QUAERITUR: Extraordinary Form “vigil” Mass on Saturday afternoon or evening?

From a reader:

Is it permissible to have a Extraordinary Form Vigil Mass on a Saturday evening?

Yes, I believe it is.  I believe so… again… I believe so.

Permission to say Holy Mass in the evening was granted before the 1962 Missale Romanum was issued.  The older Code of Canon Law, of 1917, said that Mass could not begin more than one hour after noon (without distinction of solar time or civil time).  But that was not something of the rubrics found in the Missale Romanum.  The time of Mass, other than in the case of the Vigil of Easter and, perhaps, the Masses of Christmas, isn’t given much attention in the Missale Romanum.

Also, one fulfills one’s obligation by attending Mass on the day of precept itself or on its vigil.

Therefore, were one to attend Holy Mass on a, say, Saturday afternoon, that would fulfill the obligation regardless of the texts used for Mass.  If the Mass was of the Saturday, one’s Sunday obligation would nevertheless be fulfilled.

That brings up the thornier question – and I think this is probably what you were really asking – of whether the Sunday texts can be used Saturday afternoon.

While I am unaware that the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” has yet ruled on this, I suspect… suspect, mind you, that – with the permission of the Commission – it would be permissible to use the Sunday texts on a Saturday afternoon, since the liturgical day can be reckoned to begin on the afternoon before the feast or Sunday.  I wouldn’t do it on my own.

I have little doubt that all sorts of people are ready to jump in now.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. DavidJ says:

    Father Z, you say “Therefore, were one to attend Holy Mass on a, say, Saturday afternoon, that would fulfill the obligation regardless of the texts used for Mass.” I’ve always been taught/been told that a Nuptial Mass on a Saturday afternoon or evening does not fulfill the Sunday obligation. Is that not the case?


  2. ray from mn says:

    Back in the early 60’s, back before Vatican II and when construction was just beginning to be started for the expansion of the U of MN to the West Bank of the Mississippi in Minneapolis, a Sunday evening Mass was held at the [now closed] Our Lady of Perpetual Help [??] parish on about Riverside and 20th. The nominal reason for it was to provide a Mass for the employees of the many nearby hospitals. But it was extremely popular for many and the parish had to buy chairs and a sound system (way before video) for the basement of the church. It was still SRO.

  3. mike cliffson says:

    I’d always understood that way back when the church had regularized the inherited Jewish custom of tomorrow starts at sunset as 06.00pm, 1800hours, hence much before that is Saturday,after Sunday, if its a civil saturday.
    Is this wrong? Local? Temporary? Recent? Provisional wider revival of something local/in abeyance?

  4. Dr. Eric says:

    If I were a parish priest, which you can all thank God that I’m not, I’d have Vespers and then a Low Mass on Saturday NIGHT (that’s after Sundown folks) and then Solemn High Mass on Sunday Morning. I would also do this for HDoO.

  5. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Z.,
    One can not use the texts of a Sunday Mass on Saturday evening in the Extraordinary Form. There is no provision for doing so in the 1962 Missal, and the current discipline of the Church does not permit the mixing of the two form of the Roman Rite. With an eye towards future reform of the liturgy, (save it, save the world) everything possible should be done to DIScourage those practices by which Sunday has become for huge numbers of Catholics a completely aliturgical day.

  6. John Pepino says:

    If “one fulfills one’s obligation by attending Mass on the day of precept itself or on its vigil,” do I still have to go to Mass on Pentecost Sunday if I attended the Vigil of Pentecost Mass Saturday morning at 6am? ;) [NO! By the “vigil” in this case it is clearly the evening before, not the whole day before.]
    Gregory: thank you for injecting some of your knowledge into the discussion.

  7. AlexE says:

    Mr DiPippo,

    I’m just trying to clear this up for my own sake. As Father said, permission for evening Masses was granted before the OF came out. Canon Law is what allows us to fulfill our obligation on the eve of the day of obligation, the Anticipated Mass is generally the Mass of the Day ( with few proper Vigil Masses). I guess what is at the bottom of question is how is this mixing the Forms of the Roman rite? It seems to me that the anticipated Mass is a canonical allowance and not a rubrical one.

