Sunday Mass celebrated on Saturday Evenings

I know that Sunday Mass can be celebrated in the evening of the preceding calendar day (Saturday) because Sundays begin with First Vespers and the liturgical Sunday is not confined to the calendar Sunday. This is a universal permission even contained in a canon but cannot remember which one.

I also know that each diocesan bishop is the chief liturgist in his diocese and regulates the liturgy in his diocese. Could a diocesan bishop decide that in his diocese that Sunday Mass could not be celebrated on Saturday evening?

I don’t know if he could or not but the Church says that there shouldn’t be multiple Masses that split up the community unnecessarily. That is why in my community there is only one Mass on Saturday evening and one on Sunday morning. When you look at who is a the Mass on Saturday it becomes obvious that there is really no necessity for it. Not one person there (40 people max) can’t attend on Sunday morning – for most it’s a way to avoid having to deal with children at Mass.

The answer here is “both yes and no.” Allow me to explain what I mean.

The bishop cannot say that Saturday evening Masses “are not Sunday Masses” in his diocese; nor could he say that the evening Mass does not fulfull the Sunday obligation. These decisions are already made by the Church.

Here is the “yes”: He could say that from a purely administrative perspective, he does not allow parishes to schedule Saturday evening Masses. Think of it this way, we all know that the bishop cannot forbid Sunday morning Masses–that’s a given of course. Could a bishop, who has a good reason (even though I can’t imagine what such a reason might be) forbid Masses to be scheduled for 10:00 AM on Sundays? The answer is yes. So yes, at least in theory, he could forbid Sat. evening Masses.

If a bishop were to do this, he would need to have a very good reason and it’s hard to imagine what that reason might be. I can imagine a possible reason for “one particular Saturday” (even though such reasons would be a bit far-fetched) but to forbid all Saturday evening Masses entirely, I can’t see any possible justification for this. A bishop (or any legislator) needs to have a good reason for passing a law. All laws have to “ordered to the common good.” Forbidding all Saturday Masses would first of all, be against the Church’s theology that Sunday has already begun, and secondly it would likely deprive a good portion of the people of the diocese of their opportunity to attend a Sunday Mass. So, from that perspective, the answer would be “no.”

It’s hard for a lot of Catholics to make this adjustment to the idea that Sunday begins on Saturday evening. The Church does not merely “give permission” for Saturday evening Masses (as was the case in the past), but instead recognizes that Saturday has ended and Sunday has begun.

Father, thanks for your response. I’d anticipated an outright ‘no’.

Yes, I understand that.

You’ve got me intrigued now. What would it be?

I don’t have a problem with that. Hasn’t it always been the case anyway? Even if Sunday Mass didn’t use to be allowed on Saturday evening there was always first vespers of Sunday on the Saturday evening. Likewise, solemnities begin the evening before.

Now, this is where I start to tread on sticky ground. That’s because I have a personal opinion which is probably at variance with the Church. I know Sunday begins on Saturday evening so the Mass is a Sunday Mass and it fulfils the obligation. I know that some people cannot get to Mass on Sunday. I used to work on Sundays. I would always go to Mass on Sunday morning or Sunday evening depending on my shift. I am aware that some people may have difficulties. Perhaps their parish only has Mass on Sunday morning so if they’re working a morning shift there’s no Mass in the evening. There are other practicalities too: I live in the UK and in some rural areas Catholic communities do not have their own church. They borrow the local C of E church. Obviously, the Anglicans want to use their church on Sunday so the Catholic Mass is on Saturday evening. However, I know a lot of people who go to Saturday evening Sunday Mass who could go on Sunday. They go on Saturday because it’s convenient. Now my personal opinion, which is probably at variance with the Church is that if there is no good reason why you can’t go on Sunday then you should go on Sunday, and I mean calendar Sunday.

When I said that I could “imagine” a scenario where the bishop would forbid Sat. evening Masses on a particular day, I also said that such a scenario would be “far fetched.” So keep that in mind. This requires a bit of imagination.

Maybe there is a big storm predicted to hit on Sat. evening, and the bishop wants everyone to be safe, so he says that all the evening Masses have to be cancelled outright so that no one even attempts to go to them. This one is actually realistic.

