Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why do we need to be at Mass every Sunday?

DC ‘Hood vs. St Andrew’s & St John the Baptist, Friday night, 7:30 pm, Wheaton High School gym. Go ‘Hood!
Anon wrote, “I was wondering if there are any prayers that one can say in the case that mass is not accessible or if you will be arriving late to mass and you feel that it is pointless to go to mass when you are so late. Last year I was volunteering in China and mass was inaccessible. I asked a father at my parish whether it was a mortal sin and he said it was. Are there any exceptions to missing mass and if I miss mass what prayers can I say?”

Anon, you can certainly say prayers when Mass is not accessible but they don’t substitute for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is the greatest prayer. In other words, they don’t satisfy the Sunday obligation which is Holy Mass. I don’t think there are too many places in the world where Mass is not generally accessible, although in some places where parishes have been closed – even in our own country – getting to Mass might be less accessible.

Without knowing the particular factors involved in your situation in China, I cannot say whether or not it was a mortal sin. But, if we were talking about it, I would ask you some questions to help determine if it was. Did you freely choose to be in an area where there was no opportunity to get to Sunday Mass? Did you fully know that this is a grave sin? If so, then it would be a mortal sin because you freely and knowingly made the choice to miss Sunday Mass which is a grave sin (even if it was to do voluntary acts of charity; love of God before love of neighbor). However, if it was through no fault of your own (e.g., you tried to find transportation but couldn’t), then it wasn’t a mortal sin because you didn’t choose it. We have to choose sin for it to be a sin.

The example of not being able to find transportation is fairly common among Catholic youth. Mass is inaccessible for them because their parents won’t drive them. I remind them that that is not their sin; it is the sin of their parents. I ask them to tell their parents that they really want to get to Mass every Sunday. In that way, they are doing all that they can to get to Sunday Mass. To me, that is the key in any of these situations where Mass is “inaccessible” – are you doing everything you can to get to Mass?

My mother and step-father went on vacation to one of the Islands a few years ago. When they were planning their trip, they called ahead to find out about when Mass would be offered on the weekend. They were told that the only Mass on the island all weekend was at 7:30 on Saturday night. They went to the Church at 7:30 to find that Mass was halfway over – it had started at 7:00! It was not a mortal sin because it was through no fault of their own that Mass was “inaccessible”. They had done all they could to get to Mass where they were going and were simply given the wrong information about the Mass time.

The most common situation of Mass being inaccessible involves people who are physically unable to attend Mass, mainly due to illness. For people who find themselves in this situation, the Sunday obligation is removed. Again, it is through no fault of their own. Many people who are sick or homebound on Sundays watch the “Mass for Shut-Ins” on TV. Others will read and meditate on that Sunday’s readings (via www.usccb.org/nab). Hopefully, they all have asked their local parish to bring Holy Communion to them on Sunday or some time during the week.

Finally, people might wander, what is this all about? Why do we need to get to Mass each and every Sunday? I often ask people, “what is the primary reason we have to be at Mass every Sunday?” While few have gotten the answer correct, they have offered many interesting and meaningful responses. I pose this question to all bloggers to get your thoughts. I will answer it in the near future (hint, the answer is “C.O.O.L.”).


At 12:17 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Luther asserts that in order to comply with the Third Commandment one must listen to and learn from God’s Word. It is not enough just to show up, one must give God’s Word the care and attention it is due. From Luther’s Large Catechism:

“For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians know and have…but God's Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were sanctified. At whatever hour, then, God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all...

“For this, then, fixed places, times, persons, and the entire external order of worship have been created and appointed, so that [this exercise of God’s Word] may be publicly in operation.
“Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this commandment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose.

“Therefore not only those sin against this commandment who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy day, as those who on account of their greed or frivolity neglect to hear God's Word or lie in taverns and are dead drunk like swine; but also those who pay no more attention to God's Word than any trifle, and only from custom come to preaching, and go away again, and at the end of the year know as little of it as at the beginning… For hitherto the opinion prevailed that one had properly hallowed Sunday when one had heard a mass or the Gospel read; but no one cared for God's Word, as also no one taught it. Now, while we have God's Word, we nevertheless do not correct the abuse; we suffer ourselves to be preached to and admonished, but we listen without seriousness and care.

“Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and retaining it in memory, and do not think that it is optional with you or of no great importance, but that it is God's commandment, who will require of you how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word.

“Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and is…a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many, that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God's Word from us.

“For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words. And even though no other interest or necessity impels us, yet this ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby the devil is put to Right and driven away, and, besides, this commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more pleasing to God than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.”

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We go to Mass every Sunday to give God time. The pastor of my old church used to say there's like 180hours in the week or something like that, and we can give God one hour of our time.

We go for desire to be with God in a holy, sacred place dedicated to Him. God should be #1 on our list of most important things in life because without God we don't really have any of that other stuff.

We go to worship with our family, our parish family, as one. With prayer, sometimes strength is in numbers.

Personally, I feel very empty if I miss Mass. I try to go after my long night shift no matter how tired I am, because I know I'll feel a sense of loss if I miss. I look back at some of the worst points of my life (some of it recent) and I can't believe I left the Church for 8 months to avoid people. And I did feel a sense of loss during that time, looking back.

Hope this is a good answer for ya Father Greg!


