Q. My wife sometimes travels on work assignments on a Sunday and is not able to attend Mass. I am wondering whether she is committing a sin. (Lagos, Nigeria)
A. The obligation for Catholics to attend in Mass on Sundays does admit of exceptions. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor” (No. 2181).
I, and every priest I know, would view your wife’s work assignments as a “serious reason.” But she might feel more comfortable if she spoke to her pastor and was formally dispensed from the Sunday obligation. This does not dispense her, however, from the responsibility every Catholic has to pray and worship regularly. Is it possible that she could attend a weekday Mass, so as not to be deprived of the unique strength that comes from the Eucharist?
When the opportunity does present itself again for Sunday worship, she should of course go to Mass; and meanwhile, she should not forget to pray. The church’s Code of Canon Law notes that when one is deprived for a grave reason of the chance for Sunday worship, it is “strongly recommended” that a person “devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time” (Canon 1248.2)
Pope Francis has, on more than one occasion, lamented the fact that some no longer set Sunday aside as a special day for worship and rest. At a Wednesday audience in December 2017, he urged Catholics to go to “Sunday Mass to encounter the risen Lord, or better still, to allow ourselves to be encountered by him.”
In that same talk, the pope said, “The Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to experience the present with confidence and courage, and to go forth with hope.” And Sunday Mass teaches us “to entrust ourselves during the course of the week to the hands of the Father,” he added.
Q. My nephew and his bride were married recently in a non-Catholic ceremony. He was raised a Catholic (baptized and confirmed), but I’m not sure what his wife’s religious upbringing might have been. Like many young couples, they have lived together for some time, and to the best of my knowledge have not been practicing any religion.
I do not condone their lifestyle of living together before marriage — due to my Catholic upbringing — but I am not their judge. I thought about sending them a Mass card as a congratulatory message on their marriage, but part of me thinks that would be hypocritical. (My mom always taught us, though, that a person can never have “too many” Masses said for them.) Your thoughts? (Cleveland)
A. I agree with your mom: How could a Mass possibly hurt? But rather than make your note a “congratulatory message,” what if you said something like this? “Thinking of you on the day of your marriage. I pray that God will bless you in your life together, and I will keep you in my prayers in the years ahead. I can think of no greater gift to give you than the gift of the Eucharist; this is where I have always found my greatest strength.”
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