From a reader:
Is it wrong or even sinful to attend a Saturday evening vigil Mass IF you could otherwise attend a Sunday Mass?
I ask this because at my parish there is one particular priest who has solid homilies and celebrates the Mass reverently. The other priests, while good men, can sometimes give questionable sermons and are not as mindful of the rubrics. So, if I wanted to attend the first priest’s Mass on a particular weekend, and he was assigned a vigil Mass… is that OK?
I guess I always thought the vigil Mass was more for people who had to work on Sunday or for some reason could not attend on Sunday. Maybe this is not the case?
It is not sinful to attend Saturday evening Mass, the vigil of a Sunday. The Church permits Masses “of precept”, which fulfill your obligation, on Saturday evening. You are free to go. It is not a sin to go to Mass.
That said, let us not forget that Sunday is really the Lord’s Day.
While the liturgical day can be reckoned to begin on Saturday evening, and while the Church permits Masses of precept on Saturdays, I think a lot of people make use of Saturday Masses because they don’t want to have to go to church on Sunday, thus leaving Sunday open for entirely worldly pursuits.
The character of Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” should be fostered at all times. I think that the Saturday evening Masses can at times erode this important dimension of Sunday.
As John Paul II unfolded in his 1998 Letter Dies Domini (The Day of the Lord), there should be a well-considered balance between the Sunday as Dies Domini and Dies Hominis (Man’s Day), a balance between what we owe to God and resting in God, and what we owe to ourselves and our neighbor and resting for our well-being.
Finally, it is too bad that people sometimes feel driven to go to the Mass of a particular priest and avoid Masses by other priests. Were priests to cultivate a sounder ars celebrandi (“art of celebrating”) and try to get themselves out of the ways – not to mention always say the black and do the red, this favoritism applied to priests might be diminished. There will always be the factor of the priests skills in preaching or perhaps singing, but were priests to avoid pulling attention to themselves, that would help a lot. Also, it is more than likely the case that the Novus Ordo tends to place more of a burden on the priest’s personality and skills than the older form of Mass. Therefore, learning to celebrate the older form could be of help in the priest’s celebration of the Ordindary Form.