April 1, 2010

Bareness and Solitude

Here, as in most places I suspect, the Chrism Mass is celebrated earlier in Holy Week. This makes Holy Thursday the day of one Mass.

It might not seem like a remarkable thing, but for me one of the real jarring experiences of the priestly ministry has been the frequency of celebrating Eucharist. Fortunately in my religious life prior to priesthood, either by choice or compulsion, I more or less fulfilled the injunction that religious ought to make "every effort" to assist at Mass daily. But the one Mass a day which priests are also "earnestly invited" to offer is only the beginning at this point.

Where I work there are seventeen Masses a week on the regular schedule. Add to that the weekly average of 1.5 funerals and half a wedding or other special event, and we're up to nineteen. We are two priests on staff who enjoy the help of a retired priest who offers Mass four times a week. That leaves fifteen Masses a week to be offered by two priests. Give each a day off, and that's only 1.25 Masses to be said per day. Not so bad. Our retired brother spends about ten percent of the year away, so at these times the figure goes up to 1.6 Masses per day per priest. Because things are rarely so even, there are sometimes problems, given that we only have faculties to offer Mass twice on weekdays and thrice on Sundays.

I do not mean this as a complaint. It is my honor, joy, and redemption to offer Mass for the people I serve and for the world. I am ready to do so each day at the limit of the faculties the Church gives me, should there be pastoral necessity or even utility. However, it is a very different sort of eucharistic life than before ordination.

To me it becomes the most remarkable feature of the Triduum. Given this life in which Masses are multiplied--we often have three in a row in the morning, early and later daily Mass, then funeral--the Triduum seems so bare of Eucharist. From Thursday morning to Saturday night, one only has Mass twice. At any other time of the year, at least in my job, it would be nothing unusual to celebrate Mass twice or three times as much during the same period of the week. It brings me a new appreciation for the Triduum : it's bareness and eucharistic solitude.


Tina aka Snupnjake said...

wow. We (St. Louis) must be one of the last hold outs for a Chrism Mass on Thursday morning. I'm on my way to my first ever!

ben in denver said...

I've never been to the Chrism Mass. In Denver it is usually on Tuesday of Holy Week. I had really hoped that in New York it was stil on Maundy Thursday, since the archdiocese there is so geographically small, I wouldn't have thought they would have changed the day.

There is really no option of keeping it on Thursday in Denver. The Archdiocese is geographically very large, and there is no way that, for example, the priests from St. Ignatius of Antioch in Rangely could make the 560 mile round trip for the Chrism Mass and be back to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper in their parish