Or perhaps a small diocese and there’s a big celebration at the cathedral on Saturday. The bishop wants all the priests of the diocese to be there, so he says that they all have to cancel the evening Masses and be at the cathedral–all parish Masses will be on Sunday. Not a very likely thing, but it’s at least possible.

I just don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I’m trying to say (or imply) that the bishop does not have the authority that he does in fact have. I’m trying to explain the situation, not limit the legitimate authority of the bishop. I could see someone reading the first scenario and saying “my bishop did just that when hurricane Zelda hit us, are you saying that he overstepped his authority?!!!” Just to be clear: no, I’m not.

I misunderstood you. I thought you meant a specific Sunday. E.g. of course there’s no Sunday Mass on Holy Saturday evening, meaning of course apart from the Paschal Vigil.

A part of my last post you’ve not responded to: am I wrong to think that people should actually go on Sunday itself. I read JPII’s Dies Domini hoping that would help but it didn’t.

That’s just it. It has not “exactly” always been the case. Under the 1917 code of canon law, even though we already had the idea that the liturgical day of Sunday began on Saturday, we still had the law itself that did not allow Sunday Masses on Saturday. These were eventually allowed but only by papal indult (or dispensation, or whatever the proper canonical word would be since I’m too lazy to look up the actual documents at the moment). These were called “anticipated” Masses for obvious reasons, but even that presents a problem: if the Church said that Sunday has begun, then it wasn’t an “anticipated Mass.” So the Church was not (at the time) completely saying that Sunday had begun–that wouldn’t happen until the time of John Paul II.

The idea that one could only attend a Sat. Mass out of true necessity was something carved into our Catholic consciousness–and for good reason. Whether these Masses began in our own diocese in the 1950’s or the 80s we were all told “only if you can’t go on Sunday!” It’s hard to overcome that (and I’m speaking about myself here as much as anyone else).

The hard part for many of us is making that adjustment to realize that there’s no difference between the Sunday Mass at 11 AM Sunday and the Sunday Mass at 7 PM on Saturday. If someone chooses the 9 AM Mass over the 11 AM Mass because it’s “more convenient” we wouldn’t think twice about that. The difficult part is realizing that in both situations, the end result is the same, a person can go to any of the Sunday Masses, and it makes no difference which one. It’s not easy for those of us who were raised thinking of the Sat. Mass as only being permitted in cases of necessity–at the time we were taught that, it was perfectly true. It just isn’t the case anymore.

Usually there are several Masses on Sunday morning and people choose one for whatever reason (or no reason).

Maybe the earliest Mass is quieter with little or no singing. Maybe another Mass has the choir. If the family has to get children ready it might be easier to go to a later Mass. Maybe Sunday is the one day the person can sleep in so they prefer a later Mass. Maybe the person has to work on Sunday so chooses an evening Mass. No one tries to make the argument that it’s really better to go to an earlier Mass or or it’s really better to go later.

If the earliest of the Sunday Masses takes place on Saturday evening, why should people avoid it? Is there some difference between a Mass at 5pm on Saturday and 5pm on Sunday?

Personally, I always thought that Saturday Mass that fulfills the Sunday obligation was one of the best decisions the Church ever made. It can be convenient, for whatever reason. And I’ve always liked Mass in the afternoon and evening–you end the day on a spiritual note.

One opinion that was advanced–that people attended Saturday Mass to avoid kids at the Sunday Mass–I don’t find that at my parish. We have families that come on Saturday because they want to do something together all day on Sunday. People attend different Masses at different times for different reasons. The main goal should always be to come and celebrate the Eucharist.

This seems incongruous with your other statements. What is the logic behind exempting Sunday morning, but no other part of liturgical Sunday?

That is generally my experience with vigil masses. I’ve also gone because I was camping with my scout troop and a church was right down the street. Since we’re traveling home Sunday morning, its easier to go down the street on Saturday, than to an evening mass on Sunday two towns over.

My best reason for going to a 5 O’clock Saturday mass though is that my parish offers a 4 O’clock confession. Hard to get in trouble sitting in a church for an hour between absolution and communion!

I almost always attend the anticipation Mass on Sat. evening, what’s funny to me is there’s also a Wed. evening Mass that starts at the same time as the Sat. Mass but it’s not an anticipation Mass.

