Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. I am an old lady, and I have been privileged to attend daily Mass for most of my life. The various weekend liturgies in our area churches are most disconcerting to me, and I am considering a long leave of absence. My question is this: Can a weekday Mass be designated to fulfill the weekend obligation? (Clinton Township, Mich.)

A. The Sunday Mass obligation is clear. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in No. 2181 states: “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, 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. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”

From apostolic times, followers of Jesus have gathered on Sundays because that is the day of Christ’s resurrection, which is the core of our faith.

The communal dimension of the celebration has the added value of strengthening the faith of participants. (St. John Chrysostom said, “You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity.”)

Notice that the catechism envisions exceptional situations, where a pastor can lift the requirement for a sufficient reason. If, for example, someone who did not drive and lived a distance from a church could find a ride only on weekdays or if a person were afflicted by agoraphobia (fear of crowds or open spaces) and was comfortable only when there was a handful of people in attendance — in such circumstances a pastor might well lift the Sunday obligation and encourage the person to go to Mass on a weekday instead.

But your own situation seems to be different. You just don’t like the way the liturgy is celebrated in parishes in your area on Sundays. In my mind, that would not be enough of a reason to dispense you. I would suggest that you look for a Sunday Mass more suited to your taste.

While the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 40, says that “every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people not be absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays,” that same provision does allow for “due consideration for the cultures of the people.” So, you will probably find some Sunday Masses that are quieter than others.

Q. What ever happened to the Easter duty? Is it still mandatory for Catholics to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist at least once a year, during the Easter season, to remain in good standing? (city and state withheld)

A. The church’s Code of Canon Law in No. 920 requires Catholics to receive holy Communion at least once a year, during the Easter season. (In the United States, the Easter season is defined as running from the first Sunday of Lent through Trinity Sunday, which is the Sunday after Pentecost.)

That same code in No. 989 says that “each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.” Note that this requirement applies only to “grave sins” and that no specific time frame is mentioned, other than annually.

So, a person who is not conscious of any mortal sins is, technically, not required to go to confession at all. However, the code is quick to point out in No. 988.2 that it is recommended “to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins.” The catechism describes venial sins as “everyday faults.”

In the sacrament of penance, one encounters directly the merciful, forgiving Christ. Received with reasonable frequency, the grace of this sacrament helps the penitent to make steady progress on the path to holiness.


Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.