Thursday, February 18, 2010

Observation On Ash Wednesday

Why do so many folks show up for Ash Wednesday, yet are nowhere to be seen on the Feast of the Assumption?


I think we had more people at Mass yesterday than at the Feasts of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, and All Saints Day combined. Why?

I'm not knocking Ash Wednesday, but it's not a Holy Day of Obligation. You know, one of those days where if you miss Mass, it's a mortal sin. As in, one of those sins that purges your soul of sanctifying grace, destroys your friendship with God, and renders you worthy of damnation.

Is it that much more important to get some ashes on your head than to obey the Church and treat as important what She teaches to be important?

5 comments:

Mark of the Vineyard said...

I notice this every year. It really puzzles me. Holy days of obligation during the week might be shifted around for people to be able to make it to Mass, yet a day that is NOT an obligation during the week fills the church. Go figure...

Philip said...

Two reasons:

1) You get something. Ever notice how big the Palm Sunday crowds are?

2) It's cultural Catholicism. People do it because it's something distinct and ritualistic that they remember from their youth. Notice how many people leave after getting ashes. There's nothing ritualistic at All Saints Day or Feast of the Assumption Masses.

I think some people also want the outer sign that they went to Mass. There's no outer sign for attending Mass on a regular Sunday or on a Holy Day.

Sometimes I wonder if the drop in Mass attendance is less of a decline in true believers than it is a decline in cultural Catholicism. Fewer people attend Mass now, but those who are there understand the faith better than in generations past.

Or maybe I just tell myself that to feel better.

Off topic -- Karl once posted a great rebuttal to the argument that "they're going to do it anyway". Do you think you could get him to do something similar again? I recently learned that a certain Jesuit university where I was formerly affiliated was holding sex education seminars for its students, including instructions on proper use of condoms. The argument was that the kids were going to have sex anyway, so the school might as well prevent disease and pregnancy, which would lead to abortions.

Or maybe you can help me out with a concise rebuttal to "they're going to do it anyway".

Haskovec said...

Our Ash Wednesday service was also full. I never realized until a few years ago that Ash Wednesday wasn't a Holy Day of Obligation as we always went. Of course my parents always took us on all the other Holy Days as well, I just assumed Ash Wednesday was another one.

Mark of the Vineyard said...

"Sometimes I wonder if the drop in Mass attendance is less of a decline in true believers than it is a decline in cultural Catholicism. Fewer people attend Mass now, but those who are there understand the faith better than in generations past."

The majority of people which I see at Mass during the week are the older generation (60+). You hardly see any one my age of younger (I'm in my late 20's). So, in this case, "those that are there" ARE the older generation. From what I've heard, there's a church in my city which offers Taize-like prayer meetings (I've never gone; ain't my cup o' tea) and which gets a lot of youngsters there.
I don't know why, but something about trying to market the Faith to make it apealable to certain age segments just makes me cringe. Perhaps it's just the way I am; maybe it is something licit. If I am in error on this, please let me know.

Mark of the Vineyard said...

Ah, I also meant to say I would like to see the rebutal to "they're going to do it anyway" argument. See, I heard a traditional-minded Catholic the other day saying that condoms are ok as a last case resort for teens nowadays to prevent pregnancy and transmition of STDs in the case that they can't control their hormones... Needless to say I was a bit shocked to hear this from said person.