This past week’s frigid temperatures closed a number places, including St. Mary School for a number of days and our parish offices. Masses and our food programs to the needy continued. Our thanks to the volunteers who braved the weather to come serve those hungry in Akron.
Have I committed a mortal sin for missing Mass on Sunday due to the frigid temperatures or illness? The attendance last weekend at all five Masses was very light.
Let me take this opportunity to talk about when the OBLIGATION of worship at Mass with the parish community is dispensed. The Church understands there are times when getting to Mass is next to impossible; here are a few examples: 1) when a person is travelling and unfamiliar with the location of a Catholic Church, their Mass schedule, etc. These days, with all the wireless information on a cell phone and GPS, it is rather hard NOT to find a church. But often times one doesn’t have a lot of control over flight schedules, the dependence on family members, or the expectations of employers who may have you away from your regular Catholic parish on a Sunday morning. Through no fault of your own, it is not a sin.
Then 2) there are all kinds of illnesses; those debilitating colds and the flu with coughing, sneezing, aching, etc. PLEASE – if you are sick on a Sunday morning – stay in bed!! The participation at Mass may lead to our participation in your illness. Offering your sufferings with those of Christ for others is certainly a healthy state to be in, spiritually speaking. It is not a sin to miss Mass because you are ill. And if it is a prolonged illness, please call the parish office and we’ll bring the Eucharist, prayer, and a bulletin to you.
And although I am not aware of any studies showing that sharing the Blood of Christ from the same cup is contagious, we do not offer the cup in winter months when there is a wide-spread outbreak of influenza with public safety warnings.
And finally 3), if it will be a hazard to get to church, like last weekend for many – chance it if you want. But when there are weather and travel advisories between your house and this church, know that the Church understands if one chooses to stay at home and pray due to the risks to your person or your vehicle. I hope that makes sense!
The sensible decision to not attend Sunday Mass on a given weekend because of the above and similar reasons is not a mortal sin. You may have all kinds of feelings because you were not in your usual Sunday routine, but you likely did not sin. Remember: a priest can only absolve sins, not feelings; however, absolving sins often times does affect the penitent’s feelings! Thanks be to God!
Seriously tho, the ongoing decision to not worship with the faith community is grave sin. It is likely deadly to one’s relationship with Christ and the Community where Christ gives the grace and strength for our living together.
Think about it. What significant relationship lasts when the persons don’t take time with one another, converse with one another, desire to do what the other asks or enjoys with the other, become involved in the other’s life? So it is with Christ, and so it is with our relationship to one another as His disciples, the Church. Relationships die (mortis) when they are not attended to. I like this adapted adage: ‘One week without Mass makes one weak’. It just makes sense!
Now I would not recommend you take this column and give it to someone who has fallen away from the practice of attending Mass. I would suggest you let that someone know why you continue to come to Mass. Be an evangelizer! Let them know what you find here – either by your words or by your actions. Motivate by your deeds!
Burned into my mind’s eye is a picture of my great aunt coming home from church one day – ill. She went there feeling ill with health issues that would make anyone say, “Stay home”. But what she received from going, Sunday after Sunday, motivated her for the Lord. It motivated me. If there’s a saint in my family, she was it.
Take a look around at Mass – maybe there is someone you see who made that extra effort to be here with you; and to be here with and for our Lord. Let their choice inspire you; pray for them.
I hope this has helped to clarify some questions on Mass obligation. As I was typing this column, our organist Jim Kintz came to tell us his father, Richard, passed away suddenly. May he rest in peace. Please keep Jim, his mother and siblings, and his wife Jane in your prayers. Fr. Dan