Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, San Francisco North Beach Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

Dear Parishes of My Area (and, from what I gather, around the country),

I hear you complaining about Holy Days of Obligation and how low attendance is. In fact, as a parish employee myself, I’ve taken this to heart.

And I think maybe I’ve found the reason for part of your problem.

A couple of years ago, when I was still the bulletin editor, I had an idea that could only have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. I would list the Holy Day Mass times for not only our parish, but for surrounding parishes as well in our bulletin for at least three weeks prior to the Holy Day!

I was so excited! I emailed all the parishes in my area and called those immediately adjacent to us.

I learned a hard truth: most of these parishes were unable to tell me when the Holy Day Mass times would be four weeks out.

Really? REALLY?

I did end up pulling together quite a few (and it involved email follow-up and some phone calling, believe you me), and I heard some feedback that it was helpful. It was helpful for me: my husband wasn’t able to make it to our parish’s Masses, but could stop on his way home from work.

With the Feast of the Assumption recently, I was talking to our current bulletin editor about how she tried to contact area parishes to pull together a similar resource. She was unable to get answers, and because of her deadlines, ended up giving up on it. I offered to help her with the next Holy Day and together, we can one-two punch and figure out a way to get answers.

But this ended up fanning the flame of frustration I’ve felt about this for a while.

Just this month, checking on Mass times online, I decided I’d better be safe and call the parish I might be visiting. Turns out the Holy Day Mass times printed so prominently both on their website and on were different than what they told me on the phone. Glad I checked.

Do these Holy Days really matter? Are they important? Am I the only one who wonders?

Maybe the reason the pews are empty is because people haven’t had time to rework their schedules to come to a special Mass during the week. Maybe the reason people see the “O” as meaning “Optional” instead of “Obligation” is because it doesn’t even seem like our parishes take them that seriously.

There are usually fewer Holy Day Masses offered than weekend Masses. They seem to be thrown together: the times are unknown until a week ahead of time.

The only difference I can make is in my local parish. And, after my recent experience, I’m committing myself to being part of getting the information out about the next Holy Day plenty early.

Is it just me? What’s your experience with this? Please, PLEASE, share your insight and experience in the comments.

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