Birthdays and anniversaries at Mass

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I am looking for some direction regarding the acknowledgement of  parishioners’ birthdays and anniversaries.  

Over the past 20 years, my husband and I have been to masses at many different churches where we saw this done in some way.  The method has varied depending upon the priest/pastor and the size of the church, but we always thought it was a wonderful way to build community and allow parishioners to celebrate even in a small way.

What we have seen is the presider at some point asking who is celebrating a birthday/anniversary this month, and he acknowledges by asking them to stand, or raise a hand, or whatever; and then says something—a few words, a blessing, happy birthday, happy anniversary, congratulations—something; and it only takes about a minute.  

We were at one parish where the priest had everyone stand and personally handed a prayer card to each one.  We’ve seen BDs done one weekend and anniversaries another; or all at one weekend, BDs first, then anniversaries.

We have seen priests personally acknowledge each person, or the whole group at once.

Our Pastoral Council has been trying to get something like this done at our parish for two years now, and it’s going no where fast.  We seem to be having a problem getting our pastor to understand the request.  We are just looking for a simple acknowledgement, and he keeps talking about how we cannot change the liturgy.

We aren’t asking for anything liturgical.  We aren’t asking for renewal of baptismal or marriage vows, just something more social for community-building—a simple acknowledgement.  And if you don’t want to participate, it’s no big deal.  We don’t want to embarrass anyone, just want to let our parishioners know we care.

With so many parishes doing live streaming, I have found a few and sent our pastor the links.  In the meantime, someone suggested I ask you about this since our pastor’s concern is ‘liturgical’.

Do you have any thoughts about this?  If this is something that is ‘okay to do’, do you have any suggestions or recommendations for how to present this to our pastor in a better light? 

Thank you for any advice/comments/help you can provide.

Have a God-filled week.


A: I’ve handled this differently in different parishes. My practice right now is to incorporate this briefly during announcements. I mention birthdays or anniversaries of which I am aware when I see those people in the building, which is not very often.

I’m less inclined to invite people to raise a hand. It just seems like seeking information that a responsible parish has on record already.

If you wanted to propose something in keeping with liturgy and what I consider a good ars celebrandi —see my book for more on that— I’d suggest you offer to collate a list of birthdays and anniversaries and get permission from parishioners to include their names either in the universal prayer or in the announcements. As you say, it need not take much time during Mass, and it can help build community.

But some people don’t want their birthday public, and I’d respect that.