Non Solum: When Christmas Falls on Monday

How is everyone coping with this year’s crazy Christmas schedule?

We had a spirited discussion in the abbey, including many emails back and forth. Should we move Office to 5pm Saturday and celebrate IV Advent Mass Saturday at 7pm? Or Sunday Mass 5pm Saturday and Office at 7pm? Then Sunday would have the usual offices plus Christmas Mass in the Night (which was always at midnight until Benedict XVI move it up and we gave in – it’s at 10pm now).

Or should we keep Sunday Mass at 10:30 am, though it’s Christmas Eve Day? And musicians could somehow have to cope with finding adequate preparation time.

Or move Sunday Mass earlier (for – let us be honest – those rather few who will attend)? 7:35 am after Morning Prayer? Or 8am as a more “normal” time for the sake of guests? We landed at keeping Sunday Mass on Sunday (I don’t believe we’ve ever done otherwise in the history of the abbey) and celebrating it immediately after Morning Prayer at 7:35. Then Noon Prayer, then 5pm Vigil Office (in the old church, now the “Great Hall,” because the local parish needs the large abbey church for their 6pm liturgy). And on to the Christmas sacred concert at 9:30 pm and Mass at 10pm.

For those who are curious: The obligation in canon law is to attend Mass on Sunday, not to attend Sunday Mass on Sunday. So in my understanding, a Christmas eve Mass on Sunday (at 3pm 4pm, 5pm or whatever) in fact does fulfill the Sunday obligation. But one Mass cannot fulfill two obligations, so you have to pick whether it’s your Sunday or your holy day Mass. If you attend Christmas eve Mass on Sunday, plus another Christmas Mass -whether on Sunday or on Monday, you’re good to go.




  1. The USCCB Divine Worship newsletter below both addresses and does not address the issue of obligation. It states that the majority of canon lawyers believe that two obligations means two Masses, but it doesn’t take a definitive stance.

    “A dubium concerning the possibility of simultaneous fulfillment of obligations
    was answered in the negative by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1970. Although it was not issued as a conclusive and authoritative interpretation, it did indicate the considered
    opinion of the Holy See and the approval of the Holy Father. Some canonists suggest that, in the absence of a definitive interpretation by the Holy See, attendance at the evening Mass shared by the two holy days is indeed sufficient to fulfill both obligations, based on the principle that in cases of doubt, laws are to be interpreted broadly.”

    While I am definitely in favor of holy days and perhaps increasing them (such as returning Epiphany to Jan 6), I would support a little slack here. Priests, deacons, lay ministers and musicians are going to be put through the ringer, families are going to have to deal with traveling and relatives who maybe are not the most flexible with matters of faith. A two for one deal that is well advertised could help a parish schedule less Sunday morning masses. A Bishop could also commute the obligation on Sunday. It is only once every 5 to 7 years.

  2. We changed our weekend schedule. Regular Saturday evening mass. Normally we have two Sunday masses at 8:30 and 10:30. We are going down to one mass at 9:30. Since we are a small parish it will give us sufficient time to switch the environment from Advent to Christmas and be ready for the 4:30 Christmas Eve mass.

  3. From the Oakland Diocese:
    For the Faithful and the obligation for attending Mass, it should be communicated that it is not lawful to fulfill multiple obligations from attending one single Mass. Therefore, going to Sunday Mass (either on Saturday evening or Sunday day) for the Fourth Sunday of Advent will not fulfill the holy day obligation for Christmas. Likewise, attending Sunday evening Mass (for the Vigil of Christmas) or Monday Christmas Mass will not fulfill the normal Sunday obligation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The faithful are therefore encouraged to attend one Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and a second Mass for the Solemnity of Christmas.
    Note that the law prescribes when certain Holy Days of Obligation (Jan 1, Aug 15, etc.) fall on a Mon- day, they are specifically mentioned and the Monday obligation is suspended for that year. Christ- mas is not ever mentioned as such, so the obligation remains, whether fulfilled on Christmas eve or Christmas day. That obligation would be separate from the normal Sunday obligation.
    Accordingly, for this year the holy day obligation for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on Janu- ary 1 is not binding because it will fall on Monday (see Canon 1246 §2 USCCB).
    To summarize, the obligation to attend Mass remains for both the fourth Sunday of Advent (fulfilled by attending a Saturday evening anticipated Mass or a Sunday Morning/day Mass) and the Solemni- ty of Christmas ( fulfilled by attending either a Sunday evening Christmas Vigil mass or a Monday Christmas Mass). Also this year, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, falls on a Monday (Jan 1). However, since this is a holy day of obligation that can be abrogated if it falls on a Monday, the obli- gation is not in effect.