  8. Gregory DiPippo says:

    AlexE, it is true that the celebration of Mass in the evening per se was permitted before the OF came into existence. The canonical obligation is to attend Mass on either Sunday itself or on the evening of Saturday – as such, attendance upon an EF Mass on Saturday evening fulfills that obligation, regardless of which actual Mass texts are said. However, the choice of the Mass texts is regulated by the rubrics, and as they currently stand, there is no warrant for anticipating those of Sunday to Saturday evening. My previous comment was intended to speak only to the latter issue, raised by Fr. Z. above in bold type.

  9. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Nimis honorati sunt amici tui, Joannes, nimis confortatus est principatus eorum.

  10. brendanus says:

    Father, in 1997 a former Indult Mass at St. Paul’s Church in Kenmore (Diocese of Buffalo, New York) was begun on Saturday evening at 6:15. Despite the objection of the local Una Voce president (who himself did not attend this particular Mass) who complained to Rome, the PCED ruled that it was permissible and did fulfill the Sunday obligation.

  11. Speravi says:

    Fr. Z said: “…since the liturgical day can be reckoned to begin on the afternoon before the feast or Sunday…”
    While this is true, it is worth noting (if my memory serves me right) that the rubrics for the Roman Breviary specifically say that the liturgical day runs from midnight to midnight.

  12. Fr. A.M. says:

    Well, if we can celebrate 1st Vespers of Sunday in BR 1962 on the previous, Saturday afternoon, (and even anticipate Matins !) then, liturgically speaking, a priest can offer a vigil Mass of Sunday on Saturday. I’m with Fr. z on this one. The Usus Antiquior, despite the great freedom allowed it under recent papal legislation (Deo gratias), is still subject concerning the Sunday obligation and canon law, and it makes pastoral sense to use the Sunday Mass texts for a Saturday vigil. I see nothing in the rubrics of U. Ant. to prevent this. Of course, I think it is always better to sanctify Sunday and to glorify God by attending Mass on Sunday, though others may not be able to attend on Sunday for one reason or another etc.

  13. ocsousn says:

    Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law one had to assist at the Mass of the Sunday or Holy Day to fulfill the obligation. Thus a Nuptial or Requiem Mass would not fulfill the obligation. In addition, the obligation could not be fulfilled in a private oratory. #1249/CIC 1917 The 1983 Code of Can Law broadens this to include any Mass in any Catholic Rite, on the day itself or the evening before. #1248/CIC 1983 Did the 1997 response of the ED Commission indicate that the Sunday Mass could be celebrated on Saturday evening? In any case, the Saturday Mass, celebrated in the evening, would fulfill the obligation but a Vigil Mass (e.g. Pentecost) celebrated on Saturday morning would not. Leaving aside the question of the integral observance of Sunday as a day of prayer and rest, I can’t see how a Saturday Evening Vigil Mass in itself is a mixing of rites. In some place this could be the only time slot available.
    Fr. Aidan Logan, OCso

  14. Una Voce Toronto is in the process of writing to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.”

    Can the Sunday liturgy in the EF be celebrated after 4:00PM on Saturday and thereby fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation?

    Can an EF be celebrated on Saturday after 4:00PM using the Saturday liturgy of the Votive Mass of Our Lady or Calendar as appropriate and this would therefore, not fulfill one’s Sunday obligation.

    It is not that we are advocating this, but someone is and it is our desire to correct this person and to have the Church pronounce on this fact.

    Una Voce Toronto

  15. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    Gregory is correct about the missal. I’d expand his excellent remarks to opine that the whole issue of “obligation” has, I fear, done real damage to the liturgy. People now worry far more about what “counts” and not so much about the spirit of the liturgy. I’ve known Catholics who attend Mass 6 days a week…twice on one of them…and stay home Sunday. Others obsess over what time a Saturday afternoon/evening Mass should be celebrated to “count” for Sunday, especially in summer when it’s blazing light at 4 or 5 pm. Many churches would never dream of scheduling anything after noon on Sunday, whether Mass or Vespers. Few if any give thought to how liturgically, some Saturday evenings do not belong to Sunday, but are liturgically part of the previous day. It’s a sorry situation liturgically, and the permission for Saturday afternoon Masses that “count” for Sunday is part of the problem.

