merimbula. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Pambula, 10am Merimbula.

QUEANBEYAN: Christmas vigil 6.30pm (carols 5.45pm), midnight (carols 11.30pm). Christmas Day 8am 10am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am. All St Raphael’s, Lowe Street.

SOUTH TUGGERANONG: Christmas vigil 6pm Calwell (outside), 9pm Gowrie, midnight Gowrie. Christmas Day 8.30am 10am Gowrie. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8.30am 10am 6pm Gowrie.

SOUTH WODEN: Christmas vigil 6pm (children) 9pm. Christmas Day 10.30am (and 6pm normal weekend vigil mass). Sunday 8.30am 10.30am. All Sacred Heart, Pearce.

TARALGA: Christmas vigil 6pm.

TEMORA: Christmas vigil 6.30pm in park (children), 9pm. Christmas Day 8am Barmedman, 10am Temora. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Barmedman, 10am Temora.
TUMUT: Contact the parish, telephone 6947 4599.

WANNIASSA: Christmas vigil 7pm (children) 9pm. Christmas Day 9am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9am 5.30pm.

WATSON: Christmas vigil 6pm (children), 10pm (carols 9.30pm). Christmas Day 8am 10am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am 10am.

WESTON CREEK: Christmas vigil 6pm Holder (children), 6pm Waramanga (children), 9pm Waramanga (8.30pm carols). Christmas Day 9am Holder.

WESTERN MISSION: Christmas vigil 6.30pm Barellan, 7pm Ariah Park, 7pm West Wyalong, 8.30pm Rankin Springs. Christmas Day 8am Ardlethan, 9am West Wyalong, 9am Ungarie. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8am Ardlethan, 10am West Wyalong.

YASS-GUNNING: Christmas vigil 5.30pm Gunning, 7pm Yass, 8.30pm Murrumbateman recreation hall. Christmas Day 9am Yass. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 8.30am Gunning, 10am Yass.

YOUNG: Christmas vigil 6pm (outdoor family), 9pm. Christmas Day 9.30am. No Sunday vigil. Sunday 9.30am

**PS Closely related to this subject, the Liturgical Pimpernel has posted on the subject of the 'Christmas Family Mass' and why it should be abolished in favour of a return to midnight mass....


Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

Dear Terra, what you do not seem to realise is that the clergy are fewer, ageing and have more Masses to offer. I would like to be able offer Midnight Mass but would not be able to offer the morning Masses as they should be because of overwhelming tiredness. What is more, apart from being a tradition, is midnight any more mystical than 9.00 or 10.00 p.m.? In the past Mass was a midnight because it was forbidden to offer Mass each day after noon. Please do not make a spectacle of condemning us because of the disability of age. A blessed Christmas to you. Fr Ronan Kilgannon Erem. Dio.

Terra said...

Dear Father,

I am certainly not condemning those priests who bring the mass forward in time due to age or disability. In that case, it is certainly understandable. And I take your point about the ageing of the clergy.

But I do think the decline of the midnight mass is not in the main driven by that, but is a quite conscious decision: certainly in the parishes nearest to where I live (Central Canberra, Watson and Campbell) some of the priests at least are in fact quite young! Nor are there a huge number of masses being said (the first two mentioned parishes have between them three priests assigned to it and six masses offered for Christmas; Campbell's relatively youthful priest is offering two masses.

In my view the solution is relatively straightfoward: abolish the 'vigil' mass the night before (and on this particular occasion given that the 25th is a Holy Day of Obligation, for the Sunday).

The idea that one can avoid going to Mass at all on Christmas day by virtue of a mass at 6pm the night before, and not even making a special effort to go at midnight is, in my view, totally inimicable to the retention of even a modicum of Christian content to the feast.

And as for the significance of midnight. Why do we countdown to the New Year and release fireworks on the Harbour to celebrate the exact time? Surely because symbolism is important!

We usher in the day of the birth of Our Lord, when the universe was suddenly reconfigured. Surely something worth making a little extra effort for!

And on this subject, you might find this opinion piece also of interest:

In any case, thank you for your comments Father, and may you have a happy and holy Christmas.