Mass Obligation Rules

This is a big part of what canon 1248.1 is talking about, when it says that we fulfill our Sunday duty by attending Mass “wherever it is celebrated in a Catholic rite.” The canon clearly states that (as in “Can a Catholic ever attend an Orthodox liturgy instead of Sunday Mass?”) Attending the Sunday liturgy in an Orthodox church, let alone a Sunday service in the church of a non-Catholic Christian denomination, does not count! But if you are Latin Catholic and the only Catholic church in the area where you live is Ukrainian Catholic, or if there is a Ukrainian Catholic parish that has scheduled a Sunday liturgy at a convenient time for you. There is no reason why you should not be able to attend Mass/Liturgy on Sundays in this Catholic parish. As Kathleen mentions, it could very well be that the scripture readings are completely different from what you would hear in your own sui uris Catholic church, but that`s not a problem – attending always fulfills your Sunday duty. Kathleen has the answer to the second part of her question. Dix and Jungmann, to name just two of the many scholars in this field, note that early Christians gave priority to the Dominican Eucharistic Assembly, despite the slanders circulating among pagans and despite various persecutions and sufferings. Listening to some of today`s opinions and observing the behavior of these Christians of previous centuries, one is inclined to wonder whether they were not possessed by the devil to face such dangers or, on the contrary, whether Satan`s triumph is now manifested in the indifference and coldness with which Sunday duty is fulfilled. Do we no longer feel the need to give glory to God by attending Sunday Mass, or to nourish our souls with the Word of God and with the Body and Blood of Christ? So far so good. But what if you attend Mass on Sunday (or Saturday night) which is not actually Sunday Mass? What if you attend a funeral or mass to “celebrate a number of nuns 50+ years of consecrated life” as Kathleen did? Liturgically, the appropriate readings and prayers for Masses like this will not be those of the regular Sunday Mass. So, will such a Mass “count” as the fulfillment of the Sunday obligation? Sunday and holiday duty is not something God requires of us out of necessity or a need to be worshipped, but a gift to believers for our own spiritual well-being, happiness, and eternal salvation.

Sunday duty is a great gift for humanity, and Catholics are called to fill it with joyful hearts. Canon 1248.1 provides an explanation. He notes that a Catholic`s obligation to attend Mass on Sunday (or any other feast of service) is fulfilled by attending Mass “wherever it is celebrated in a Catholic rite,” either on the holiday itself or the day before. At first glance, this may seem like a strange choice of words. Why does the canon refer to the Mass, which is “celebrated in a Catholic rite”? Paul VI declared “ad limina apostolorum” to the bishops of the central regions of the France who visited him in Rome on March 26, 1977, when asked about the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Among those present were the bishops of Bourges, Sens, Tours, Blois, Chartres, Moulins, Nevers and Orléans. In the context of the Pope`s message, it is clear that they addressed the problem of Sunday gatherings of the faithful without the presence of a priest in rural areas, where there is a lack of pastors in towns and villages, as a certain aspect of the unity of life and prayer that must not cease. The Pope made it clear that he understood the reason for these meetings and their advantages from the point of view of the responsibility of the participants and the vitality of the faithful. He knew that in some areas, these meetings were preferred.

Then he added: “Proceed cautiously, without necessarily multiplying the number of these meetings, as if it were the best solution. On the other hand, the goal must continue to be the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass, the only true achievement of the Lord`s Easter. (Paul VI, “Teachings to the People of God”, 1977) In Didache, 14, the Sunday celebration seems obligatory: “Gather together on Sunday and break bread, give thanks and confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure.” This testimony refers to the second half of the first century. In the second century, St. Justin, who writes to a pagan, gives us a powerful description of the Holy Mass, which is celebrated every Sunday and which he calls “dies solis”; and he goes on to explain that those who live in towns and villages participate in this sacred assembly (“Apologia” I, 67). At the same time, Dionise of Corinth speaks of the first day of the week as a “holy day” (“PG”, 20, 388). From this we find many descriptions of the Sunday Eucharistic celebration and also of the obligation of Christians to participate in it. The first part of their question is also answered by the same sentence of canon 1248.1. If we can fulfill our Sunday obligation by attending a Mass that is “celebrated in a Catholic rite,” it also means that we can attend a Mass celebrated on Saturday evening or Sunday that is not actually Sunday Mass. Thus, for example, if a funeral Mass is celebrated on a Sunday – which, by the way, is quite possible, although, for pragmatic reasons, it usually takes place on another day of the week – attendance at that Mass would fulfill a Catholic`s Sunday Mass obligation.

Again, it is true that the scripture readings at a funeral Mass are different from what we would hear at regular Sunday Mass, but note that canon 1248.1 does not say that we must hear the Sunday readings in the Mass we attend. Canon 1246.1 tells us what we already know: Sunday is a holiday. This has been the case since the earliest days of the Church, when the first Christian clergy decreed that the faithful should gather for worship on Sunday and not on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), since our Lord had risen from the dead on a Sunday. Kathleen now has the answer to her questions. When she attended “a Latin rite Mass on a Sunday to celebrate a number of nuns 50+ years of consecrated life,” she was fulfilling her Sunday Mass duty, like everyone else present. We don`t really need to attend regular Sunday Mass with regular Sunday scripture readings; We just have to attend a Catholic Mass. But perhaps the clearest testimony to this aspect of the duty to attend Mass on Sundays is to be found in the third-century Didaskalia Apostolorum: “Teach the faithful and exhort them to be present at Sunday Mass, unless they diminish the Church by her absence and deprive the Mystical Body of Christ of one of her members; let them hear the words of Christ as they are addressed to each of them: “He that is not gathered with me shall scatter” (Luke 11:23). Because you are members of Christ, your only meeting place is the Church. Because Christ makes Himself present and communicates with us as promised, you cannot put yourself down, deprive the Savior of His members, separate or divide His body (c. 13). Today there are many institutions with which we can fulfill the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays, which enriches our spiritual life.

In the case of the early Christians, for both those of Jewish and pagan origin, it meant great sacrifices for them to participate in the Eucharistic celebration, sometimes even the sacrifice of life itself. Therefore, the deep meaning that such a commitment had in his life is very clear. In the same way, the duty of Sunday helps us to orient ourselves spiritually. It`s easy to forget that Sunday marks the beginning of our week, not the end. In a sense, Sunday Mass prepares us for the days ahead and sets the spiritual tone for the week, filling us with God`s word and grace so that we can glorify the Lord with our lives. As we begin our week with the Sunday liturgy, we publicly confess with our whole being that we are sons and daughters of God and members of His Church. We are God`s first. Without him, we are nothing.

The Sunday obligation has also been “challenged” recently. All possible and imaginary situations in which one may find oneself in our time have been examined in order to question the Church`s commandment: “to hear Mass on Sundays and holidays”. Most of them are mere hypotheses, and the Church has always kept them in mind and has freed her from the obligation to hear Mass in these circumstances. We must also bear in mind the many institutions that are now helping to fulfill this Christian duty. And moralists are more likely to talk about substantial respect for the law and what that might mean. They argue that the law imposes a serious obligation. But some would wonder if a person is seriously or seriously breaking the law if they do not attend Sunday Mass on one occasion. And all moralists would recognize that missing a few minutes would not be serious business. The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on obligatory days, unless they are excused for a serious reason (e.g.

illness, child care) or given by their own pastor. Above all, commitment should not be seen as an “imposition,” but as an “invitation” to enter into God`s love, as John Paul II affirmed. But despite our parental woes, we recognize that we have a moral duty to be there.