This is kind of a weird story about mixed-up Catholic priorities and general confusion in our Catholic institutions. This article talks about how the Archdiocese is putting pressure on Catholic school principals to stop half day Fridays in the Catholic schools. It has long been a tradition here that Catholic schools would take their students to Mass on the first Friday of the month, in keeping with the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and then be dismissed early. I remember the practice in grade school, and how much I enjoyed those days. I like attending a "special" Mass with all my classmates and then going home around 10:30. Since we all lived in the neighborhood and had someone at home waiting for us, there was no inconvenience: it was like a feast day.
Now, because a bunch of self-centered soccer moms find it annoying to deal with their kids a mere three hours after dumping them off at school, the Archdiocese wants to discontinue this age-old tradition. However, it seems like the tradition had been gutted long before this. Judging from the article, the schools apparently don't even take the kids to Mass anymore. They let the students out early so they can supposedly honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus on their own time! (Like that will happen). So basically, the kids go to school for 3 unproductive hours and go home. There are so many troubling aspects to this story, but I'll only address a few.
First, I find it extremely disturbing that the schools seem to have stopped taking the students to First Friday Mass a long time ago. Did it get to the point where parents were objecting to the fact that their kids were actually participating in religious activities during school hours? Have Catholics ceased to find value in devotion to the Sacred Heart? I don't understand why mandatory Mass attendance was stopped. Secondly, the current system whereby students are released early on Fridays, without having attended Mass during school hours, is a blatant deception on the part of the Catholic schools. After all, if the schools really wanted the students to be able to take advantage of the promises of the Sacred Heart, which involves receiving the Eucharist on First Friday, then they would allow them to come in later, not leave earlier, since weekday Masses are generally held in the morning! So, letting the kids out early without having taken them to Mass is an obvious con and is, in reality, simply some sort of perk for teachers or a bureaucratic shenanigan of some kind. It obviously has nothing to do with the Sacred Heart devotion. Third, the parents quoted in the article seem primarily upset about lost school hours and not getting their money's worth, not that their kids are being deprived of an immense supernatural benefit. This attitude seems typical among modern Staten Island Catholic parents. Materialist to the core.
What should be done is to reinstate mandatory attendance at First Friday Mass. It is a disgrace that the schools don't do this anymore. Jesus Christ Himself made very concrete promises about this devotion. We would have to be fools not to do everything in our power to abide by that. As for the half day, I think it is preferable that the custom remains. It sets the day apart as something holy, almost like a Sunday. However, I understand that for a lot of schools, where many students live at great distances and many mothers work, it may not be practicable to have half days. Therefore, principals should make a decision based on their school's special circumstances, but always keeping in mind that the spiritual aspect should take precedence.