Saturday Vigil at 3:30?

I was recently vacationing for a few days and drove by the church we usually attend while there. It is a really small mission church of a larger parish a few miles away and the only weekend mass this mission offers is a Saturday vigil at 3:30 pm. This only occurs during the winter months and during spring, summer, and fall the mass time is moved to 5:30. The reason given is many parishioners from the area are elderly and can only drive short distances and only during daylight hours, hence the earlier time. This information was posted on the church door and signed by the pastor. I thought Saturday vigil mass had to be after 4:00 or 5:00 but I’m wondering if the archbishop can make an exception in circumstances as these? It would seem a shame to deny these older folks the ability to attend weekend mass.

If they can’t get there or are unable to drive after dark they are excused from the Sunday Mass obligation. If attending Mass at 3:30pm they would be technically attending a Saturday Mass, if in the U.S. The USCCB determined that Sunday Anticipated Mass/Vigil can be any Mass after 4pm.
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*Has *the USCCB so determined?


The archbishop can, within the realm of reason, determine what is meant by “the evening of the preceding day” in Canon 1248. The Canon Law Society of America has suggested that 4pm is the most appropriate cutoff consistent with the meaning of the canon. The Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland has suggested that noon is the appropriate cutoff.

Based on that, it seems that the archbishop could reasonably say 3:30 qualifies as evening. Personally, I would disagree with the archbishop, unless the sun sets very early in the area you were visiting - but it’s not my call to make.

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]The USCCB determined that Sunday Anticipated Mass/Vigil can be any Mass after 4pm.

Cite, please?

I have never heard of any statement from the USCCB concerning what constitutes “evening Mass.” I once heard Jimmy Akin explain that an evening Mass could be anything after noon.

I don’t see any problem.

Northwest US with the church in a small community on the coast. Another question comes to mind. If indeed it is 4:00 in the US, does that mean the start of mass or maybe the consecration?

If such a thing exists, it would definitely refer to the start of the Mass.

don’t know what possesses me to respond to these questions. Anticipated Mass/Saturday Vigil is to be celebrated in the evening of the preceding day (Saturday) Evening according norms is determined by Evening Prayer which according to the norms for the LOTH is not to be before 3:30pm. The USCCB however determined that Saturday evening Mass is not to begin before 4pm. How to locate a document from 40 years ago on the USCCB website, I have no idea, and I do not have the time to research it in the books of USCCB documents in the office. I do believe it has been posted on one of the other many threads on this same repeating topic. If Jimmy Akin said it, it must be so, so I’m done.

I have heard it claimed that the mass can begin at 3:30 pm as long as the Consecration occurs after 4pm. There is some justification for this; though I think it is playing games with the rules.

Joe, People can “claim” just about anything. What it comes down to is that the liturgical law in the United States is that the Saturday vigil Mass is not to begin until 4:00 PM. You’re right “it is playing games with the rules” to say that the Mass may start earlier than that. Like Bro Rich I get frustrated when people throw out the “opinions of experts” instead of reading and following what the Church has to say.

The fact of the matter is that such a rule should be documented and cite-able if it indeed is something the Church has said. Thusfar, noone has substantiated with the Church’s documents any claims about time regarding Saturday evening Masses for the Sunday obligation.

I agree. And if there is such a rule can a bishop “legally” adjust this rule for a special circumstance as this?

When permission to celebrate ‘evening Masses’ was first given in 1953 in the Apostolic Constitution “CHRISTUS DOMINUS – Concerning The Discipline To Be Observed With Respect To The Eucharistic Fast”, the time set for the start of an evening Mass was 4 p.m.

Rule VI. If the circumstance calls for it as necessary, We grant to the local Ordinaries the right to permit the celebration of Mass in the evening, as we said, but in such wise that the Mass shall not begin before four o’clock in the afternoon, on holy days of obligation still observed, on those which formerly were observed, on the first Friday of every month, and also on those days on which solemn celebrations are held with a large attendance, and also, in addition to these days, on one day a week…

I haven’t come across any document that mentions time again, although a few commentaries on Canon Law have certainly made the argument for 4 p.m. as the earliest time an anticipated Mass could begin.

Generally speaking, the USCCB norm is the “firewall”. Using this example. Mass on Saturday cannot start before 4pm (USCCB), the local Bishop can determine in his diocese that no Saturday Mass (for Sunday obligation) can start before 5pm. He does not violate the USCCB norm because 5pm is not before 4pm.

I attended a 4;00 pm Mass on Saturday at DD’s school. It was to celebrate a milestone event in the school life of her class. The retired bishop who celebrated announced at the end of the Mass, "I have one further gift today for your class – sleep-in tomorrow morning. You have just made your Sunday obligation for this week! Response: loud claps and cheers.

This really bothered me. Sunday morning Mass reduced from privilege and cause for celebration to mere obligation. Sleeping-in deemed to be preferable to gathering to worship and receive Our Lord. Just hit me the wrong way. . .

Is that a rule or a guideline? USCCB can only make binding laws if they are unanimously approved, or if they are approved by a majority and approved by Rome. On the other hand they issue a lot of guide lines that are not binding.


Browsing through an old Sacramentary (Catholic Book Publishing, 1974) I find 6 proper vigil (not: “anticipated”) Masses: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the Nativity of John the Baptist, the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, and the Assumption of the BVM. Excepting the Easter Vigil, which explicitly may not begin prior to nightfall, each opens with this rubric or similar (the proper dates being filled in for the [bracketed] phrase):
This Mass may be used on the evening* of the date preceding], either before or after Evening Prayer I of the solemnity

(* The Christmas Vigil substitutes the word “afternoon” for “evening”)
Presuming the current Sacramentary is similar, this renews for me the questions:
*]Has the USCCB determined the time of vigil and/or anticipated Masses more explicitly?
*]Does the USCCB have the authority to enforce such a determination?


If Rome has already said in a previous document (1953) that evening Masses cannot start before 4 p.m. does it need to issue another document saying “Ahem, when we said you could have an anticipated Mass on the evening preceding Sunday or Holy day of obligation we meant ‘evening Mass’ according to the previous definition.”?

That is interesting. I wonder whether there were any restrictions on the hour of Christmas Vigil, other than after 12 noon?

I’m also curious whether this “afternoon” provision for Christmas is related to the determination of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain that “evening” begins at noon.

I know that in Canada, we are instructed to use one of the Christmas Masses on Christmas Eve evening, that the Christmas Vigil is for use earlier in the day. I have to admit that until a few years ago I didn’t even realize that there was a Vigil of Chirstmas, I’ve never seen it celebrated; it’s always an anticipated Midnight Mass

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