Mass every day

Somewhere in the world, Mass is being celebrated every day. Some would say at every hour, every day in the world. While Catholics assemble every Sunday for Mass, there are folks who would tell you that their day is not complete unless they participate every day.

It is likely that if one wants to attend Mass every day here in our archdiocese, it would be entirely possible. The majority of our parishes, or certainly parishes in collaboratives, will have Mass every day. Sometimes, it might mean going to a different church in the same town, or perhaps to one in a different town. But we are lucky, you can still get to daily Mass, even if it takes a bit of effort.

As you may have read in a previous article, originally Sunday was the feast day and the only day on which Mass would be celebrated.

We do not have lots of consistent and reliable information about when and where the celebration of Mass extended beyond Sundays into the other days of the week. That kind of testimony and evidence starts to appear in the fourth and fifth centuries, which would mean that there was probably daily or more than Sunday Mass in the previous century.

Slowly, the daily celebration of Mass grew. Parishes multiplied; there was an increase of priestly vocations, and the church spread from her initially urban locales into the "suburbs." Additionally, monasteries provided priests and their own sacred spaces for Mass. Nevertheless, Mass was not celebrated daily and everywhere throughout the church.

Remember that Mass was celebrated in the new vernacular Latin and the old vernacular Greek, and as the church grew and reached other areas in the expansive Roman Empire -- both East and West -- new vernaculars were appearing.

The initial active participation of the assembly started to give way to a more passive presence -- looking, watching, and listening. And personal devotions started to appear within the Mass. The priest did his things; everyone else did theirs.

Again, the reception of Holy Communion had been part of assembling for Mass. For some reason, folks started to look more at the host than to receive it. This passive presence continued for some centuries.

Did you know that the so-called "Easter Duty" -- you must go to confession and receive Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten-Easter season -- was actually established not to "make you" go to confession but rather to "make you" receive Holy Communion at least once a year? While many Catholics attended Mass, they felt unworthy or too sinful to receive Holy Communion. This happened even as they were at Mass every Sunday and in not a few cases every day.

In the United States, daily Mass in every parish was not the norm until probably the late 19th and early 20th century. In urban dioceses, it may have been more common, but still, the reception of Holy Communion at Mass was rare.

The popes, in the meantime, urged Catholics to receive the Lord in Holy Communion.

Beginning with Pope St. Pius X at the beginning of the 20th century and up to the Second Vatican Council, popes made it easier both to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion at Mass. Lowering the age of First Holy Communion, urging families to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion together, permitting the celebration of Mass at times other than mornings, shortening the Eucharistic fast first from midnight, then to three hours, then finally to one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion, were all changes meant to encourage presence and participation at Mass and reception of Holy Communion.

Most priests, including this one, draw great inspiration and encouragement about their priestly ministry from the presence of their people at Mass -- Sunday and daily.

Daily Mass often brings together older parishioners who become their own community within the parish. Inclement weather rarely hinders them. Sometimes, they are taking care of grandchildren who come to Mass with them. Moms and dads may also come to daily Mass and have their children with them.

Assembling for Mass and receiving Holy Communion is a great way to start your day.

Nutritionists tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It would be proper to say that, for us Catholics, Holy Mass is the most significant and sacred meal of our day.

The Prayer over the Gifts at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper (Holy Thursday) exquisitely says: "Grant us, O Lord, we pray, that we may participate worthily in these mysteries, for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated the work of our redemption is accomplished. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

This is a beautiful explanation of why we assemble for Mass on Sunday, and perhaps, if possible, every day.