We had a meeting of Eucharistic ministers this evening. Well, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, as we are supposed to call them, though this is rather a mouthful. They renew their commitment next week, on Maundy Thursday, and we will also be admitting some new ministers.
But we have a problem. Several of the ministers, very well established members of the parish, cannot be here. It is not because they are working, or can't get transport, or because they have to look after children or an elderly relative. No, the reason they won't be here on Maundy Thursday is because they will be on holiday. In Holy Week. I have already been told by several altar servers that they will not be here in Holy Week - we will struggle with some of the ceremonies because of this. Another parishioner tells me that though she will be with us on Good Friday she won't be here for Easter because she too will be on holiday. In Turkey. Not much chance of her finding a Catholic Church there.
What can we do? The odd raised eyebrow and even the sarastic commdent has little impact. We are trying hard to recruit altar servers and ministers of the Eucharist, so striking them off because they are on holiday in Holy Week is not likely to be a fruitful course of action. Too late now, but I wondered whether way back at the end of last year I should have made a point of telling people not to plan to go away for Holy Week, or at least to make sure that they will going somewhere where they can be sure of finding a Catholic Church on Easter Day. Something to try and remember for the autumn.
Of course we do need some perspective and proportion in all this. Easter has always been a holiday time, and aren't holidays and holy days much the same thing? Should we begrudge the worker his or her break from toil?
Then I had another thought. In modern society - secularised and secularising society - there is often renewed consideration of the date of Easter, and in particular the unsettling effect which the variable date has on the routine or working life. In particular, schools often find an early or late Easter can make very long or very short spring and summer terms, and in the secondary school this can be very disruptive to the timetable of exam preparation. Every couple of years we hear of local authorities making proposals for fixed length terms, the Easter weekend being only that, with the statutory days off for Good Friday and Easter Monday only.
And I have always been one of those who wailed in protest at this. It relegates the importance of Easter ... it is advanced secularisation ... it neglects the importance of Easter for the Catholic school.
But now I am beginning to wonder. If schools were usually working in Holy Week, there would be much less pressure for workplaces to have this as a holiday time too. People would not be naturally led to take holidays away over this holy season. And actually it may allow us to rediscover the Triduum, as the Long Easter Weekend, which would be given far greater precedence. And perhaps in this Catholic Schools could take a lead - at the very least by never allowing Holy Week to be a holiday week.
Otherwise, I am left only with the raised eyebrow, the sarcastic comment and the hopeless resolution to remember to mention something in the autumn.