  16. jrotond2 says:

    “Few if any give thought to how liturgically, some Saturday evenings do not belong to Sunday, but are liturgically part of the previous day. ”

    Great point, Dr. Fratantuono! Just this last July 2, Vespers on Saturday were those of the Visitation, not the First Vespers of the 3rd. Sunday after Pentecost. Similarly, this coming August 6, the Transfiguration, the same will occur. Hence, for these few Saturdays on which First & Second Class Feasts occur, the beginning of the liturgical day of Sunday is delayed until Midnight thereby eliminating the liturgical basis for having a Vigil Mass the evening before.

  17. wolfeken says:

    The clarification for the motu proprio (Universae Ecclesiae) specifically prohibits post-1962 innovations with respect to the TLM:

    “Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.”

    Sunday Mass offered on Saturday evening was invented in 1967: http://www.adoremus.org/eucharisticummysterium.html

    I agree with those above who have said there is nothing in the 1962 missal that allows offering a Sunday Mass on a Saturday. Moreover, the motu proprio specifically states all prior decisions are null and void, so the PCED letter referenced above is moot.

    Sadly, there are a few places where the Saturday night “Sunday” Mass is done, including Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, N.J. Regardless of how they got started, I think it is clear such Masses ought to cease immediately, or at least use Saturday’s propers.

  18. Todd V. says:

    I do not see the problem. In the Roman Rite, the Lord’s Day (Sunday), is from Saturday evening (which appears to be generally reckoned 4:00 PM in the United States) until Midnight on Sunday Night. [Special Circumstances such as conflicting Solemnities, etc., excluded] Any Mass, celebrated in either form of the Roman Rite, celebrated in that 32 hour time-frame, is the Mass of the that Sunday, which should have all the readings and propers of that Sunday (according to which missal is being used). If a Mass in the Extraordinary form is being offered at 6 PM on “Saturday,” why would it use the propers of Saturday if it is not liturgically Saturday, but Sunday?

  19. @Todd – just a clarification. The “Lord’s Day” is not from Saturday evening until midnight Sunday. It is from midnight until midnight. Saturday evening is the “Vigil” of Sunday. Which is different than being Sunday. (in fact, traditionally the Vigil was somewhat penitential, which is why many traditional meals for Vigils involve fish). You fulfill your obligation by attending a Mass (any Mass – wedding, funeral, one with Saturday day readings, Eastern Rite, a Mass for a high school graduation) you attend on Saturday evening (during the Vigil).

    I know of several places where the TLM has been offered on Saturday evening, using the Sunday readings. It was my understanding this is not a rule found in the Missal, but in the Code of Canon Law, so is not an issue of a change in the Rite. If that were the case, wouldn’t there be a problem for TLM’s starting after noon on Sunday? Seriously just wondering.

  20. wolfeken says:

    CharleyCOllins, you need to do a little homework on timelines.

    The traditional Latin Mass follows the 1962 calendar/rubrics and, as declared in Universae Ecclesiae, things “promulgated from 1962 onwards” are prohibited with respect to that Mass.

    1967 was the year the Saturday-night-is-actually-Sunday-Mass invention was promulgated. Before then, only First Vepsers of the Sunday Divine Office were offered, not Sunday Mass, on Saturday.

    Permission to offer Mass after noon was granted in the 1950s by Pius XII.

  21. Todd V. says:


    I have to disagree with you. Sunday liturgically begins with First Vespers of Sunday (which happen Saturday evening), and ends at Compline on Sunday Night. Vespers on a Saturday Evening (unless it is a solemnity, etc.) are not the Vespers of Saturday, but First Vespers of Saturday, they are of Sunday, so Saturday evening MUST be liturgically Saturday.

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