    1. That is another thing, while the advise is consistent that you can’t do a two for one deal, different parishes and diocese are giving different guidelines about whether a Christmas Eve Vigil Mass can be used to fulfill the Sunday obligation. I know Christmas on a Monday is not common but it is not rare either. You would think that the Bishops could have an unambiguous policy.

  4. canon law could be interpreted as having two minds on Sunday obligation and Sunday Mass obligation. A lack of clarity there.

    My parish cancelled two Sunday Masses, the last morning and the late afternoon ones. Still, some choir members were surprised at the schedule we discussed. Some are choosing to sing on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. Still, five Masses on Sunday doesn’t seem as daunting as eleven years ago: 730-930-1130-2 at 330-6-8-12 mid. 8 in 1 day and a record 12 on a weekend.

    Unclear or better, people make their own choices. Somehow it seems more frazzled for the Church this year than in previous Christmas Mondays.

    1. Well, the last iteration was in 2006. Not a big amount of time, except it does mean it’s likely a of parish pastors/ministerial teams have had more turnover than in a 5 or 6 year span.

  5. We normally have a Saturday 4:00 pm Mass with no music and a Sunday 10:30 am Mass. For Advent 4/Xmas we will have a 4:00 Saturday Mass with music for Advent 4 and then our Xmas Masses at 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm on Sunday, plus a 10:30 am Mass on Xmas day. There is a part of me that hates giving up Sunday morning, but 1) it’s not my call and 2) I think very few people would show up.

  6. For a completely different take:

    The last time this happened, the parish I was working at had a large attendance for the single morning Mass on Sunday for the 4th Sunday of Advent. It was a lot of regular parishioners who were going to be “stuck” at parents’/grandparents’/children’s parish for Christmas, and were quite happy to celebrate with their own parish community on Christmas Eve morning. (Or visiting families who don’t include a Catholic Mass as part of their Christmas schedule.)

    I’m sympathetic to our own (my own) Christmas exhaustion. But at the same time, we need to be careful not to convey–either in words or in scheduling–a posture of “this isn’t important.” For some parishioners, having the chance to worship on Sunday morning before the chaos of Christmas Eve and Christmas will be quite joyfully received!

  7. So confusing! We’re having regular Saturday Vigil at 530, Regular Sunday Masses at 630 (Spanish), 830, 1030, and (Spanish) 1pm. 3 hours later, It’s Christmas Eve! Childrens Mass at 400pm, Spanish Vigil at 7, “midnight” mass at 10pm. On Monday, Regular schedule 830, 1030, 1pm (Spanish). It’s a lot, but I’m taking both Tuesday and Wednesday off…………………

  8. As a prospective congregant away from home this Christmas, I’ve checked schedules at parishes (and an abbey) in the area south of Rochester (NY). I will probably end a 7 hour drive (lake effect snowfall permitting) with a break followed by Mass for Advent IV on Saturday evening, and then my preferred Mass of Christmas Day on Monday morning. In my several decades, I’ve not once attended a Midnight Mass for Christmas (I have, effectively, for Easter Vigil; when I was a child in the ’60s and thereafter, I was told children for *forbidden* to attend Midnight Masses at our parish(es) to manage crowds in the Baby Boom era – and my parents were furiously busy setting up the Christmas tree and creche and presents after the younger children had been sent off to bed) and feel no attraction for it – Christmas morning has always had a stronger hold on my imagination.

    The late, great David Donovan SJ, may God rest his soul, once gave an indelible homily about the light of the Word made Flesh dawning on Christmas morning. As I recall it, he described Christmas a whisper*, and an occasion for Christian disciples to grapple hard with what seems to be the impenetrable darkness of the world – with the light of Christmas being a piercing of that, yet not fully apparent to us.

    * He followed up with likening the following Easter Sunday to a shout, and the ensuing Pentecost to a roar.

  9. For what it is worth, this Lutheran parish I serve as Vacancy Pastor will celebrate Advent 4 at 0800 and Christmas Eve Mass at 1030 on Sunday.

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