At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Christ is kept C.O.O.L., a wonderful sense of peace ensues. Pope Benedict XVI's recent message to the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace reminded the interreligious leaders meeting in Cyprus that peace "is both a gift and a task." To maintain the gift of His peace, the task must be completed, at the minimum of weekly.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

There was quite the debate on WMAL this morning (11/24/08) on the Grandy & Andy show about Obama's lack of church attendance in recent weeks. The program hosts asked the audience whether regular church attendance should be expected of a President.

The theme of the responses that I heard on my way to work was: the President should go to church to prove that he has faith and to be visible.

Huh. How about THAT. Nothing about the Word of God. Nothing about the Eucharist. Nothing about being part of a community of faith.

At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Obama is a Catholic so I'm not sure his perception of the Eucharist would be that which we would expect.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“what is the primary reason we have to be at Mass every Sunday?”

We all are looking for the things that make us fulfilled and happy, and we are all looking for the things to ease our pain. When I look to other people and/or other things for that, I might be okay for a little while, but nothing is sustaining- I’ve proved it!

Christ is in all of us- he’s the part in us that makes us each good. We make up his body, but sometimes we fail him. Sometimes I don’t show Christ in myself to others and sometimes they don’t show him to me. Each Mass is an opportunity to find him where I otherwise might not. That is a huge and powerful thought, and it changes the way I look at Mass in certain regards. Sunday Mass should be termed an opportunity rather than an obligation.

If Christ is the center of our lives, then happiness and fulfillment come from within, because that’s where he dwells.

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the summer, after the whole Jeremiah Wrighht thing, Obama gave an interview to Newsweek (I think) that centered on his faith. In that interview, he did mention that he would not join another congregation until after the election b/c he didn't think it was fair to put that hot of a spotlight on another group. He talked about his reasons for joining a congregation- to be part of a community that he hadn't before experienced because of his background and upbringing.

Interestly, in that interview (I'm paraphrasing), he also said that people can't be really good and kind to one another unless they respect each's humanity.

So, maybe they're hope for our president-elect. I personally don't care what gets him in the door (if iot's face value- okay!). Jesus will take care of the rest. Pray for his conversion to extend humanity to the unborn.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger fran said...

Simply put, I find our President- Elect to be a study in personal contradictions.

At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fran- that was kind of my point. I guess I'm praying that he comes to believe all the things he says he does- in word and deed.

You know, he talked in some detail about experiencing disconnect as the result of being bi-racial, having parents of different faiths (his mother had no one religions and his father was a Muslim who became an atheist) and living as a foreigner in other parts of the world. He talked about how being part of a community of faith gave him a sense of belonging he hadn't before experienced. Then, at the most crucial time in his life, he missed the whole point.

Being part of a community of faith is about understanding that each member is important to the whole. It gives to and draws from each of its members. During a time when he'll be making so many important decisions, a prayer team (that's what he says he has in place of a congregation now) is great, but it is not a proper substitute for that community who is there, in part, to support him in a way no other can to make good, sound (and historic) choices.

I’m hopeful b/c he spoke about Jesus being his Savior. If he believes that (like- really, no kidding), maybe he will allow Jesus to speak to and change his heart. Maybe he will allow the Word of God (he says he reads the Bible regularly) to direct him. He’s allowed himself to be misguided and many have suffered as a result, but I believe conversion is possible. If a door is but cracked, Jesus can blow it wide open. I choose to be hopeful that the door for him is ajar.

At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing-
One of the biggest examples of contradiction is the idea that separation of church and state means removing the morality from all legal issues. The simple fact is that our constitution is based upon moral principles that have been protected by law. The rights and liberties that the constitution protects are really basically Judeo-Christian laws and values. Many people say (as has Obama) that abortion is a “moral issue,” but you can’t stand on two sides of a moral issue. You can’t have one legal moral position and still have another personal moral position without being in contradiction.

When asked when the protection of humanity should begin, Obama answered that it was, “above his pay grade.” I think that’s an irresponsible position, but it explains a lot. What I really don’t understand is someone like Biden who says he knows what is right but thinks it’s wrong to “impose” what is right on someone else. The biggest example of contradiction to me is when someone acknowledges that life begins at conception and then acts to protect another’s legal right to abortion. If you stand on two sides of a moral issue can only mean that you are acting immorally.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger fran said...

I, too, am hopeful that his words will match his deeds, as you say anon. Since there is no "track record" as President, it is not possible to make any kind of call, just yet. His past record on life issues does not bode well, but I am not one to close any open doors, either.

Great phrase that I recently came upon...

"God writes straight with crooked lines."

I am sure we all agree that with God all things are possible. (of course prayer, recitation of the rosary and maybe a day or two of fasting, on our part, wouldn't hurt either) I just wish American voters had not given Him so many crooked lines to begin with, this past election.

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recently, someone told me they stopped going to Mass b/c they voted for a pro-abortion candidate. They said that someone told them their actions had excommunicated themselves from the church and, until someone (from the church) told them otehrwise, they weren't goin back. I didn't quite know what to say to that but thought I'd pass it along.

There were a lot of charged emotions with the last election, and many of us had opposing views on many things. To me- that should be all the more reason to come together in what we agree on.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 1:23

Your friend may have been referring to the priest in S.C. who told parishioners that they should go to confession, before receiving Communion, if they voted for Pres. E. Obama.

As reported by the Religion News Service in last week's WashPost, Msgr. M Laughlin, who is the administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, said in a statement that "if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion.

Perhaps you could instruct your friend to seek the counsel of a priest in his/her parish.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to this article posted on msn.com, those who attend religious services regularly live longer:



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