OK, thanks Father. It’s something I’m going to have to get my head round. I know my teenage children would certainly find Saturday evening more “convenient” than Dad making them go on Sunday morning!

That’s because weekdays are celebrated in the confines of the calendar day, midnight to midnight. So an evening Mass on say Wednesday evening is Wednesday Mass not Thursday Mass. There could be an exception. If there was a solemnity of precept (i.e. holyday of obligation) on Thursday then the solemnity begins on Wednesday evening so Mass on the Wednesday evening would be a Mass of the solemnity. I don’t think this applies to solemnities that are not ones of precept. But, I could be wrong. Although in England and Wales most solemnities of precept have either lost the precept (e.g. Mary, Mother of God; Immaculate Conception; St Joseph) or they’ve been permanently transferred to a Sunday (e.g. Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi).

With due respect, Father David, liturgical Sunday was traditionally considered to have begun with first Vespers (on Saturday evening) from time immemorial. (As another poster noted in a prior thread, this is, perhaps, clearer in the East and Orient, since the same is true for all days of the week.) The 1983 CIC did absolutely nothing to enhance that. What the CIC of 1983 did was codify what we of the East & Orient call an economia (which really amounts to an “accommodation to circumstances”), in that it allowed the Mass of Sunday to be said prior to the beginning of the calendar day.

If we look at Jewish practice, we see that, even though the “liturgical day” begins at sundown, there are specific times for specific actions. The same is traditionally true in the Church, (whether West, East, or Oriental). With a scant few exceptions, Mass was traditionally not offered before dawn, and there are a variety of reasons for that, primarily based on the concept of “Light” (e.g. the rising sun representing Jesus, the Light of the World). The whole idea of “Sunday Mass on Saturday” ignores those theological precepts. (I will note here that the same was true in the past when, e.g., a city parish might have a scheduled Sunday Mass at 12:30am (and/or another equally absurd middle-of-the-night hour), to catch people on their way home from the bars and night spots. And yes, of course it was also done for economia, (albeit uncodified), but, in so doing, they made a technical accommodation to the “calendar-day” rule, all the while ignoring the thinking behind the practice in the first place. To me, there’s little difference between that and the current case where the economia is codified.)

In any case, prior to the 1983 CIC, whether the idea that “that one could only attend a Sat. Mass out of true necessity” was “drummed into” people or not, they very quickly picked up on the ambiguity and would contrive a justification for “going on Saturday evening” whether it was of true necessity or not. (“Oh, there’s a sale at Macy’s on Sunday and we really need some things” or “We have to get to the fishing hole early to beat the crowd,” etc. Yep, true necessities. :rolleyes:)

Nonetheless, the Church, of course, now allows Sunday Mass to be said on Saturday evening without an indult or dispensation (or whatever – same thing). But even though it’s allowed, it still doesn’t mean that it’s the optimal time.

Well, so much for my usual unsolicited :twocents: :eek:

Let’s not get silly here, please. If you want to know the logic, please read my entire posts instead of grabbing at one single sentence as if it had no context. As I said, I do not believe that the bishop can entirely forbid Saturday evening Masses, however, I think he could do so on a particular day under some unusual circumstances. One example I gave was a forecasted hurricane–I think that makes it pretty clear that I’m talking about unusual circumstances. Likewise, I believe that under similar unusual circumstances (again, a hurricane, since that’s very timely right now), the bishop could also forbid parishes to schedule Sunday Masses on that particular day for the sake of his parishioners safety.

How can you say that the 83 code did “absolutely nothing to enhance that” in light of the following comparison:

Under the 1917 code, Masses on Saturday evening were only done by papal indult; they were only allowed if the local bishop permitted them, only those parishioners who had a true necessity were allowed to fulfill their Sunday obligation on Sat.

Under the 83 code, there’s no indult (the law itself was changed), there’s no required permission from the bishop, there’s no requirement for necessity.

That doesn’t seem like “absolutely nothing” to me, that sounds like some very significant changes.

The point I was trying to make is in the consideration of the “liturgical day” and only that. Yes, the 1983 CIC obviated the need for an indult (or dispensation or whatever one wants to call it), but it merely allows Mass to be said at a time when it previously was not. It’s nothing to do with consideration of the “liturgical day” as such. You might have another look at the “snipped” paragraphs.

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