I am a firm believer in setting your expectations for others to be reasonably high. Take my children for example. I expect them to put their dirty laundry into the hamper. I remind them, but I expect it from them. I expect them to be polite not only to others, but to each other and above all, to their parents. And they do these things. Not always, and I do sometimes have to remind them, but overall, they do what I expect.
Why would they live up to my expectations? 1. They know I love them, 2. My expectations are reasonable: things that anyone their ages should be able to do. (I'm not asking the 4 year old help shovel the walk-though she does it readily. She thinks it's FUN!) and 3. They love me and they do not want to disappoint me. Nor do they want the consequences of failing to live up to the expectations.
Yes, consequences. If you don't eat your dinner, you will not get dessert. If you don't put your dirty socks in the wash, you will have no clean socks to wear. If you are rude to mom, you get to deal with dad.
I have been trying to drill into my 7th grade CCD kids' heads the holydays of obligation in the USA. And I have been trying to impress upon all of the kids I am in contact with (in my class and the 8th grade Confirmation candidates) the importance of weekly (and Holyday) Mass attendance.
To review, the Holydays of Obligation in the USA are:
January 1, feast of Mary, Mother of God
40 days after Easter, Ascension Thursday
August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 1, All Saints' Day
December 8, Immaculate Conception of Mary
December 25, Christmas
So, after the boys, Scott, and I stayed up to watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve, we woke in time to get to 9:00 Mass for the Holyday of Obligation. We thought. Yes, I work at the parish, but I forgot the Holyday schedule is not the same as the Sunday schedule, and we were late for Mass by half an hour. Mass was nearly over by the time we arrived. So, we went home. Then I thought to myself, "Is it even a holyday this year? It's Saturday." So I googled it. And lo, the holyday was abrogated this year. Because it fell on a Saturday. The Holyday is also abrogated when it falls on a Monday, too. So, let's look at that list again for 2010:
January 1, feast of Mary, Mother of God (not abroagted in 2010)
40 days after Easter, Ascension Thursday (transferred to the following Sunday in all but 6 dioceses in the US)
August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (happened to be a Sunday in 2010)
November 1, All Saints' Day (abrogated)
December 8, Immaculate Conception of Mary (never abrogated)
December 25, Christmas (never abrogated)
In 2010, 3 of the 6 Holydays were transferred or abrogated in almost all of our nation's dioceses.
Did you know that according to the code of canon law (canon 1246), there are actually 10 holydays of obligation? Yes, it's true! In the USA, we have either dropped or transferred to Sunday: Epiphany, Corpus Christi, and the Solemnities of St. Joseph and of Sts. Peter and Paul.
I can appreciate what I think our Bishops Conference is trying to do. I think that they don't want people who wouldn't go to Mass those days to have mortal sins on their souls for choosing not to go to Mass. I really think they decided to do what they thought was best.
I am not a bishop. I don't even play one on TV. I don't claim to know more than our shepherds, nor do I claim to be more Catholic than any one of them. I know that the Lord has chosen them to lead us and we should be willing to be led.
It just seems to me that what this abrogation of holydays and what this removal of holydays really is, is a lowering of our bishops' expectations for us. It's kind of like, "We know it's really hard for you to take an extra 10 hours out of your year to go to Mass for special days, especially since most of you don't go to Sunday Mass at all. So, we're going to make it easier for you. You only have to go on these few days. Not so bad, right?"
There are a few downsides to this line of thinking: 1. It's confusing. I mean, I work at a church and I go to Mass every week and I don't even know when it's really an obligation or not. 2. It leads people to wonder what else is negotiable. This is a very slippery slope. I saw it in people in my parents' generation after Vatican II: "Now it's not a sin to eat meat on Friday (but you have to remember to make a different act of penance)." "Not a sin to eat meat on Friday?! What else isn't a sin?" 3. To take away or abrogate Holydays of Obligation, which are important because of the events and people they celebrate, chips away at our Catholic identity. There is less and less that separates us from Protestant Christians.
(tune in next time for part 2)