Now that we are in the middle of summer, we have probably hit the peak of vacation season and wedding season. Perhaps you have or will be going on vacation and/or have or will be attending a wedding or two already this year. As I am attending a family wedding July 2 and then heading on vacation the week following, it occurred to me that a refresher on Saturday wedding Masses and the Sunday obligation would be a good and timely article.
From the earliest days of the faith, Christians have gathered on Sunday following the Lord’s command to “Do this in memory of me”: commemorating his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. We celebrate his victory over sin and death as we gather around the altar which foreshadows what we hope to be doing for all eternity: worshiping him and feasting at the wedding of the Lamb in heaven. For this reason, Sunday is known as the primordial holy day of obligation and we are obliged to attend Mass every Sunday of the year. It is grave matter (a mortal sin) to purposefully miss Mass on Sunday without a serious reason. The Code of Canon Law (CIC) states, “On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (no. 1247). Every Sunday is a holy day of opportunity to come into the presence of our Lord, worship him, ask forgiveness for our failings, offer the past week to him, and leave strengthened for the week we have ahead of us.
As we head out on our vacations, make sure to find a Mass to attend as we never vacation from our faith! In the technological era we live in, finding a Mass to attend is easier than ever. Simply going to Google and typing in “Catholic Church near [Vacationville]” will bring up churches and their websites. Another good resource is the website www.masstimes.org. One thing to keep in mind: as clergy reassignments as well as parish changes usually happen around July 1, Mass times very well may be changing too. Checking the previous weekend’s bulletin for potential changes is always a good idea! This happened to our family a couple years ago: we found the Mass time of the closest church to us online checking a couple different websites to make sure they all agreed. When we arrived for Mass Sunday morning, we (and a bunch of other people) walked in as the offertory was taking place—yikes! Turns out that effective that weekend, the entire diocese was restructured and in order for the priest to get to both of his new parishes, that Mass had to be moved 30 minutes earlier. We certainly felt a little guilty and we did not feel like we fully attended Mass, but when something like this happens, every reasonable effort was made and God understands that circumstances were out of your control and there would be no sin in this case.
A question that usually arises in wedding season is whether a Saturday afternoon wedding Mass at 1:30 or 2:00 PM “counts” toward the Sunday obligation. The answer is almost always “no.” Canon 1248 §1 says: “A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass” (emphasis added). “On the feast day itself” is self-explanatory, but what constitutes “in the evening of the preceding day”? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has set “evening” as beginning at 4:00 PM. Therefore attending any Mass between 4:00 PM Saturday and 11:59 PM Sunday fulfills the obligation. In very rare circumstances, a person’s pastor could grant a dispensation (releasing someone from the obligation) or a commutation (substituting a different Mass in place of Sunday), but it needs to be requested and granted ahead of time.
Let us pray for safe travels for everyone over this summer and this week especially as people may be vacationing as we celebrate our Independence Day. For those traveling over a weekend, I pray you find wonderful experiences of the universal Church and beautiful celebrations of Mass wherever you are!