Summer Sunday Mass: option or obligation

| Father Michael Van Sloun | June 20, 2019 | 0 Comments


Sunday is the Lord’s Day. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning, so Sunday is sacred and reserved as the Christian sabbath, the day to remember the Resurrection and to offer our praise and worship. God gave us the Third Commandment as a solemn obligation, not a suggestion or an option: “Keep holy the sabbath day” (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15; see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2174–2178).

Regular Sunday worship dates back to the first generation of the Church. Early Christians instinctively gathered to study the teachings of the apostles and to break the bread (Acts 2:42 — or expressed in modern liturgical language, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass. Already in the first century the Letter to the Hebrews addressed the problem of Christians missing weekly worship: “We should not stay away from our assembly (i.e., the liturgical assembly, the Eucharist), as is the custom of some” (Heb 10:25).

It is shocking the number of people who say that they believe they are excused from Sunday Mass when they are on vacation or traveling. This is not the case. Church teaching is clear: “On Sundays … the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (Canon 1247).

There are a few legitimate reasons to miss Sunday Mass: illness or disability, serving as the sole caregiver for someone in need of constant attention, the care of infants, a natural disaster like a flood or a blizzard, or the absence of a priest. There is no exception for vacation or traveling (Catechism, Nos. 2180-2188).

All we have is a gift from God, so God is entitled to our weekly thanks. Time is a precious commodity and how we spend it is a clear indication of our priorities. There are 168 hours in a week, and one hour spent in worship barely puts a dent in the praise that we owe our God.

We need to put first things first, and for Christians, God comes first! If there ever was a time that God deserves extra thanks, it would be vacation time. It is a huge blessing to be able to take time off, to have the resources to travel, to have the wherewithal to enjoy a cabin, RV or lake home, to be blessed with the beauty of the lakes and the forests, to be able to go fishing or boating, golfing or hiking, and to have the leisure time to spend with family and friends.

The common error is to make recreational activities the starting point in building one’s weekend vacation schedule and to relegate God and the Mass to an afterthought, something to fit in if there is time left over or to be skipped entirely.

The proper way is to decide on a Mass time and place first, and then arrange the rest of the weekend’s activities. God never goes on vacation when it comes to providing for us, and we should never go on vacation from offering God our thanks and praise.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. His ongoing series on the Eucharist will return in July. Read more of his writing at, where a version of this column first appeared May 23.

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Category: Faith Fundamentals, Featured