Christmas Plans

12-17-2017Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary's,

Next weekend, December 23-24-25, Saturday-Sunday and Monday are confusing days for all of us with Christmas as a Monday celebration. A civil holiday on a Monday is usually quite nice for everyone, except for Christmas. Most folks would rather have the day off before Christmas and then the day afterwards, not two days in a row before it. Christmas Day being on Monday may also cause a great deal of confusion for regular church-going people. Some folks may wonder: "Do I have to go to Mass for Sunday? Does Sunday morning count for Christmas? Does Sunday evening (Christmas Eve) count for Sunday and Christmas? If I do not go two times, have I failed in my faith? Can I go to Mass on Saturday and on Monday, then what about Sunday? There are all sorts of combinations and confusions that exist. In fact, among our bishops and also canon lawyers there are many various opinions over what is "required." Various bishops disagree with a more common opinion and are making exceptions; various canon lawyers strongly disagree with each other. When legitimate authority and its legal experts disagree, you know there is true confusion. So the following is my insight. When legitimate authority and church canon lawyers disagree, then a Pastor 's insight and decision becomes a deciding influence.

What is in our heart as believers is really what matters. We do know that our God is not limited to, if at all in any way, by canon law of the church. We do know that some people have a generous heart with God, and others need to measure to make sure they meet his at least minimal requirements. We know that some people live life only by what they intend, for they never really do anything, and others mostly live out their intentions and good will in real-life terms and acts. In some ways it boils down to being both "spiritual and religious."

I would advise everyone to do his or her very best. If you are able to attend one of the Masses on Saturday afternoon (4 PM) or Sunday morning at (7:30 AM or 10:30 AM), then please do so. Your special effort to be there is indeed a wonderful gift for yourself as Christmas arrives. With all your preparations for family and friends and the rest that encompasses Christmas, if there will be hardship for you to attend Mass at these days and times, I am informing you that you are excused from Mass. It is far more important to come to Mass for Christmas with a warm and spiritual heart, than dazed, confused or angry because church had become a unreasonable hardship. The Celebration of the Birth of the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace is meant to bring Divine Light and Peace into our hearts and lives. Please bring these hopes and dreams with you to Mass for Christmas.

To you and all those you hold close in your heart, I wish you a Blessed and Merry Christmas.