Hard question for me, please help! Saturday/Sunday Mass questions [edited]

I’m trying to find out exactly what year it was in the USA, when Catholics first had the option to attend Saturday evening mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation. I didn’t think it seemed like such a hard question but I can’t find a definitive answer anywhere! :shrug:

The reason why you can’t find an answer is that before the 1983 code of canon law, it was up to the local bishop to decide whether or not to allow it (beginning in the 1950’s, I think 1953). So there are as many different answers to the question as there are dioceses in the US.

As far as I know, this has always been the case with the Catholic Church, not just in the US. The Pope celebrates an Easter Vigil Mass, after all. :slight_smile:

It comes from the Jewish tradition of the day actually beginning at nightfall of the day before, if that makes sense (i.e. The Sabbath starting on Friday night). Not sure when it started specifically though.

Kind of?

Apparently, in the pre-1955 revision of Holy Week, Easter Vigil started at noon on Holy Saturday, and it didn’t fulfill the obligation of Easter (if I’m thinking correctly).

No, it hasn’t always been the case; in fact, prior to 1953, Mass couldn’t be celebrated after noon. Only with the promulgation of Pope Pius XII’s CHRISTUS DOMINUS – Concerning The Discipline To Be Observed With Respect To The Eucharistic Fast in January 1953 were evening Masses (not to be celebrated prior to 4:00 p.m.) permitted, and then only in these instances:

Such Masses, however, may not be said before four o’clock in the afternoon, and may be celebrated only on the following definitely stated days. These are:

a. Holy days of obligation according to the rule of Canon 1247, # 1;
b. Feasts which were formerly holy days of obligation but which now are not. These are listed in the index published by the Sacred Congregation of the Council on December 28, 1919.[28]
c. First Fridays of the month.
d. Other solemn occasions which are celebrated with great gatherings of the people.
e. On one day of the week other than those enumerated above, if the good of special classes of persons should demand it.

Here’s some information that may help you:

This is from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Dies Domini

  1. Because the faithful are obliged to attend Mass unless there is a grave impediment, Pastors have the corresponding duty to offer to everyone the real possibility of fulfilling the precept. The provisions of Church law move in this direction, as for example in the faculty granted to priests, with the prior authorization of the diocesan Bishop, to celebrate more than one Mass on Sundays and holy days,(85) the institution of evening Masses(86) and the provision which allows the obligation to be fulfilled from Saturday evening onwards, starting at the time of First Vespers of Sunday.(87) From a liturgical point of view, in fact, holy days begin with First Vespers.(88) Consequently, the liturgy of what is sometimes called the “Vigil Mass” is in effect the “festive” Mass of Sunday, at which the celebrant is required to preach the homily and recite the Prayer of the Faithful.

Here’s the text of the footnote:
(86) Cf. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Christus Dominus (6 January 1953): AAS 45 (1953), 15-24; Motu Proprio Sacram Communionem (19 March 1957): AAS 49 (1957), 177-178. Congregation of the Holy Office, Instruction on the Discipline concerning the Eucharist Fast (6 January 1953): AAS 45 (1953), 47-51.

I know you’re not looking for an explanation of the Saturday evening Mass, but for a source to tell you the date of the change. I believe the sources quoted in the footnotes might be helpful, but to provide the footnotes without the context just didn’t seem right.

Ah! Learn something new every day :slight_smile:

Why does the 5 PM Sunday Mass still qualify for the Sunday Mass obligation? (I realize this time is not offered in every parish). Wouldn’t it be considered time for the vigil Mass of the following day (if a Solemnity, for example, falls on a Monday- if that even happens, I don’t know) or are vigils never celebrated on Sundays? How late can a Mass be celebrated on Sunday before it no longer “counts” and you missed the boat? Is 5 PM acceptable, but 7 PM not? Do you have until midnight (or 11 PM to be done by midnight?) Just curious.

Sunday, being the Lord’s Day, enjoys a longer liturgical day. It begins at 4PM on Saturday and ends at mdnight on Sunday. The same is true of a solemnity. All other days begin and end at midnight.

Because it’s still Sunday.

My reading of the norms leads me to believe that on the evening of Sunday immediately preceding a Solemnity (or otherwise back-to-back Solemnities), the day with a higher rank is celebrated. If the Solemnity and Sunday have the same rank, the Sunday is celebrated.

But to you and me, as members of the faithful, it does not matter – The obligation to assist at Mass is satisfied by attending within the appropriate time-frame, regardless of the Mass propers.


Normal Sunday would be midnight. Most Holy days if they are on Monday are not celebrated, so there would not be a vigil for them. Usually Sunday evening Mass uses the Sunday Readings.


Okay, let’s say you go to Mass this year on Sunday, June 28th, at 5 p.m. in the evening, intending to fulfill your Sunday obligation, and not realizing that the 29th is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, with its own Vigil Mass.

The Mass propers used by the priest in the morning of the 28th will be those of the 13th Sunday in ordinary time, and in the evening will be the those of the Vigil, right? (Or do I have it wrong?)

And if the Vigil Mass is celebrated, have you fulfilled your Sunday obligation by attending that Vigil Mass?

My understanding* is that you have stated the situation correctly, and you do not have it wrong.


(* But my understanding is also that you should follow lawful directives from your diocesan bishop. I distinctly recall the first time All Saints fell on a Monday after the US implemented the current rules concerning its obligation – I was scheduled as reader for an evening liturgy and was told that the diocese had mandated that evening Masses must be the Mass of the day, not of the vigil. Who knows why :shrug: but I went along with it?)


Okay. You get credit for showing up, even though the church has moved on to the next day liturgically speaking. That may come in handy some time! :thumbsup:

Probably so that poor souls like me don’t become more confused than we are already :wink:

While a kind explanation, the parish does not have a regular Sunday evening service – It was a scheduled vigil for All Saints (probably with a stipend accepted a year or more in advance, so it could not just be canceled).

But fear not – I think Father explained it clearly enough that neither he, nor I, nor the two people in the “congregation” were confused. (After all, by the time it was actually celebrated, it had been made clear there was no obligation for Mon 1-Nov :rolleyes: )


Thanks a lot for the responses, guys! It’s all clear now. :thumbsup:

Come now, you can’t just leave it at that. “Forum rules” say that you have to share with us the conclusion of your research (ok, maybe they don’t actually say that, but they should). So, what did you find? Is there a definate date?

I know this isn’t going to help you a lot with your question but I do remember reading a news article some time ago that said the option to celebrate Saturday Vigil Masses was widely adopted in the U.S. in 1970. It surprised me because in my home parish, we had begun having Saturday Vigil Masses by the mid 1960’s.
One note of interest I read just this past week: Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia did not allow for Saturday Vigil Masses to be celebrated in his diocese until 1983, long after all other dioceses had adopted the practice. unfortunately there was no mention of the years when the rest of the U.S. dioceses exercised their option.
So, as Father David said earlier, good luck with finding the exact date the practice began!

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