I'm in the curious situation of living in one diocese and working in another. So as I start to think about Ascension day next week, I had something to figure out. I know Ascension is still on Thursday here where I live, but is it on Sunday in the diocese where I work?
As far as I understand, most places in the world have moved Ascension to what had previously been the seventh Sunday of Easter. And most clergy I know support this, saying that weekday "holy days of obligation" that have to fulfilled under penalty of sin are a hardship for working people and parents.
I'm sure this is true to some extent. Not everyone can afford the beautiful witness of being like Sandy Koufax, who famously refused to pitch game one of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.
On the other hand, it has been my anecdotal experience of living in the inner city that poor folks are often attracted to sects and ecclesial communities which are very demanding. The Jehovah's Witnesses around here spend their time dressed up nice and going door to door, while we catholics hardly even dress up for Sunday Mass. I've often observed people in the storefront Pentecostal churches at mid-week or in the evenings.
So for me, a question of pastoral strategy emerges. Is it better for a religion to have the sort of particular expectations that produce group identity and solidarity and preserve their distinctiveness within the larger culture, or is it better for these sorts of things to be relaxed in order to make it easier for people to be faithful?
This is one of those questions for which I honestly don't have an easy answer. Any thoughts?