Monday, September 20, 2010

Can I Miss Sunday Mass Because of Work?

Q - I work at a retirement community where a Catholic Communion service is offered each Sunday. My husband believes I am not fulfilling my Catholic obligation each weekend because it is a not Mass. I work 12 hour shifts (8:30 – 8:30 Sat/Sun) so I am unable to go elsewhere and am surprised if this is correct because it means all the residents are also not meeting their obligation. I am in skilled care where residents are not able to go anywhere by themselves. Some may be able to leave for short times with their family but most do not ever leave. In order for a Catholic to meet their weekly obligation what requirements need to be met - does a priest need to be present or do parts of the regular mass need to be in the service?

Is my husband correct?

A -
Thanks for the question. I hope I can help.

Catholics have obligations to meet in regards to both attending Mass and receiving Communion, but unlike what many Catholics believe, they are not necessarily the same thing. This obligation began with the ancient Israelites - "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day."

  1. Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.
  2. Catholics are obligated to rest (spiritually and physically) from labor on these same days.
  3. Catholics are obligated to receive Communion once a year (Easter Duty).
This all comes from the third commandment - “keep holy the sabbath day”

We must take this obligation seriously. Mass isn't just another thing we do to jump through the Catholic hoops. It is THE most important thing we do. Thus, intentional failure to go to Mass on Sundays is grave matter and spiritually dangerous to a Catholic.

Yet, some mitigating factors need to be considered. For instance, if I was traveling to the last evening Mass on Sunday and saw an elderly woman with a flat tire on the side of an empty country road - my obligation is to help her, even if I miss Mass for that Sunday.

Thus, Church law recognizes that we may have to miss Mass on Sunday.
The Catechism says:
2183 "If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families."
Some mitigating factors include:

  • being ill
  • have no priest to preside at Mass
  • attending to a gravely ill person who cannot receive assistance elsewhere (not common)
  • some other very serious obligation that prevents attendance (war, employment, travel, etc.)
  • have no way of being able to make Mass

If you have a Mass in the area at 7am on Sunday, then you would be obligated to attend it. Furthermore, you might also talk to your supervisor and try to get a schedule change. I worked in retail management and had a similar schedule. I would schedule my lunch around Mass and fast for the rest of the day. So, it might be possible to do something like this.If not, then you are most likely in the clear. You might talk to your pastor to make sure.

As for the elderly who are there, they seem to be unable to make Mass and would not be sinning by missing Mass.

I hope this helps.

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