Fourth time's a charm?

abraham_lincoln_head_on_shoulders_photo_portraitYesterday I noted a Detroit Free Press story that referred to a Good Friday Mass at a Catholic church. No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday but the service is called the Mass of the Presanctified. So I sort of gave the reporter a pass, even though it violates Associated Press style guidelines. But Clay Waters over at Times Watch notes that the New York Times seems to be having particular trouble with inserting the word "Mass" into Good Friday discussions:

And they say journalists know nothing about religion. Whatever gives people that idea?

Correction Appended: April 14, 2009 -- "An article on Monday about the final Easter Mass celebrated by Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, referred incorrectly to the service he presided over on Good Friday. It was a liturgical service, not a Mass. (No Mass is said on Good Friday.)"

Correction Appended: February 8, 2009 -- "An article on Jan. 25 about Pope Benedict XVI's revoking the excommunication of four schismatic bishops referred incorrectly to the use of a Good Friday prayer that calls for the conversion of Jews. The prayer is part of a service -- not a Mass -- on Good Friday, according to a traditional version of the Latin Mass, known as the Tridentine rite. (No Mass is said on Good Friday.)"

Correction Appended: February 12, 2008 -- "An article on Saturday about a resolution by Conservative rabbis critical of a prayer on Good Friday referred incorrectly to that prayer. It is part of a service on Good Friday, but not part of a Mass. (No Mass is said on Good Friday.)"

So as a service to all reporters -- inside the Times and outside the Times -- let's remember that Catholics don't celebrate Mass on Good Friday. Here's how the Religion Newswriters Association puts it:

Mass: A term used by Latin Catholics and some high-church Anglicans for a worship service that includes the celebration of Holy Communion. The term cannot be used for services that do not include communion, including those in which someone distributes communion hosts that were consecrated outside of that service. Catholic sources say a Mass is celebrated or said; however, The Associated Press accepts only celebrated. Capitalize when referring to the celebration of worship in the Roman Catholic Church. Lowercase any preceding adjectives, as in funeral Mass. Orthodox Christians call their Eucharistic service the Divine Liturgy.

Since we're discussing Good Friday, I also have to give a quick shout out to Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune's Seeker blog. She has a really interesting post about the sacred significance (in a civil religion sense) of Abraham Lincoln's death on April 14, 1865 -- Good Friday that year:

Harold Holzer, co-chair of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, said the Good Friday assassination earned Lincoln a permanent place in American mythology.

On that Easter Sunday in 1865, pastors across the country devoted their sermons to the memory of a man who had been "sacrificed on the altar of freedom and died for the nation's sins," Holzer said.

Easter lilies that already adorned pulpits for Resurrection Sunday services were painted black.

Moreover, in synagogues, rabbis celebrating the Sabbath after Passover compared Lincoln to Moses, who led his people to freedom but died before seeing the Promised Land.

"The irony of it is that [Lincoln] died in a sinful playhouse," Holzer said. "What most people don't know is he had received a suggestion from a bishop in Rhode Island a few weeks before reminding him that he ought to declare that day a day of fasting and mourning. He simply ignored it and went to the theater."

A friend of mine sent me a humorous note on Good Friday arguing that Lincoln should have been at church. "If he'd been at church that night instead of at the devil's play house, the theater, he wouldn't have been shot in the back of the head." It's kind of surprising to see the same sentiment argued by a Lincoln scholar in the Tribune! Anyway, it's just worth pointing out that the liturgical calendar is newsworthy (if, you know, the 16th President's assassination can be considered newsworthy in 2009) even apart from the Christmas season.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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