Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pastoral or Not?

As a pastor, my greatest responsibility is the celebration of the Church's liturgy in my area of responsibility, the parish. I either do it myself, most of the time as I am the only priest, or ensure that someone else does it, a visiting priest or one of our deacon, in the areas that they are able. Of particular concern are Sundays and the 'High Holydays' to borrow a term from our Jewish friends.

Now suppose I decided that on some Sundays, rather than celebrating Mass publicly for the whole parish, I decide to celebrate a Mass for a particular group privately and the rest of the parish has to do without. Would or should this be allowed? I doubt I could do this without being called on the carpet for it; Sunday obligation and all that.

Now suppose that it wasn't a day of obligation, but still one of the central days of the Church. Should I deprive the whole parish of the celebration of part of the mysteries of our Faith for the benefit of a particular group, however praiseworthy or needy? Now, I could delegate another priest to do it, but does that really fulfill my role as 'universal pastor' of my parish? Does it show my concern for the whole flock? Does it show the public and universal nature of the Church's Faith and Worship?

You have probably guessed where I am going with this. Pope Francis will again this year privately celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper, which commemorates not only the institution of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders but is the liturgical beginning of the Paschal Triduum, the celebration of the central Mysteries of the Faith. He did this last year by celebrating the Mass in a youth prison and was accustomed to a similar practice in Buenos Aires. Do you think this is an appropriate practice? (Not really interested in feeling.) If so or if not why? I am aware of many bishops doing something similar by saying Masses for prisoners on Christmas or Easter Day after the public celebrations at the Cathedral.

Please no name calling or Pope (or anyone else) bashing. Anything disrespectful will be deleted.